NEW DELHI: With Chinese and Pakistani online espionage agents constantly on the hunt to surreptitiously obtain classified information and data about the Indian armed forces, the Army has directed its personnel to avoid the use of WhatsApp for official work, while also asking officers holding “sensitive appointments” to delete their Facebook accounts. Though the Army regularly issues advisories asking its 13-lakh personnel to refrain from using social media platforms and chat groups, the fresh directives come after several new cases have come to light. An officer posted under the Sukna-based 33 Corps in the Eastern Command, for instance, was “automatically added to a WhatsApp group by a suspected Pakistani number” recently. Noting the officer concerned “showed presence of mind by immediately exiting from the group after taking a screenshot”, the 33 Corps said “Pakistani intelligence operatives are actively targeting Army personnel and their families”. Such incidents can be prevented by changing WhatsApp settings to stop any unwanted addition to any unauthorized or undesirable groups, said the advisory. There have also been several cases over the last couple of years where Pakistani women spies have virtually honey-trapped Indian military personnel into divulging classified information, with even a Group Captain posted at the IAF headquarters in New Delhi falling prey to it last year. More recently, two Army jawans were arrested in a similar case in Rajasthan earlier this month. The Army Cyber Group (ACG), on its part, said there have been “numerous instances of advertent or inadvertent loss of information” through social media, while asking all officers holding sensitive or important postings to delete or deactivate their Facebook accounts. Similarly, the end-to-end encryption of WhatsApp can be rendered “ineffective” if the mobile handset is “compromised”, and consequently the popular messaging service should not be used for any official communication or work, said the ACG. “Inimical agencies are known to possess sophisticated tools for monitoring and analyzing data available on social media and open-source platforms to synthesize actionable intelligence. The officers in critical appointments are specifically at risk of being targeted by virtue of their importance,” it said. The ACG also asked officers to be extremely careful while using smart phones because they are susceptible to cyber-attacks. Such phones should be audited at least once every three months to ensure they have not been compromised, it added. The Army, incidentally, has a policy on usage of social media in force since July 2016. The armed forces have also court-martialed several officers for posting “classified information” like the location of a battalion or a warship, or their patrolling patterns, on social networking websites, as was earlier reported by TOI. more from times of india news
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