Published On: Sun, Jun 5th, 2016

Centre to govt officials: Don’t use smartphones, foil hackers

New Delhi: Concern over hacking and data thefts and vulnerabilities in communication systems has prompted the centre to instruct officials in all central ministries and departments to use smartphones only as a last resort and in emergency situations to discuss sensitive official work.

A government woman employee uses a smartphone and laptop in the office.

A government woman employee uses a smartphone and laptop in the office.

Odd as the “restrictions” on use of smartphones may sound in a wireless world, a recent two-day session on cyber security in government offices saw ministry of home affairs (MHA) and central paramilitary brass being asked to stick to face-to-face meetings, RAX (a closed communication network connecting government offices) and landlines.

The officers were sensitised that smartphone is a far less secure device when it comes to dealing with official work due to the risk of embedded malware or spyware that may be downloaded along with certain applications and that these instruments are best avoided when discussing classified information.

The instructions have been reiterated not only for establishment pertaining to the MHA but also defence, external affairs and other sensitive ministries.

“Though it is largely home and defence ministries that routinely handle matters that can directly impinge on national security, the norms for avoiding use of smartphones to process and relay sensitive information will apply to all government departments,” said an officer.

Hacking is a major threat to cyber systems and netwo- rks used in government offices not only in India but across the world. There have been several cases of Chinese and Pakistani hackers breaking into government of India websites, besides gaining access to official data.

Internationally, many hacking attacks are known to originate from China, Russia, the US, Iran, Israel and even North Korea.

India has faced a consistently high level of cyber threat from Chinese hackers, many being students of technical institutes working with official blessings, whose targets range from government offices, commercial enterprises to admission lists in Army public schools.

he threat of hacking and data-theft is seen as even more serious now, given the Modi regime’s push for ‘Digital India’ that requires most government services and transactions to go online.

As per latest instructions on “prudent use of smartphones” shared with sensitive government departments, employees have been told not to connect their smartphones to office computers, including for charging. Also, there is a thinking that vo- ice-calls meant for official work should be made using only landline phones.

Input with TNN

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