The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hunt for stolen defence disks

New Delhi, Oct. 11: A major general with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been asked to probe into the security lapse in one of the military think tank’s premier establishments after 18 personal computers were spirited away over the last weekend.

The scientific adviser to the defence minister, V. K. Aatre, has taken the view that irrespective of claims by the defence establishment that the DRDO has not lost sensitive material, there has been a major security lapse.

Defence minister George Fernandes, too, has called it an “inside job”, pointing the needle of suspicion at the scientists and technical staff of the Scientific Analysis Group and the Institute for System Studies and Analysis (ISSA). The two establishments are housed in Metcalfe House in North Delhi.

Defence ministry sources claimed that the master computer in Metcalfe House was “untouched” and most of the data that has gone missing is “educational and training material for DRDO staff”.

The Scientific Analysis Group is partly responsible for encrypting communication signals for the army and the ISSA monitors equipment bought by defence services in other countries and evaluates their usefulness. “Some of the material that has been missing are data on human resources in the services. It is not classified information. However, it was not information that we made public,” one official said.

The scientific advisor was told by DRDO officials in Metcalfe House that academic papers of some scientists were stored in the PCs.

The PCs had access to the Internet and the DRDO intranet. But master computers in DRDO establishments are more secure because they are stand-alone. Two of the 18 PCs had data on wargames that were archaic and no longer in use. The sources said all the PCs that were missing were in the “front office”.

They said the investigations had been entrusted to the special cell of Delhi police, that usually investigates acts of terrorism, and that intelligence agencies would assist the police.

Asked why there had been no prosecutions despite the suspicion that it was an “inside job”, the sources said “investigations are on”. “At the moment we can only say that there was an obvious security lapse but since the loss is not major we are proceeding cautiously.”

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