Hackers break into French defence industry

French Intelligence has managed to uncover a serious hack into an engine subsidiary of French aerospace and defence outfit Safran.

According to Le Monde, there was a Chinese link to the hack and investigators have arrested 10 people so far.

The hack happened last year and targeted the networks of Safran subsidiary Turbomeca, which makes helicopter engines.

The hackers snuffled around and found some interesting stuff about propeller systems at Turbomeca, which they could talk about at Beijing cocktail parties. They also found Safran documents containing information about billing and the cost of various company projects, which is always handy if a company wants to stick in a matching bid.

It was not a one off hack. They allegedly took place over the first eight months of 2010. French spooks believe that the hackers might have had help from company insiders.

According to the newspaper, French magistrates in Nanterre have been following up on the preliminary information unearthed by the domestic intelligence services (DCRI).

Turbomeca happens to be a supplier to China, with one in two helicopters there equipped with one of its engines.

It is also business partners with various Chinese companies including the helicopter-making divisions of China’s Aviation Industry Corp, the state-owned aircraft maker.

The French government is still embarrassed after another part state owned outfit, Renault also suffered from what the outfit thought was a case of Chinese spooks stealing information. It turned out to be one of fraud and Renault executives said sorry to three executives it had fired.