Federal government claims DCNS data leak has 'no bearing' on Australia

Australia has not been affected by leaked documents revealing details around the combat capability of submarines that French company DCNS built for the Indian Navy, the government has said.

The Australian government has said a leak of secret documents has "no bearing" on French-based company DCNS' build of the country's AU$50 billion submarine fleet.

"The Future Submarine Program operates under stringent security requirements that govern the manner in which all information and technical data is managed now and into the future," Australian Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne said in a statement.

"The same requirements apply to the protection of all sensitive information and technical data for the Collins class submarines, and have operated successfully for decades."

The leaked documents, seen by The Australian, run to 22,400 pages and detail the secret combat capability of six Scorpene-class submarines DCNS designed for the Indian Navy.

DCNS has also confirmed the leaks will not affect the Australian submarine program, and will look to investigate the matter.

"As a serious matter pertaining to the Indian Scorpene program, French national authorities for Defence security will formally investigate and determine the exact nature of the leaked documents," the company told ZDNet.

"The matters in connection to India have no bearing on the Australian submarine program which operates under the Australian government's arrangements for the protection of sensitive data."

The leak also raises concerns that information about the submarines, and the latest US stealth technology, might not be secure.

However, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the Seven Network on Wednesday: "The submarine that they are building for India is not the submarine they are building for Australia. It is a completely different submarine."

In April, the Australian government signed a partnership deal with DCNS to help design 12 future submarines using Dassault Systemes' 3DExperience platform. The platform will be used to manage the entire lifecycle of the submarines, from concept to engineering, building, maintaining, and operations.

DCNS won the contract bid beating KMS of Germany and the Government of Japan.

The AU$50 billion investment by the government is the largest and most complex defence acquisition Australia has ever undertaken.

Turnbull said the leak was a reminder of the critical importance of cybersecurity, an area in which the government is widely focused on.

Earlier this year, the Australian government announced it will inject AU$240 million to defend Australia from foreign cyber attacks as part of a cybsercurity strategy, which features 33 initiatives, including sharing threat information between business and government, creating Joint Cyber Threat Centres and online threat sharing portal, and expanding CERT Australia.

The government also appointed Alastair MacGibbon to take on the job as the country's first Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Cybersecurity.

He recently told ZDNet his main priority is to fix what he refers to as the "broken model" of cybersecurity in Australia.

"If all we do is increase the staff ... we are actually going to fail," he explained.

"This is about resilience. This is about educating the public to reduce the likely threat vectors. This is about working with companies to reduce their threat vectors, so we reduce the likelihood of a breach, and by the way, if there is a breach, we would have a better understanding of what has actually occurred.

"Firstly in cyber you often don't know what you don't know. When you do know about a breach then you go through the process of understanding what happened, and that can be very hard, and if not impossible sometimes ... to understand what's wrong. That's why I say it's a broken model if all we do is put more cops on the beat; you can't arrest your way out of this problem, you need to develop the ecosystem, you need develop a strategy in this space."

South Australian senator Nick Xenophon intends to pursue the DCNS matter when Parliament returns next week.

"This is really quite disastrous," he told ABC radio.

With AAP

Updated 11.11am 24 August, 2016: Added comments provided by DCNS Australia.


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