KEY POINTS

  • A recent memo disallows marines to install apps, including crypto mining software, on government-issued phones
  • Mining apps that turn out to be malware could be a security risk
  • A cybersecurity expert argued even if the mining app is safe, the service member would still be using government resources for their personal gain

Bitcoin mining and dating apps are now banned in government-issued mobile devices in the United States Marine Corps. Citing privacy and security concerns, marines are also not allowed to install gambling apps or jailbreak their phones, according to a memo signed July 20.

The marines are advised to check the list of prohibited apps and delete them. Additionally, they are advised to watch out for any application that records video or voice, monitors GPS, or access the user’s contacts or calendars. These are risks, the memo said, that could disclose location or any important security information that should always be private.

The military regularly announces apps that are not allowed on government-issued phones, such as Chinese app TikTok that was banned January.

Crypto mining is a way to obtain coins like Bitcoin and other coins that utilize the proof-of-work (PoW) mechanism. Mining is resource intensive and it takes the most powerful and dedicated mining rigs today to mine Bitcoin. However, some smaller cryptocurrencies can still be mined through phones, according to Randi Eitzman, a cybersecurity expert consulted by the news outlet Marine Corps Times.

However, if the user is not careful, the installed mining app could be a malware that used the phone’s power to mine cryptocurrency, which would eventually be sent to the criminals crypto wallet and not the user’s. The crypto mined by a single phone could be miniscule, but if the fraudulent mining app manages to get downloaded and infect more mobile phones, it could lead to sizable cryptocurrency returns for the criminal. 

Even if the mining app installed by the service member is safe, Eitzman argued they would still be using government resources for their personal gain. “Crypto mining could be classified as ‘victimless crime,’ but it is important to realize that it is still theft,” the cybersecurity expert added. 

The Army and the Air Force service members are only allowed to download approved applications. On the other hand, the Navy has an "acceptable use policy" which generally means its service members could not use Navy technology that would reflect poorly on the Department of Navy, a spokesman further told the Marine Corps Times.

hacker-bitcoin-cryptocurrency-money-finances-laptop-illegal-getty_large Cryptocurrency Photo: Getty