Army clamps down on smartphone use, guidelines warn of surprise checks, strict action | #socialmedia | #hacking | #facebook | #cybersecurity | #informationsecurity

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina
| Chandigarh |

Published: July 16, 2020 11:49:25 pm

Further, July 15 was set as the deadline for de-activiting accounts on the banned sites. (Representational)

Adopting a zero tolerance policy on security violations on social media and smartphones to prevent loss of classified information, the Army has issued a long list of dos and don’ts to its personnel regarding usage of smartphones, which include surprise checks to be conducted on individuals.

Highly placed sources in the Army revealed that the Counter Intelligence (CI) units of the Military Intelligence (MI) have been asked to be more pro-active in detecting violation of protocols for social media and smartphones.

The guidelines have spelt out strict action to be taken against violators of social media and smartphone handling instructions under provisions of IPC/Official Secrets Act/Army Act/IT Act. Periodic surprise checks will be made on orders of formation commanders in order to ensure that security lapses are nipped in bud and that irresponsible handling of smartphones of social media is discouraged.

The Army had issued instructions regarding social media handling in June this year under which a number of social media sites and applications had been banned for serving personnel. These included Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder, Tumblr, Reddit etc.

Further, July 15 was set as the deadline for de-activiting accounts on the banned sites.

However, certain social media platforms will be available for use by the Army personnel under restricted conditions. Skype, Whatsapp, Telegram and Signal can be used for exchange of information of general nature with known persons.

Similarly participation on Twitter, You Tube and Quora has been permitted, but only for passive participation to obtain knowledge of information, an officer said. Personnel have also been allowed to upload resume on LinkedIn for potential employers or employees but prior permission from the MI Directorate will have to be taken for this.

“Pakistan Intelligence Operatives (PIO) have been utilising social media for accessing critical information. With social media boom and the penetration of smartphones among service personnel due to their affordability, the focus of espionage activities of intelligence agencies of inimical nations has shifted from physical domain to social media/cyber domain,” a senior officer said.

The officer added that the Counter Intelligence units have been asked to be focus on the detection of cyber violations as right now majority of the anomalies were being detected by sister intelligence agencies.

Severe restrictions have already been in place regarding contact with foreign nationals on the internet without permission, but now the regulations have been reiterated with more strictness.

A blanket ban has already been in force in carrying smartphones to important conferences and briefings and this has again been emphasised in the policy on smartphones usage.

Certain locations have been identified where smartphones are not to be carried even in switched off state. Usage of smartphones within Headquarters or units is being regulated and any waiver which is to be given is closely monitored.

“We are also working on ensuring that certain training modules are put in place by the Army Training Command (ARTRAC) which would help sensitise the personnel as well as their family members on the importance of cyber security. The role of family members is equally important and they too need to be sensitised to the security environment,” an officer said.

The modus operandi of foreign intelligence agents, particularly Pakistan, is to identify serving personnel and their families on internet platforms through their uniforms, chats and friends list. Sources say this is why a complete ban has been placed in putting out photographs in uniform and those of identity cards, CSD cards and dependent cards.

“It has been noticed that smartphones are infected with malware by the Pakistani Operatives which leads to leakage of sensitive information. While it is not possible to completely do away with smartphones, yet the need of the hour is to regulate their usage and comply with the orders regarding their usage,” an officer added

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