Officials familiar with the Scorpene data leak are looking into possible links between the hacking of computer systems installed at the Eastern Naval Command based in Vishakapatnam in November 2011, where multiple systems were hacked and huge amount of data compromised, and the recent surfacing of confidential data about Scorpene submarines that were published by The Australian, a Australia based newspaper.
Government sources said that the massive hacking that had taken place at Vishakapatnam, the content and details of which were never made public by the then government or the subsequent one, was so severe that at least six officers of the Navy were indicted by a board of inquiry for not following the laid out procedures that led to the hacking that was described as the most severe in Navy’s history.
A detailed questionnaire sent by The Sunday Guardian to the Indian Navy PRO on the matter did not elicit any response till the time the newspaper went to press. According to sources in the National Technical Research Organization (NTRO), soon after the hacking in Vishakapatnam base was discovered, the naval Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) had taken over the sanitisation and subsequent investigation into the hacking which had revealed “unauthorised transfer of critical documents related to Submarines”.
On Wednesday, hours after the Australian broke the story, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar stated that the leak had happened due to hacking without specifying when and where this hacking took place. Official sources said that the data that was leaked at that time was traced to IP addresses that were based in China. The Australian in its report had stated that the data on the Scorpene was “written” in France for the Scorpenes in 2011 and it is suspected that it was “removed” in the same year.
Sources said that there are three establishments in Vishakapatnam under the Eastern command that are exclusively for submarines including INS Virbahu, INS Kattabomman (Submarine VLF (very low frequency transmission ) facility) and INS Varsha which is the future submarine base. The role of INS Virbahu is to provide administrative and logistic support to the submarine squadrons, whereas INS Varsha, which is expected to be completed by 2018, will have underground shelters and bases to protect and conceal nuclear powered submarines.