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[단독] 육해공군 본부 아이폰 금지 검토…전군 확대 가능성

통화 중 녹음으로 인한 기밀 유출 우려

By Hwang Joo-young

Published : April 23, 2024 - 17:25

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이르면 6월부터 육・해・공군 각군 본부가 위치한 계룡대 내에서 아이폰 사용이 전면 금지될 것으로 보인다. 최근 아이폰 사용자들도 별도의 앱을 통해 통화녹음이 가능해지면서 늘어난 기밀 유출 우려에 따른 조치이다.

23일 다수의 군관계자들에 따르면 지난 11일 공군본부는 인트라넷망을 통해 ‘전기능차단제한장비’를 불허한다는 내용의 공문을 전파했다.

공군본부는 “녹음기, 레코드 등 앱을 통한 대화나 회의 내용 녹음 뿐만 아니라 개인 통화 녹음 등 모든 음성데이터 저장”을 통제한다는 지침과 함께 “각종 사업공고, 공적민원, 잔여상담, 개인소통 등의 통화녹음이 필요한 부분까지 차단이 불가피하다”고 밝혔다.

공문 한 편에는 “아이폰 반입 통제”라는 문구가 명시돼 있다.

‘전기능차단제한장비’란 카메라와 녹음 등 일부 기능을 차단하는 권한을 요청하는 서드파티앱을 허용하지 않는 전자기기를 지칭한다. 애플 아이폰이 대표적이다.

육군 본부의 경우 이미 이달부터 시범적으로 아이폰 사용을 금지해온 것으로 알려졌으며, 6월부터는 3군 본부 모두가 아이폰 사용을 전면 통제한다는 계획이다.

특히 공문에는 “예하부대 확대 적용 검토 중”이라는 문구도 언급돼 해당 조치가 전군으로 확대될 가능성도 있다.

반면 삼성 갤럭시와 같은 안드로이드 계열 스마트폰은 당국에서 운영중인 ‘국방모바일보안’ 앱이 원활하게 작동해 사용 금지 조치에 해당되지 않는다.

2013년 국방부는 청사 내 스마트폰 사용자들에 의한 내부 기밀 유출을 방지하기 위해 해당 보안앱을 출시했다. 국방부 청사 근무자만 활용하는 것이 당초 지침이었지만, 2021년부터 전군 스마트폰 사용 방안 논의가 확산됨에 따라 군내부에서 스마트폰을 이용하기 위해서는 해당 앱을 필수적으로 설치해야한다.

아이폰은 이 앱이 제대로 작동하지 않아 그 동안 사용이 부분적으로 제한됐다. 가령, 아이폰 사용자가 계룡대 본부에 출입하기 위해서는 보안프로그램을 설치하고 카메라 렌즈에 별도 스티커도 붙이는 식이다. 최고 수준의 보안통제가 이루어지는 합동참모본부의 경우 지금도 아이폰 반입이 금지되고 있다.

한편 군내 아이폰 사용 금지와 관련된 논의는 SK텔레콤이 통화녹음기능 서비스인 ‘에이닷’을 출시한 지난해 9월부터 본격적으로 시작된 것으로 알려졌다. 애플의 본사가 있는 캘리포니아 등 미국의 주요 주정부들이 사생활침해를 이유로 상대방의 동의 없는 통화 녹음을 법으로 금지하고 있어 아이폰은 통화 중 녹음 기능이 제공되지 않는다.

기사 원문:

[Exclusive] Korean military set to ban iPhones over 'security' concerns

Starting from military headquarters, a potential comprehensive ban could extend to all subordinate units: sources

South Korea’s military is considering a comprehensive ban on iPhones in military buildings due to increasing concerns about possible leaks of sensitive information through voice recordings, according to multiple military sources on Tuesday.

The sources, a group of ranking officers who wished to speak on condition of anonymity, said that the Air Force headquarters released an internal announcement on the military's intranet server on April 11, instructing a complete prohibition on any device capable of voice recording and which do not permit third-party apps to control inherent functions, effective June 1, with "iPhones" cited as items subject to the guidance.

According to the document, the decision to ban iPhones in the military came from joint meetings held by the headquarters of the Army, Navy and Air Force, located at Gyeryongdae in South Chungcheong Province.

