The Indian Army has directed its personnel to limit their online presence and not forwarding or storing sensitive data on their electronic devices as part of a month-long cyber security exercise, reports the Print. In the communication that the headquarters sent out last week, the Army has issued certain instructions clarifying the basic rules of online behaviour that should be exercised by its personnel, or face “exemplary” punishment. A person from the Army told the outlet that the exercise began last week and will continue till mid-August.

As part of the drill, the Army will conduct surprise checks on its personnel and also punish those found violating norms – this, as one Army officer told the publication will make sure that personnel don’t fall prey to “inimical agencies and their devious designs”.

Instructions by the Army: ‘Keep your identity secret’

  • The Army has urged personnel not to store or forward sensitive data via electronic devices. It has also directed them to not accept friend requests from unknown people.
  • Troops should ensure that only known people should be added to social media groups, and avoid being part of large WhatsApp groups. They should also avoid opening unknown email links and suspicious websites.
  • Troops should refrain from posting pictures of themselves in uniform on the internet to keep their identity secret. They also need to check that they don’t give out any sensitive information while posting pictures online.
  • The Army also wants its troops to keep a check on their comments about the government on topics which can have a “subversive effect”.

An Army officer informed the outlet that following the instructions, several personnel have left groups on Facebook and WhatsApp. This report comes just days after the Home Ministry had advised government officials to not access social media on official devices unless permitted in its social media and internet policy for government employees. The ministry issued a 24-page note which also directed officials not to carry out classified work on computers connected to the internet.