Air force pilots.
Israel Air Force pilots. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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Two Israeli combat pilots were jailed for five days and 12 others were disciplined for storing maps and other classified information on their smartphones, Army Radio reported this week.

The incident underscores the security risks posed by mobile technology and demonstrates that the culture of the air force must be overhauled, Israel Air Force officials said.

"The ease of photographing and sending pictures, maps and classified information has become the enemy of information security and endangers operational activity," an air force officer said.

Officers said they were particularly concerned by the use of applications like the mobile messaging service WhatsApp, since it transfers information online and is therefore considered relatively easy to breach.

"It has to be understood that it's possible and necessary to secure information differently," IAF chief Amir Eshel said in a meeting with high-ranking air force commanders Wednesday to issue directives on improving security.

Eshel said the culture of the air force must be changed, adding that if the security breach took place in one squadron it is probably taking place in others as well.

Israeli military authorities discovered the security breach after one of the pilots reported he had lost his cell phone and that it contained sensitive data. It was recovered, the report said, and investigators found he had loaded maps, waypoints and other classified documents.

Other members of his squadron had done the same, so they could have the information readily at hand, the radio said.

The 14 pilots were court-martialed. Two were sent to jail, 11 received suspended sentences and one was fined.

"The air force is treating the incident very seriously," the IDF Spokesperson's Office said in a statement.

Squadron commanders met this week with their squadrons to order them to adhere to the existing security procedures.

Reuters contributed to this report.