No Siri, Alexa, smart devices in secret meetings: Intel note to Govt officials on tech threats

Witnessing massive violation of national communication security policy guidelines and instructions of the government by officials and to control leaks of classified information, a new communication security advisory has been issued by the intelligence structure, say reports.

According to the sources, the new communication has asked all government officials not to use WhatsApp, Telegram, etc, to share confidential information as private companies control storage servers that are located outside the country and can be misused for different exchanges. Sources said that the communication has also given instructions on videoconferencing and for officials working from home.

All ministries have been asked to take “urgent steps” to stop such violations and follow the communication security policies and guidelines while dealing with confidential, secret, or restricted communications.

“Various officials scan a classified document, store it in their mobile and send and share with others through private applications. New devices pose a big risk for national security and must be avoided while discussing important classified or secret issues by all ministries,” a senior official aware of the development say.

Top government sources said that the new communication sent to all ministries advises that during meetings where classified issues are to be discussed, officials keep their smartphones and smartwatches outside the room. In offices, officers and staff shouldn’t keep various office assistant devices like Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod, Google Home, etc. Further, digital assistants like Siri and Alexa in smartphones and smartwatches must be switched off while entering into a meeting where classified issues will be discussed. Smartphones must be deposited outside the meeting room while discussing classified issues. Since various government officials are working from home, guidelines have been shared for this.

Sources aware of the development say that it has been advised that while accessing digital office systems, officers must avoid sharing classified, secret information or documents on home setup. The system should be connected with the office network through a virtual private network. Officials have been asked to use security-hardened devices only. Sources also said that the electronic official system can’t be accessed from home and must be connected through an office network. Officials shall not share any classified, secret information from home.