A growing intel opportunity for spies is the temptation for people who work with classified information to put it on a PC, tablet or smartphone. They do this so they can work at home or while on the road. Spies have found that secret data is much easier to steal when it ends up on someone’s laptop, tablet or smartphone. Aside from simply stealing (or borrowing) these devices for the data on them, access is also gained via that fact that most of these devices are on the Internet and can be hacked into. Warning to safeguard these devices when travelling abroad and reminders that it’s illegal to keep certain types of data on portable electronic devise are becoming more frequent, more often public and increasingly backed by prosecutions of those who ignore the warnings. Thus it should be no surprise that Israel recently prosecuted 14 air force pilots for carrying classified data on their smartphones. Two of those pilots were sentenced to five days in jail while eleven others got suspended jail sentences and one was acquitted.
In Japan officers have been prosecuted for putting classified data on CDs and distributing them to students because it was more convenient, despite the fact that some of the data was highly classified. Similar incidents have occurred in South Korea and Taiwan. China doesn’t talk about the problem, but apparently similar sloppiness has been a bonanza for foreign intelligence services.
The problem is not going away and there is no easy solution. At least these lapses are no longer being ignored, which was the case back in the 1990s when it first became a problem.