iPhones to be banned in defense ministry
By Lee Tae-hoon
The Ministry of National Defense (MND) plans to prohibit the use of Apple’s iPhones in two of its major buildings from August, military officials said Friday.
They said other smart devices will continue to be allowed after installing a mobile device management (MDM) system that would automatically disable cameras, wireless Internet and recording functions.
The iPhone, which operates on the iOS operating system, is facing a ban as Apple’s unique technology leaves little room for local developers to build a comprehensive MDM system due to the U.S. company’s reluctance to release source codes.
“We are reviewing enhancing security rules from August this year,” said Army Col. Yoon Won-sik, vice spokesman at the defense ministry. “This is part of our efforts to eliminate the possibility of leaking confidential information via smartphones.”
He explained that the MND is reviewing mandating people, including its staff, to leave iPhones in a safety deposit box located outside its buildings.
The colonel noted that smart devices running on Google’ s Android OS, an open-source software program, including Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Note, will be excluded from its ban as they are compatible with the MDM system.
Defense officials say that the MND is planning to extend the mandatory use of the MDM system to major buildings of all military divisions by 2015.
An industry source said the ban of iPhones will be inevitable as there is no existing software available in the market that can meet the MND’s requirements.
“Lumen Soft, a security solutions company, has succeeded in developing an MND system that can remotely disable the use of iPhone cameras,” he said. “However, the company is still working on technology to restrict iPhone’s recording function and is far from completing a solution to limit its wireless Internet function.”
MND officials who use iPhones have expressed strong discontent over the move to ban their handsets as they will need to purchase a new phone and fear that their personal information will be monitored.
“I hope the MND will take a more cautious approach over the introduction of mobile device management as this may lead to infringements of our basic rights and possibly a massive leak of personal information stored on its server,” a military official said on the condition of anonymity.
The MND held an explanation session on its move to introduce the MDM system to its employees on Tuesday. Attendants of the conference said an official in the conference demonstrated how easily a smartphone can be hacked and remotely controlled. They said he managed to make someone else’s smartphone record, take pictures and send the data to his computer.
“It showed that an enemy may collect confidential information by reportedly controlling the camera, recording and using Internet functions of military officials,” he said. “Imagine the defense minister holds a confidential meeting and his smartphone starts to record everything discussed there without his knowledge and sends it to the enemy.”
Apple declined to speak on the issue. “We are not in a position to comment on the MND’s policy,” an Apple spokesman said.