British military secrets leaked on social networking sites

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Britain's Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted sixteen instances of sensitive information being leaked on social networking websites in the past eighteen months. Ten employees have been disciplined for misuse of the sites. The revelations follow a Freedom of Information request by Lewis PR and computer security company F-Secure.

The MoD would not comment on what disciplinary action was taken, or whether the leaks involved operational information. The ministry's guidelines state that staff must obtain clearance to release any information that is related to sensitive, controversial or political matters, or military operations.

"It's worrying that employees in sensitive positions have been sharing confidential information via Twitter and other means," said Mikko Hypponen, of F-Secure. "Loose Tweets can cost lives.”

According to Lewis PR, computers on the main MoD networks are blocked from visiting social networking sites. However there are a small number within the department which have unrestricted Internet access. Some personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq also have access through internet cafés on military bases.

The ministry's "online engagement guidelines", released in August last year, recognise the importance of social media such as Facebook for personnel keeping in touch with friends and family. According to the document: "Service and MOD civilian personnel are encouraged to talk about what they do, but within certain limits to protect security, reputation and privacy."


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