The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have released a bulletin about social media vulnerabilities for those who serve or have served. They are asking that current and former service members of the military review their social media accounts and remove any information that might attract violent extremists.
Joint Intelligence Bulletin Excerpts (December 2014)
“The FBI and DHS recommend that current and former members of the military review their online social media accounts for any information that might serve to attract the attention of ISIL [ISIS] and its supporters,”….”routinely exercise operational security in their interactions online.”
“We also request members of the military review their online social media presence for any information that might attract the attention of violent extremists.”
“Overseas based individuals are looking for like-minded individuals in the U.S. to carry out these attacks.”
Having an online presence or digital footprint can be dangerous, depending on the type of information you both knowingly or unknowingly publish on the internet.
The advent of social media has been an amazing way to reconnect with old friends and colleagues. However, you may have also exposed yourselves to the underbelly of the internet if you have not taken the necessary steps to protect your information. Hackers, predators, and foreign state actors troll social networking sites to find vulnerable targets for exploitation. If you are in the military or have family members in the military, you’ll want to practice Operations Security (or OPSEC for short). OPSEC is the practice of protecting unclassified information about personal information and military operations to ensure safety for individuals, family members, and units.
Here are some helpful tips to protect your information on the internet and social media:
- Keep sensitive and work-related information off of your social media profile.
- Remove or do not post anything that might bring unwanted attention from violent extremists such as members of ISIS or Al Qaeda.
- Do not publish dates, vacations, and schedules online. This is most important when you have a deployed service member, so protect this information from dangerous individuals who may prey upon family members or target returning deployed units. Publishing your vacation timeline could also make you susceptible to burglaries.
- Protect the name and information of family members and friends.
- Regularly check your security and privacy settings on your social media accounts, because the companies may often make changes to security settings without your knowledge.
- Google your name and the names of your family members. How easily are you found in an internet search? How much personal information is floating out there regarding your location, your finances, your history, and your loved ones?
- Verify that you actually know a “friend” before accepting his or her friend request.
- Tailor your access permissions for your “friends.” How much do you want your acquaintances or co-workers to see of your personal life?
- How much is displayed on your basic profile to the public, and how easy is it to find you within a social media interface? View your social media profiles while logged out of your account to see what is publicly accessible.
- Review your friends’ profiles: sometimes the photos or any information they post about you could be seen by external parties depending on your friends’ privacy settings.
- Be careful when you click on questionable links and downloads, just like you would in an email.
- Ensure your passwords are different and hard to guess for each site. If you use the same password for everything, it will be very easy for a hacker to hack into all your other accounts.
- Turn off geotagging in your photos. Individuals can exploit your exact location simply based off the data built into your photography. If you upload that photo onto the internet, it is easy for an adversary to geolocate where the image was taken. This could be dangerous for deployed military units’ locations as well as the location of the homes of loved ones (depending on where the photo was taken). Check out this link for more information on geotagging.
If you’re interested in further OPSEC Awareness Training for Military Members and Military Dependents, check out the free online training provided by the Department of Defense or go to the DoD’s social media hub.
Viv is a West Point graduate, an Army Officer, an Army wife, and a Family Readiness Group Leader. She has served on Active Duty with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and is now in the Army Reserves. She is enjoying life in Texas with her Army Ranger husband.