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Govt bans smartphones in Cabinet meetings

The move to restrict mobile phones in Cabinet meetings comes at a time when major banks in the country such as State Bank of India, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank, admitted being hit by cyber attacks

In an apparent precaution to prevent information leak due to cyber attacks, the government has reportedly asked Union ministers to not carry electronic devices such as mobile phones or smartphones to meetings of the Cabinet and Cabinet committees.

The move to restrict mobile phones in Cabinet meetings comes at a time when major banks in the country such as State Bank of India, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank, admitted being hit by cyber attacks.

As the issue of cyber threat grows around the world, an Office Memorandum issued by the Cabinet Secretariat on October 17 on the subject “Carrying smartphones/mobile phones inside meeting venues of Cabinet/Cabinet Committees” states, “It has been decided that smart phones/mobile phones will henceforth not be permitted inside the meeting venues of Cabinet/Cabinet Committees”.

The memo, according to a report in The Indian Express said, “The undersigned has been directed to request Private Secretaries to the Members of the Council of Ministers to appropriately brief the Members in this regard.”

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, speaking on the surgical strikes, had recently said, “During the operations, I kept my mobile phone away, just to ensure that if it is compromised, nobody eavesdrops on important conversations. I mostly switch off my phone during important meetings but one can even bug the battery of your phone and listen to your conversations.”

The government’s direction is, however, criticised by opposition Congress, calling it a “dictatorial and fascist order”. Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar said, “This has happened for the first time. This is one more example that the RSS and BJP do not want any kind of transparency.”

With this move, India will join countries such as Britain and France that have taken similar decisions on different occasions for different reasons.

Meanwhile, in the bank debit card data compromise issue, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said the government has asked RBI and banks to provide details of the data breach and also banks’ preparedness to deal with cyber crimes.

“Have sought a report in the debit card issue. The idea is to contain the damage,” Jaitley said, speaking to reporters in New Delhi.

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