Indian Army officers in a flurry to leave WhatsApp groups after announcement of spot-checks
Indian Armyissued new guidelines for how members of 1.3 million strong military force should use WhatsApp and other social media platforms earlier this week.
- Officers were reportedly issued a stern warning about sharing classified information over WhatsApp and were told that their phones can be checked at any time.
- This has resulted in members of the Indian Army quitting WhatsApp groups, big and small, in order to stay out of trouble.
The two page directive by the Indian army entails spot-checks of phones to verify that no classified information has been leaked online leading to a growing sense of ‘panic’ among the officers, Army officers told the Times of India. If an officer is found guilty of sharing confidential information, even by accident, it could lead to a court martial.
It’s not just the groups that have unknown members but even golfing groups and regimental groups, where officers interact with Army veterans, are being sidelined.
Some officers feel that the guidelines as much too severe since they are required to verify the identity of everyone in a WhatsApp group — even those like a group with school friends or college alumni. Others feel that its a political move by the Indian Army to keep qualms about disability pensions and other veteran complaints, at bay.
Away from honey traps
The Army claims that the aim of the new regulations is to keep officers from being ‘honey trapped’ or unwitting sharing confidential information about troop movements that could be exploited by foreign adversaries like China or Pakistan.
Xiaomi phones and the company’s associated apps were also banned by the Indian Army in 2017 citing an increased threat from spyware and malware. The overall list of banned apps included 42 separate entities including popular apps like Truecaller, WeChat and UC Browser.
WhatsApp is also increasingly being targeted by hackers as the messaging app’s user base grows by the day.
Aside from the Indian Army, India’s central government doesn’t trust WhatsApp either. It has reportedly been looking into developing an alternative messaging mobile app specifically for official communication where the data will be stored on the government’s central servers.
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