The document was quoted as stating, "It’s inevitable to block any kind of voice recording, not just formal communications including meetings, office conversations, business announcements and complaints from and consultations with the public, but also informal communications such as private phone calls (within military buildings)."

The document also read, "There has been an ongoing review regarding the potential extension of this ban to all subordinate units," with the Army headquarters having conducted the ban on a trial basis since April. If the ban is extended, it will likely go beyond the Gyeryongdae area to encompass all other units across the nation.

The devices set to be prohibited encompass all types of smartwatches and wearable devices as well.

The sources, however, claimed that Android-based smartphones, mostly those from Samsung Electronics, will be exempted from the ban, while the document explicitly states that "Bringing in iPhones will be completely prohibited."

Currently, about 10,000 personnel, including some 6,000 officers, are estimated to be on duty at the Gyeryongdae defense center alone. For security reasons, the exact number is not disclosed to the public.

If the ban is extended to all subordinate units, it would affect almost 500,000 military personnel. According to the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, a think tank under the Defense Ministry, the total number of military personnel is 499,8000 as of 2022, including 365,000 in the Army, 69,800 in the Navy and 65,000 in the Air Force.

Boon for Galaxy users?

The reason iPhones specifically would be banned, whereas Android-based smartphones, like Samsung’s Galaxy series, would not, is purportedly because iPhones do not fully comply with the restrictions outlined by the National Defense Mobile Security, a mobile device management application operated by the military authorities.

For instance, when activating the security app, it begins to restrict several smartphone functions, including the camera, Wi-Fi, tethering, USB functions and the microphone.

However, Apple does not allow third-party apps to control iPhones' inherent features, except for the camera.

The Ministry of National Defense introduced the security app in August 2013 to mitigate the risk of credential information leakage from its headquarters in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. Initially, this measure applied solely to those military officers and public officials working at the ministry.

The mandate to use the security app at high-security military facilities has been extended to include all military personnel since 2021. This decision coincided with the military authorities' initiative to permit soldiers to use smartphones during their mandatory military service, albeit only between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

The sources said that discussions regarding the potential ban on iPhones started in September last year when SK Telecom, the nation’s top telecom carrier, debuted an unprecedented call-recording feature for iPhones via app A-Dot. Apple’s iPhones do not support call-recording functions due to privacy issues as it is illegal in many of the US states, including California, to record voice calls without the consent of the other person.

In Korea, recording a call is legal but abuse cases such as infringement of privacy can be subject to legal punishment. Many Galaxy users say they continue to use Samsung phones largely due to the call-recording feature. Almost seven out of 10 people in Korea are Galaxy phone users.

Security vs. human rights

The document emphasized, "Considering the importance of Gyeryongdae -- where the headquarters of the Army, Navy and Air Force are -- it's crucial to maintain the same level of security as the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

Unlike the Defense Ministry, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military commanding entity over the country’s armed forces, previous to April 2020 did not permit any of its employees to use smartphones within its buildings, which are based in the same Yongsan neighborhood as the Defense Ministry.

Personnel working at the JCS were required to hand in their phones at the front desk before entering its buildings.

Even after the JCS began allowing the use of smartphones inside the buildings in April 2020, under the condition that their phones had the security app installed and activated, iPhone users still had continually to leave their phones at the front desk when entering its buildings.

This latest initiative to ban iPhones is also likely to exacerbate the disparity between Android and iPhone users in the future.

Recently, the Defense Ministry announced that it's considering gradually expanding the time window for soldiers to use smartphones from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. to a maximum of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in a step-by-step phase.

With the implementation of the new guidelines, Android users would have the opportunity to use their phones for longer periods inside buildings. However, iPhone users in the same location would not enjoy the same privilege.

The security app has also faced criticism for its unreliability. Depending on which version an Android user may have, the app varies in which functions it restricts. However, another military official stated that this deficiency will likely be addressed later through a subsequent software update.

In the meantime, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea ruled in March that mandating that all military personnel at every location install the security app is excessively restrictive of human rights.

The commission recommended that the defense minister establish a provision for enforcing the installation of the security app within a relevant military security law. They also recommended limiting the mandatory installation of the app to essential personnel and locations only.