Army to issue strict advisory as hackers ‘steal’ vital data from phones, computers

Excelsior Correspondent

JAMMU, Mar 15: After busting major online spy ring, Army is in the process of coming out with fresh Advisory for all its officers and jawans to immediately stop use of ‘Smart Phones’ and go off the Facebook following disclosures that Pakistan had used spyware SmeshApp to steal data from mobile telephones of several Army officers and jawans in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, New Delhi and North-East.
Following the reports that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) or other such Pakistani spy agencies could be behind stealing of the data through SmeshApp, Google is reported to have removed the App from its play store.
Official sources told the Excelsior that the Army was in the process of issuing fresh Advisory with series of guidelines for its officers and jawans barring them from using ‘Smart Phones’ with Android Application and joining Facebook as these were the two mediums, which the hackers exploited to steal entire data from mobile telephones including pictures from some Army officers and jawans including their SMSes and social media messages etc.
“The Advisory is being prepared and would be issued shortly making it binding for the officers and soldiers to follow the new guidelines strictly to maintain secrecy of Army operations and strategic planning to ensure that their telephones were not hacked in future,” sources said.
Pointing out that it was not only the Army, which became target of the hackers, sources said that data from mobile phones of some officers of Navy, Indian Air Force, Border Security Force and Central Industrial Security Force might also have been stolen by the hackers using the SmeshApp, which was earlier easily available on Google Play Stores but has now been removed.
The information was stored on a Server, which has been located in Germany and was hosted by an unidentified man based out of Karachi.
Sources said even personal computers of some of the soldiers were infects with SmeshApp, which was used to track all movements, phone calls, text messages and telephone calls. The mobile phones and Facebook accounts had acted as data base for the hackers.
Sources pointed out that Pakistan handlers had used this method to get crucial information on the movement of troops following terror attack on the Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Pathankot on January 2, 2016.
“The soldiers had been lured through Facebook accounts by ‘honey traps’ set by the hackers, who most likely could be the ISI agents,” sources said, adding that the Army personnel earlier also had been cautioned on the ‘hone trap tactic’ of the hostile neighbour but some of them didn’t follow the directive, which has now prompted the Army to come up with official advisory for its officers and jawans, which would be binding on them.
Sources disclosed that sensitive and militancy-infested State of Jammu and Kashmir was prime target of the hackers followed by New Delhi and Punjab apart from North East. It was being examined as to how much damage the hackers had done before their plan was thwarted.
While it was almost certain that the hackers were doing it for Pakistan, or even they could themselves be Pakistanis, sources said all security agencies now want to make their computer systems as well as mobile phones (of officers and jawans) fool-proof from any kind of hacking to ensure that the enemy didn’t get any kind of access to vital data.
“The hackers might have executed the task in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and New Delhi for Pakistan and in North East for China,” sources said.
They added that if the hackers would have succeeded it could have been possible only due to use of ‘Smart Phones’ by the security personnel and joining social media through Facebook, where the spies had laid ‘honey traps’ for them.
Defence sources admitted that every second officer and jawan in the security forces these days possessed ‘Smart Phones’ in view of availability of these handsets at much lower prices.