Safety first: maintaining OPSEC in the age of social media

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Courtney Dotson-Essett
  • 434th ARW Public Affairs

The presence of social media is a constant in many areas of daily life. From the trendy to the controversial, almost anything can be found online and passed around networking sites publicly and permanently.

While social networks can be a great way to stay connected to family and friends, it’s important to be vigilant about the content of posts.

One of the areas Airmen must be alert in regarding social media is operational security.

In late January 2018, Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein released a joint memorandum on operational security and highlighted the renewed need to protect sensitive and classified information.

“Clearly in times past, we have sought to protect key operational details, but today’s informative standard should be more cautious, and we need your enduring vigilance to ensure compliance,” the memo stated.

 Reserve Citizen Airman must be aware of maintaining OPSEC even when not in uniform.

“Social media is a challenging problem,” said Doug Hays, chief of public affairs. “We brief all newcomers and deployers about its use – and ask them to share that information with their family.”

When it comes to social media, discussions and posts are rarely private and can be shared across multiple platforms, many times without the knowledge or consent of all involved.

Because so many people use social media frequently, it can be easy to post content without considering what details or information the post may share.

“It’s a fine line to walk, and the challenge grows every day, but I don’t see the trend changing in regards to the popularity of social media sites nor our adversaries attempt to use them to their advantage,” said Hays.

Some information that should never be shared online include specific locations of a residence or workplace, upcoming travel plans, and personal data.

Reservists should never post photos of deployed locations, always remain professional and report any critical or sensitive information found on social media.

Other common practices to avoid are listing family members, detailed job descriptions and pictures of your home or work area.

“The bottom line is the more personal information you share about yourself the more vulnerable you become,” Hays said. “The same goes for operational items. The more people share about operations the more our adversaries can piece together.”

The National Cyber Security Alliance also suggests carefully vetting friend requests and using the privacy settings on social media platforms, and disabling geo-tagging on apps that use it.

Grissom has a social media guide on the base’s web page. It is located on the bottom right corner of the page.

“Although the technology and platforms are changing quickly, the guide does provide a basic overview to help people and stresses to avoid violating operational security policies,” Hays said.

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. Men and women from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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