The organized efforts by Russia to interfere in elections and operations of other countries has reached a new point: NATO soldiers’ smartphones are apparently being hacked and compromised in an ongoing campaign to attain operational information and determine troop numbers while eroding morale. Pointing to the equipment being used and the level of organization, U.S. and NATO-nation officials said there was no doubt that the Russian government was responsible.
Targeted within the campaign are 4,000 NATO troops stationed in Poland and in some Baltic states along the Russian border. One target, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Christopher L’Heureux, said that his personal iPhone was hacked in Poland and reported as lost while a hacker was using a Russian IP address to try and further breach another level of password protection:
“It had a little Apple map, and in the center of the map was Moscow,” said Col. L’Heureux, stationed not far from a major Russian military base. “It said, ‘Somebody is trying to access your iPhone’.”
Col. L’Heureux, who prepares tactical troop positions to repel a potential Russian invasion, also found he was being physically tracked through his iPhone. “They were geolocating me, whoever it was,” he said. “I was like, ‘What the heck is this?’”
Col. L’Heureux said that at least six soldiers directly under his command had also seen their phones and Facebook accounts hacked. Other soldiers reported data being erased from their phones. It is believed that Russia is trying to determine if the troop levels in the area are larger than what’s been publicized. Further, a compromised device could slow a response or create confusion in the event of an invasion.
In response to an event on a base in Estonia, soldiers were told to remove their SIM cards, only use designated secure hot spots to access the internet, and turn off all geolocation functions.
U.S. soldiers in Latvia and Poland were approached in public by people believed to be Russian agents who relayed details about the soldiers’ lives gleaned from social media hacking. While Russia has a history of targeting NATO soldiers, experts have called the intimidation campaign “unprecedented.”
“I thought this would be easy … nobody’s shooting at me,” Col. L’Heureux said of being stationed in Poland. “But this is different.”
(Via Wall Street Journal)