Italian police arrest two over hacking at defence group Leonardo

FILE PHOTO: Leonardo's AWHero is seen at the headquarters in Vergiate

ROME (Reuters) - Police arrested two people on Saturday who have worked at Leonardo for their alleged role in hacking the Italian defence group's computers to steal sensitive information between 2015 and 2017, prosecutors in the southern city of Naples said.

The detentions are a blow for Leonardo which, along with its aerospace activities, also has a large cybersecurity division that counts NATO among its customers.

Leonardo said in a statement it was the injured party and that the company itself had first reported the hacking. It said it would continue to cooperate fully with the police.

Naples prosecutors said a former employee in Leonardo's cybersecurity department was suspected of having used malware to infect 94 computers to extract "classified information of significant value to the company".

The information was stolen for "illicit goals which are still being investigated", they said in a statement, adding that the person in question had been detained by police.

Leonardo said the suspect was a consultant, not a company employee. It also said the company's classified, strategic information was not held on the computers that were violated.

The head of Leonardo's Cyber Emergency Readiness Team - set up to defend the company from hacking attacks - was placed under house arrest for allegedly meddling with evidence to throw the investigations off track, the prosecutors said.

Leonardo said this suspect was an employee but not a manager.

(Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Helen Popper and David Clarke)