“Necessity to regulate the usage of dark web has become the need of the hour”

Observing that instances of theft of secret defence data and sale of stolen data on the dark web has become worrisome for nations, the High Court of Karnataka has refused to quash a criminal case registered against an aerospace engineer for allegedly stealing sensitive data on Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) program and secretly selling the data on dark web.

“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,” Justice M. Nagaprasanna observed.

The 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, the court said.

Case Background

The court passed the order while rejecting a petition filed by 27-year-old Siva Rama Krishna Chennuboina, who was arrested in March, 2022, on the allegation of stealing confidential data of TEJAS program belonging to the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which in September, 2021, had lodged a complaint about data theft and its leak in different domain.

The petitioner, a Bachelor of Technology (Aerospace Engineering), was arrested on March 19, 2022, four days before he was supposed to appear for an interview for the post of Senior Technical Officer, Grade-III, in the National Aerospace Laboratory on March 23, 2022.

The court noted that the petitioner had worked as an intern at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.’s Aircraft Research and Design Centre during 2015-16 and in 2017; and as an intern in the Department of Aerospace Engineering of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, four months during 2016 when he was pursuing his B.Tech course.

Later, he had undergone training in the project of “Stress Analysis of Gun Installation for a Typical Fighter Aircraft” at IISc. The ADA had entrusted certain projects of TEJAS program to IISc and the petitioner had worked as an intern and trainee in the IISc’s department, which had undertaken the projects associated with the TEJAS program, the court noted.

The petitioner was allowed to work as an intern in the preparation of code for the TEJAS and during this period he had stolen the data and later he put it on dark web, the court was informed.

Booked In 2021

It was in 2021 that the Ministry of Defence noticed some foul play and leak of the data related to the ADA, based on which complaint was lodged.

As the investigation is at the last stage, the court asked the Criminal Investigation Department of the State government to complete the probe within four months.