With my husband deployed, as well as many other soldiers, and my target audience being other military spouses, I want to dedicate this post to writing about OPSEC, and why we should abide by these rules; especially in social media.
OPSEC, if you are not aware, stands for Operations Security. As a military spouse or family member, or even as a service member, OPSEC is something you want to become very familiar with. 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.
OPSEC should be used to protect information, and thereby deny the adversary the ability to act. Nearly 90% of the information collected comes from ‘Open Sources’. Any information that can be obtained freely, without breaking the law, is Open Source. It is social network sites, tweets, text messages, blogs, videos, photos, GPS mapping, newsletters, magazine or newspaper articles, your college thesis, or anything else that is publicly available.
Our OPSEC objective is to ensure a safe and secure environment. OPSEC is best employed daily when making choices about what communications to use, what is written in emails or said on the phone, postings on social networking sites and blogs. Any information you put in the public domain is also available to your adversaries.” [http://www.dodea.edu/Offices/Safety/OPSEC.cfm]
Put into civilian terms, OPSEC rules are:
Don’t discuss current or future destinations/ ports of call/deployment bases .
Don’t discuss current or future operations or missions.
Don’t discuss current or future dates and times of exercises or missions.
Don’t discuss readiness issues and numbers.
Don’t discuss specific training equipment.
Don’t discuss people’s names and operations.
Don’t speculate about current or future operations.
Don’t spread rumors about current, future, or past operations or movements.
Don’t assume the enemy is not trying to collect information on you; he/she is.
Be smart, use your head, and always think OPSEC when using email, phone, chat rooms and message boards.
The rules are even longer, when you take into account the Do’s and Don’t’s of Social Media…
Don’t check in to locations, especially military locations and FOBs.
Don’t list your or your spouse’s specific job.
Don’t use a picture of you or your spouse in uniform as your profile picture or cover photo.
Don’t update everyone when your spouse leaves or is in the process of coming home.
NEVER EVER EVER post a count up or a count down.
Don’t post pictures of yourself or your spouse in uniform with sensitive information visible (such as ship names, aircraft serial or N-Numbers, instruments, weapons, etc.)
Don’t tag other people in photographs or status’ that include ANY of the information from this or the previous OPSEC list.
Sometimes the rules can be easy to forget, especially when you see other spouses, soldiers, and sources posting sensitive information. Or, you have exciting news that you think you might want to share. Or, your frustrated that it’s only been 74 days since your spouse left for a 365 day deployment. In today’s world, most people take to their social media accounts to share almost everything they feel or are thinking. If you’re not that person, chances are you know someone who is. And even if you have your preferences set as privately as you can – so only friends can see your information, chances are that your settings are not as private as you think they are. And there are always ways around those settings, if someone was really determined to get that information.
Leaked information can, and will, set back deployment and/or homecoming dates. And when you’re a spouse or family member anxious to get your loved one home again, you do not want anything to prolong the date that you get to hold your loved one again. And you certainly do not want to post any information that could jeopardize your loved one’s safety. So, please, please, please, refrain from posting any information that qualifies under OPSEC. As another military spouse blogger posted in 2013, her husband’s CO says in his updates, “‘As a continued Operational Security (OPSEC) reminder, the general rule of thumb is that we can talk about what we have done in the past … but we must be very careful with talking about details regarding where we currently are, what we are currently doing, and where we are going next.'” [http://spousebuzz.com/blog/2013/04/3-everyday-persec-rule.html]
Here are some other links with more information about OPSEC Security:
And speaking of OPSEC, let’s also discuss it’s cousin, PERSEC. PERSEC stands for Personal Security. PERSEC has become as important as OPSEC is for the Military, however PERSEC is often applied to spouses and family members, more than OPSEC. “PERSEC focuses on protecting information such as rank, your home address and information about your family. Generally, it is basic common sense that reminds you not to advertise that you are living alone or otherwise giving out personal information to others who you may not know. ” [http://www.militaryspot.com/resources/opsec-and-persec/] Seems simple enough, right? Basically, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want “the enemy” or someone you do not trust to find out.
Simply put, these are the rules of PERSEC:
Always assume that what you post is being seen by the public
Turn your default location settings to ‘Off’
Protect the identities of you and your children
First and foremost, simply do not share your address. Do not post it in your About section on Facebook, and do not publicly post it on yours or a friend’s wall. (Do not share it publicly through other social media websites, such as Twitter, Instagram, etc., either) If you need to share your address with someone you know, share it in a private message or text message. By sharing your address publicly, even if you think your settings are secure and “friends only”, someone who you do not want having that information could access it. And ain’t no one got time for stalkers, to say the least.
Now, think about this for a moment. You might not share your address, but do you have your location settings On?, so that people who can see your post know what town you are posting from? Yes? Do you also have a photo of your house in your stash of uploaded photos? Can anyone see the house number in this photo? If you answered “Yes” to all of these questions, it wouldn’t take someone long to figure out where you live.
In-hand with protecting your location, as well as protecting your children, what kind of stickers or magnets do you have on your vehicle? Any “Proud Parent of an Honor Student” with the school’s name? Do you have a stick-figure or similar family on your rear window? Anything that would suggest or give-away that a parent is in the service? If your vehicle says to any pedophile that you have children that reside in a specific area, with a parent who isn’t home or may not be home a lot, you could be asking for trouble.
As were shared on the Army Operations Security Facebook Page, here are some images to help with OPSEC and PERSEC.
As stated, it is generally OK to share past events and information, but it is never OK to share current information, or information about the future. We are all proud of our service member, but we also have to be careful with who we share information with, and what kind of information we share. Something as innocent and vague about missing our soldier can become less vague in the comments, as friends and family members may start conversing about when your spouse or family member left, or where they are deployed to. Also, never ever EVER post count-ups or count-downs!!! Ever, ever, ever. Just, don’t. You can keep it on your paper calendar or in your daily planner, but do not post this to social media. This is for the same reason that we do not post deployment or redeployment dates. It’s never our intention to violate the rules of OPSEC or PERSEC, and put our loved ones in danger – at least, I hope it’s never your intention. So, while posting to social media websites, texting, or blogging, please keep these rules in mind.