S. Korea defense bans internal smartphone usage

S. Korea defense bans internal smartphone usage

Summary: Government agency unveils a mobile device management plan where staff will be required to install a smartphone app deactivating functions such as Internet connectivity and the camera, to prevent data leaks.

South Korea's defense ministry will ban its employees from using smartphone functions such as camera and Internet connectivity functions.

South Korea's defense ministry is banning its employees from using the camera and Web connectivity functions on their smartphones when used within the ministry's building, in a move to prevent potential military data leaks.

Under the ministry's newly implemented mobile device management plan, its staff will be required to install a smartphone app which deactivates certain smartphone fuctions such as Internet connectivity and camera while they are inside the ministry building in the country's capital Seoul, Yonhap News Agency reported on Wednesday.

Employees will be allowed to answer and make phonecalls and use text messaging services, but those using Apple's iPhone are only allowed to take calls and messages. Visitors, though, are prohibited from carrying any mobile phones into the ministry building.

Effective from July 15, the device management plan is aimed at preventing military data leaks, the ministry said, adding it will hold a trial run of the plan and revise the plan if necessary. It will also consider whether the plan should be applied to other military facilities after reviewing the results of the testrun.

The banning of smartphone usage in defense and military facilities is not new. Just in May, the Pentagon cleared iPhones and iPads running on iOS6, along with Samsung Galaxy S4 and other compatible tablets, for use in the U.S military.

Such requirements also have driven the production of "military-friendly" phones. In January last year, Singapore telco M1 began offering camera-free iPhones via its Web site, designed for subscribers who are prohibited from using camera-equipped devices such as military and government personnel including the country's national service men.

Topics: Security, Data Management, Mobility, Korea

Ellyne Phneah

About Ellyne Phneah

Elly grew up on the adrenaline of crime fiction and it spurred her interest in cybercrime, privacy and the terror on the dark side of IT. At ZDNet Asia, she has made it her mission to warn readers of upcoming security threats, while also covering other tech issues.

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  • Not surprising

    Can't really say this surprises me. Heck, I'm surprised smartphones are even allowed in sensitive installations at all. Let's face it: you don't have to be a spy for your smartphone to be a potential spying tool. A hacker, working for a foreign government, who gets his hands on your phone (while you're sleeping, or in the pool at your gym) could easily root/jailbreak the device and install hidden spying tools that leverage the phone's GPS and audio and video recording capabilities to silently gather reams of sensitive data.
  • Agreed

    It's been a few years ago, but the last jury duty I had required me to take my phone back to the car and leave it there. 3 months later, I had to pay a traffic fine and was stopped before I got too far into the building. Luckily they were smart in the design and traffic tickets are the 1st door before you have to go through security.
    Daniel Bissell