OPSEC is a¬†term that has been repeated since the military first formed. ¬†From the “Loose Lips Sink Ships” to the updated “Loose Tweets Sink Fleets”, we have always been reminded about SECURITY. But have we been diligent in updating OPSEC and PERSEC to match advances in technology and new threats?
The instability in the Middle East that was brought to our doorsteps in a very up close and personal way on September 11, 2001 is still a very real threat¬†and while many believe it’s not “our problem” we are a part of it and need to be aware. So let’s talk about OPSEC and PERSEC.
Taken straight from the DoD, “Operations Security, or OPSEC, is the process by which we protect unclassified information that can be used against us.¬† OPSEC challenges us to look at ourselves through the eyes of an adversary (individuals,¬†groups, countries, organizations). Essentially, anyone who can harm people, resources, or mission is an adversary.¬†The bottom line is that we can be are our own worst enemy.¬† Google yourself or your organization and see how much you can find out.”
This doesn’t just apply to when our military is deployed. This can also pertain to training info (locations, dates, maneuvers), commenting about base security or base processes and other situations where the information may not seem critical but can be used in conjunction with other information online (yours or someone else’s).
The Operations Security Professionals Association (OSPA) shares, “OPSEC is simply denying an adversary information that could harm you or benefit them. OPSEC is a process, but it is also a mindset. By educating oneself on OPSEC risks and methodologies, protecting sensitive information becomes second nature.” ¬†I really like this statement because it challenges you to change your way of thinking. It creates an atmosphere where it’s acceptable to discuss, but to creatively do so without providing information that could benefit someone looking to harm the US or her citizens.
While there is no directive for PERSEC (Personal Security) like there is for OPSEC, they go together and PERSEC addresses¬†your personal information and keeping it secure.
‚ÄúThe enemy aggressively reads our open source and continues to exploit such information for use against our forces. Some soldiers continue to post sensitive information to Internet websites and blogs, e.g., photos depicting weapon system vulnerabilities and tactics, techniques, and procedures. Such OPSEC violations needlessly place lives at risk and degrade the effectiveness of our operations. Our mission success and soldiers‚Äô lives depend on aggressively denying the enemy any advantage.‚Äù ¬†–Army Chief of Staff
The “privacy controls” on Facebook and other social media sharing sites have lulled us into a false sense of security. While your average person may not have the skills or even the desire to hack and get your personal information, PERSEC isn’t really about the “average person”, is it? ¬†PERSEC is not just about military families and many of the guidelines presented are intended for all readers. The time has come, my friends, to get a little more “tin foil hat” about what we are posting and sharing online. The key thing to remember is: if it is online it is not only always there but can always be found (no matter how secure). ¬†So if you don’t want something seen, don’t post it anywhere.
So what are we putting out there that we shouldn’t? ¬†Well, everything!
- That awesome check-in feature so many sites offer? ¬†That could tell someone your routine, whether you are with your family or alone, if your car/house/boat/etc is secured or not. ¬†Instead, give your favorite places shoutouts by checking in AFTER you have been there and left. ¬†And if you go there regularly, don’t post about that, keep it as random as possible.
- Photos? ¬†Print them at home and mail. ¬†Even email servers can be compromised. ¬†Do you have a large amount of digital photos stored online somewhere? ¬†Consider downloading them all to a physical back-up/hard drive and keeping that in a secure location and have the ones that are most important printed for photo albums or frames. ¬†If you choose to keep photos stored online, consider using a name scheme that does not provide any personal information about you, the subjects of the photos or where they were taken. This includes the folders they are stored in, not just the file names.
- Your service member has deployed or left for training and you are missing them. ¬†Or the kids are acting up because they are gone. Or nothing is the same without them right there. All that does is tell someone you are alone or your kids are without one of their parents. No one online should have any idea that your other half is not right at home. And people who post to your wall or comment about them being gone should have their comment deleted.
- Those stickers on the back of your car…I’m really torn on this one. As much as I want to support my husband and his career choice and my pride in being the wife to a man who is in the Navy – well, the threat that military families are the focus of a rather terrifying organization are making me reconsider keeping anything on my vehicle. ¬†This is certainly one to think about, but at the very least, the stick figure families should be removed, the soccer ball stickers with your child’s jersey # and name on them and anything that has your child’s name, school name, dance school name, team name, etc on them should be off the back of your car.
- Lock down your social media profiles. Do you¬†need to be on every social media site out there? ¬†Pick one and stick with it. Then go through it and eliminate info – your address, your phone number, where you work and have worked, school information, when you married, when you moved. Contrary to the belief (we have slowly been fed so we don’t realize things are changing), not everyone needs to know what you are doing all the time.
Social media remains an effective way to get information out there and get it out fast. I watched a local police department’s page put up photos of missing children the other day. ¬†Within 4 hours, both children had been found and returned home. This was due to the power of social media and it being used for good and that’s what most people are using it for.
There is no sure fire way to determine what makes you a target, but erring on the side of caution just makes sense.