MoD Staff Embrace Openness (even if MoD doesn't)


Ministry of Defence staff have leaked secret information onto social-networking sites sixteen times in 18 months.

The MoD refused to say whether the leaks related to sensitive operational issues

The figures were uncovered using the Freedom of Information Act, by computer security firm F-Secure and Lewis PR.

F-Secure security expert Mikko Hypponen said: "It's worrying that employees in sensitive positions have been sharing confidential information.

"They might think they are confiding in friends or family when they go on Facebook. However, the recent changes in Facebook's privacy settings might make them disclose information to the world. This is a potential security risk."

The MoD refused to comment on whether the leaks related to operational issues and what disciplinary action was taken.

MoD personnel need clearance from their bosses before publishing anything which relates to operations, or offers opinions on Defence activity.

Staff are also forbidden from speaking on behalf of the MoD in relation to controversial, sensitive or political matters.

For security reasons, the MoD's main computer network doesn't allow access to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

But a small number of computers allow staff open access to the Internet when off duty. This includes internet cafes on military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Staff guidelines state: "Remember you are a member of HM Forces/MoD civil servant. Observe the same high standard of conduct and behaviour online as would be expected of you in your professional or personal life."

In a statement, an MoD spokesperson said: "Service and MoD civilian personnel are encouraged to talk about what they do, but within certain limits to protect security, reputation and privacy. We have implemented a wide range of measures to improve the security of our information but we continue to make changing the culture of data handling across the whole Department one of our top priorities."

MoD Secrets Leaked Onto The Internet (Sky News, 25 January 2010)