OPSEC demands much, protects much

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jason Wiese
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
Social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr can provide an instantaneous and highly entertaining feedback stream of your daily activities to friends and family. The latest videos of dogs running with fireworks in their mouths, kittens tumbling in the snow or Internet memes of celebrity humiliations populate the news feeds of people around the world.

With so much content online and so many life events to share, it is easy to forget that unwanted eyes may be watching. Without realizing it, Airmen and their families may unknowingly jeopardize the safety of themselves, their family, their friends or fellow military members.

The Operation Security program aims to reduce the vulnerability of Air Force missions by reducing the vulnerability of critical information.

"OPSEC is everyone's responsibility and is our first line of defense against hostile intelligence collection efforts," said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Bilodeau, 90th Security Forces Group Plans and Programs NCO.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 298, which established the National Operations Security program. The opening paragraph in the document states, "Security programs and procedures already exist to protect classified matter. However, information generally available to the public as well as certain detectable activities reveals the existence of, and sometimes details about, classified or sensitive information or undertakings."

While social networking sites were practically nonexistent in 1988, nowadays many people use them as a primary means of communication. While that itself is not a problem, the concern is many people are lulled into a false sense of security thinking if their social media site is private then the information they post is safe.

"OPSEC and personal privacy concerns should be paramount when using social media," said Master Sgt. Jaime Kelly, 90th Missile Wing OPSEC manager. "As a culture, we depend on social media, but social media use can be extremely dangerous if you're not careful."

Social networking sites have become a haven for identity thieves and con artists trying to use people's information against them. Perhaps more troubling, according to the Al Qaeda Handbook, terrorists search online for data about "Government personnel and all matters related to them -- residence, work place, times of leaving and returning, children and places visited, she said.

Everyone in the workplace has the responsibility to safeguard sensitive information, both on the job and at home.

"Everyone should recognize that any work-related information, no matter how trivial, can be pieced together with other information to form a more complete and sometimes harmful picture by our adversaries," Bilodeau said.

Another acute danger of Airmen and their families posting to social networks involves smart phones automatically geo-tagging pictures with data that can reveal exact locations of critical assets.

"It is the equivalent of adding a 10-digit grid coordinate to everything you post on the internet," Kelly said. "Individuals homes have been burglarized and several kidnapping, rape and murder cases were linked to social networking sites where the victims were tagged on Social networks.  If you want to avoid giving away your location disable the GPS function on your smartphone."

One countermeasure that every military member, regardless of special training, is capable of doing is identifying critical information, and Airmen's families can benefit from this knowledge, too.

"The best way to do this is to look at information through the eyes of the adversary," Kelly said.

Think: "What information would you want to hurt the mission or take action against someone?" The answers to that question are your critical information, she said.

The 90th MW's Critical Information List will assist Airmen in protecting and identifying
sensitive information, Bilodeau said.

Kelly said she encourages Air Force families to develop plans at home as well as work to protect personal and operational information.

If families realize how those indicators can affect their security, they can apply the proper countermeasures to prevent incidents.

"Open source data aggregation accounts for about 80% of intelligence collection efforts against the USA by adversaries," Kelly said. "Bottom line: don't freely post information to social networking sites and be mindful of what you throw in the trash."

The OPSEC program encompasses the entirety of military operations that can be affected, and that includes OPSEC at home.

"[People] need to remember that by using good OPSEC, the life they save may be their own, their wingman's or a family member's," Kelly said.

Some countermeasures to bolster OPSEC integrity include:

Know who your OPSEC monitor is: Every unit has an OPSEC coordinator. Everyone should know who their monitor is and clear everything through them before divulging potentially protected or sensitive information.

Talk to your public affairs office before releasing information or talking to the press: Never agree to an interview or answer media questions about official matters before contacting public affairs. The 90th MW PA office can be reached at 773-3381.

Educate your family members: Talk to them to make sure they know what must be protected.
Know who belongs in your workplace, and who doesn't: People in work centers know who should and should not be there. Personnel who see new and unfamiliar people can help provide OPSEC by asking who new people are and why they are there. This can be done politely, and people who get asked this question should not take offense.

100 percent shred policy: The base has a 100 percent shred policy to protect information. Ensure compliance.

Social media: The U.S. Air Force has supplied a guide on how to correctly and safely navigate social media as a military member, which can also be used to educate your loved ones. For a copy, click here https.

Report the unusual: If people on base see anything abnormal, they can report it the F.E. Warren Air Force Eagle Eyes program by calling Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 805, at 773-1852 or by calling the Base Defense Operations Center at 773-3501 and asking for the on-call AFOSI special agent.

Remember that OPSEC is always important. It can mean the difference between life and death. Not taking it seriously can inadvertently give out information that helps an enemy.

All in all, it is important to be informed and aware. If unsure, ask.

Information from an article by Airman 1st Class Peter Reft titled "Social media: Unwanted eyes may be watching Airmen, families" was used in this article.