Rules on smartphone use to be tightened for troops on foreign missions

The Belgian Defence Ministry has tightened the rules governing the use of smartphones by Belgian soldiers. An investigation has revealed that sensitive location information on soldiers’ smartphones had been hacked while NATO troops were on exercises in the Baltic. Russia is almost certainly responsible for the hacking. Colonel Carl Gillis of the Belgian Defence Ministry told VRT News that “We know that Russia is interested in that kind of geo-data”.  

 

The Defence Department has recently started logging what has happened to various types of data such as geo location data from military personnel’s personal smartphones. Various apps such as weather apps or social media apps ask to be able to know their users’ location automatically.

While, of course other countries know the location of NATO bases, the information obtained by hacking smartphones can provide information about how the exercises are being held.  

"We know for example that Russia is actively trying to get this information from the Baltic States”, Colonel Gillis told VRT News.  

"We have carried out a risk analysis about how this kind of data could be used”.

When asked if Belgian troops have had their data hacked, Colonel Gillis wouldn’t be drawn.

"Soldiers are people and we know that everyone could be hacked”.

Stricter rules

The Defence Department is tightening the rule for soldiers on operational duties. It is likely that Belgian troops won’t be allowed to use their personal smartphone off-base while they are out on exercises in the Baltic States. It is possible that they could even be banned from using them all together.  

Nevertheless Colonel Gillis is keen to stress that our countries soldiers will be given ample opportunity to keep in touch with their families back home while they are out of foreign mission.