Usage of dark web for uploading sensitive defence information is a … – LawBeat

Posted: August 18, 2023 at 10:59 am

Read Time: 09 minutes

27-year-old, Siva Rama Krishna Chennuboina was arrested on March 19, 2022, on the allegation of stealing confidential data of LCA Tejas programme belonging to the Aeronautic Development Agency (ALA)

The Karnataka High Court has said that stealing of sensitive data and uploading it on the dark web is a worrisome concern for all nations and such offences must be dealt with iron hands.

A single judge bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna dismissed a plea seeking to quash a criminal case lodged against an aerospace engineer, for allegedly stealing sensitive data on Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme and secretly selling the data on dark web.

"The petitioner has leaked into dark web, highly sensitive data which would have the effect of destabilising defence of the nation. Any person indulging in any crime that would destabilise nations defence of any kind, even to its triviality, cannot be countenanced," the bench said.

"Dark web is a sophisticated anonymous internet network used by both criminals and other individuals for manifold reasons, necessity to regulate the usage of dark web has become the need of the hour, as it provides anonymity, as the geo location is hidden. Such usage of dark web for defence secrets to be uploaded has devastating effect on national security," the bench said.

The court also noted that the occurrence of massive data theft and auction on the dark web has been a worrisome concern to all the nations, including to India.

"It is necessary to investigate the root of data thieving, and bring to book persons involved in acts of uploading sensitive data of defence of the nation on to the dark web, and deal with them with iron hands," the court further said.

In 2021, the Ministry of Defence lodged a complaint after finding foul play and leak of the data related to the ADA.

Deputy Solicitor General of India Shanthi Bhushan submitted the petitioner was an intern in the Indian Institute of Science where certain projects were sanctioned to be executed by the Aeronautical Development Agency, Ministry of Defence, Government of India. He was allowed to work as an intern in the preparation of code for the Light Combat Aircrafts used during war time.

"What the petitioner would do is get to know the entire source code and has published the same for sale on the Dark Web. Initially it was not known as to who was involved in the entire process. It took about 18 months for the Department to know thatthe petitioner is involved in all these activities," he said.

The law officer would contend that the petitioner has compromised the security of the nation. Investigation is still on to ascertain the involvement of any other person in such horrendous acts.

The petitioner said he was a bright student and there was a gross delay in registration of the FIR and arrest. He also contended investigation in the nature of case cannot be concluded overnight, as it involved several intricate facts to be gone into.

"If on the plea of the petitioner the present proceedings are quashed against him, it would amount to putting a premium on the activities of the petitioner who has acted in a manner that would compromise security of the nation, as he has leaked the data of the Light Combat Aircraft under the Tejas programme development by the Aeronautical Development Agency. The data that is leaked is of Aeronautical Technology which is used for Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, all of which form defence documents of the Ministry of Defence," the bench said.

The court, however, said the investigation in the case should be completed within four months.

"In such cases, the investigation is to be taken up on war footing and complete it in a time frame, so that illegality would not perpetuate. More than two years have passed by, the matter is still at the stage of investigation. Though in certain cases time to investigate on deeper issues would be necessary, but bearing that in mind as well, it should be the endeavour of the prosecution to conclude the investigation as expeditiously as possible and file their final report," the bench said.

Case Title: Sri Siva Rama Krishna Chennuboina Vs. Sarsi Narkis Babu V., Information security officer

Click here to read judgment

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