Keeping our military safe on social media

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
  • Headquarters Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs
Social media. It incorporates several platforms that allow military members to stay in touch with friends and loved ones around the world, however, sometimes what is shared comes with a hefty price tag; loss of operational security.

As seen in recent events, these platforms can also be an instrument for adversaries to target military members and provide an avenue for identity fraud.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft has been the No. 1 consumer complaint in the last 15 years.

In an independent research study conducted by Next Advisor, 54 percent of social media profiles were the target of identity fraud with another 70 percent of profiles targeted to visit a scam website via private message.

"Using social media is a personal choice, and you have a degree of control over the information you share. Carefully consider how much information you make available and to whom," said Tanya Schusler, the Air Force Public Affairs Agency social media chief. "You need to protect your safety, your career and the Air Force's mission while balancing your need to connect with people. It takes just an extra few seconds to thoroughly consider what you're about to share online, but the consequences of a misstep could follow you for years to come."

Practicing good operational security helps combat risks that arise from using social media, namely by protecting critical information (CI). The Interagency OPSEC Support Staff lists several examples of CI:

• Usernames, passwords, computer and networking information
• Job title, location, salary, grade and clearances
• Operational, security and logistical data
• Social Security numbers, credit card and banking information
• Work/personal addresses and phone numbers

The biggest hurdle on social media is posting information that may not be critical on its own, but when pieced together by someone, on one or more platforms, can have detrimental effects.

According to the study, it was determined that 30 percent of Facebook users do not have their profiles set to private and 14 percent don't know their privacy settings.

There are several ways Airmen can protect themselves on social media:

• When posting, remember "when in doubt, throw it out."
• Take notice of security settings: Are you hard to find/access? Each social network platform has security settings, but Airmen should not solely rely on those settings and should make their profiles as secure as possible.
• Disable location-based social media, or geotagging: this alerts others to your exact location and could inadvertently reveal more information than should be out there.
• Do not post work or personal schedules or travel itineraries: this is especially true if the travel is related to deployments. Posting this information could give adversaries information on troop locations and movements.
• Be aware of backgrounds in photos: sensitive or classified information could inadvertently be in the photo. The background could also give clues as to where you are and what you are doing.
• Do not post information on casualties in your unit: the Air Force has a procedure in place to properly and respectfully notify next of kin in case of injury or death.
• And again, remember "when in doubt, throw it out."

For more information, visit DoD's Social Media Web Guide.