An IT engineer working for Caterpillar's engineering design centre in India allegedly used another employee's user name and password to access and steal about 4,000 confidential documents from a company server in the US.

The person accussed of the attack, 37-year-old M.S. Ramasamy from the Chennai, was arrested by the Cyber Crime Cell of India's Criminal Investigations Department in late July. He was charged with hacking into a server and stealing confidential data under the country's Information Technology Act of 2000.

A Caterpillar spokeswoman confirmed the incident and said that a former Caterpillar employee at the company's centre in Chennai had been arrested by local authorities. "We are doing everything possible to cooperate with the authorities to ensure a full and timely investigation," she said.

She refused to provide any further details on the incident, saying, "The matter is in the hands of local authorities."

Reports in Indian newspapers, quoting a statement by the Cyber Crime Cell in Chennai, identified Ramasamy as having formerly worked for a Caterpillar facility located in the Ascendas IT Park near the city.

According to the Indian media reports, Ramasamy hacked into Caterpillar's Research and Engineering Documents Inquiry System, known as REDI, located in Illinois in January and February and illegally downloaded about 4,000 documents. The access was accomplished using a colleague's user credentials, but a closed-circuit camera recording and system logs later connected Ramasamy to the alleged crime.

Ramasamy was working for another Indian IT company at the time of his arrest near Bangalore. Police have recovered the tape and disks containing the illegally downloaded data, according to Indian newspapers.

A spokesman for the Cyber Crime Cell was not immediately available for comment.