Pentagon employees can forget about logging their steps or plotting directions to a nearby restaurant, at least while they're at work, now that the Defense Department has instructed them to turn off their GPS-enabled devices.
“These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of DoD personnel, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said in a memo to DoD personnel. The proliferation of devices and their widespread use could put military operations and agency personnel at risk globally.
“Effective immediately, Defense Department personnel are prohibited from using geolocation features and functionality on government and nongovernment-issued devices, applications and services while in locations designated as operational areas,” Pentagon spokesman Army Col, Robert Manning III said at a press briefing.
U.S. Navy Rear Admiral (Ret.) Bill Leigher, director of government cyber solutions at Raytheon, called the Defense Department's policy “a step in the right direction for combating these issues.”
Pointing to "indications where family Facebook postings have been used to analyze the movement of military units" and thus possibly compromised operations, Leigher said that having access to "information on a specific service member that was scraped from his or her GPS connected device, paired with social media postings about where they work, what their military occupational specialty is and other like info could be used to generate an intelligence picture that is much more detailed than traditional intelligence sources alone might provide.”
Last year Russian attackers bent on obtaining information on and exploiting soldiers, as well as getting a handle on NATO military capabilities, hacked NATO soldiers' smartphones.
The hackers have so far accessed the phones of 4,000 NATO troops in Europe, the Wall Street Journal reported, using the phones in conjunction with surveillance drones to eavesdrop on troops in the Baltic states and Poland who are guarding the Europe-Russia border.