US military personnel will have to switch off any devices using GPS functionality if they are deployed in “operational areas” after a new Pentagon memo.
Spokesman Army Col. Robert Manning III told reporters yesterday that GPS use can “potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission” in locations around the world.
“Effective immediately, Defense Department personnel are prohibited from using geolocation features and functionality on government and non-government-issued devices, applications and services while in locations designated as operational areas,” said Manning.
“The rapidly evolving market of devices, applications and services with geolocation capabilities presents a significant risk to the Department of Defense personnel on and off duty, and to our military operations globally.”
The memo from deputy defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, takes account of the rapid rise in personal fitness apps, smart wearables and other technology used by soldiers in their spare time which could give enemy operatives clues as to their location, routines and numbers.
It’s more than likely to have come after a report last month revealed how popular fitness app Polar Flow could be manipulated to reveal the location and uncover the identities of thousands of military personnel.
That report in turn came just a few months after fitness app Strava was found to be revealing potentially sensitive information about military bases and supply routes via its global heat-map website.
“Our military is operating in a new, hyperconnected world where off-the-shelf products are introducing threats to national security,” said Bill Leigher, a retired US Navy rear admiral who’s now director of government cyber solutions at Raytheon.
“For instance, we have seen indications where family Facebook postings have been used to analyze the movement of military units and thus compromised operations. Knowing this, 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 that traditional intelligence sources alone might provide.”
Individual commanders will now be responsible for implementing the policy, with exceptions only allowed after conducting risk assessments.