OPSEC aims to protect sensitive information
August 18, 2011
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - Garrison Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein's daily schedule is an example of sensitive, unclassified information that an adversary of the nation's military might use for unscrupulous purposes.
That's why small bits of unclassified information -- from telephone conversations, emails and text messages to small talk about the lives and work of service members and their families -- must be protected, said Tony Davis, a Fort Meade antiterrorism and Operations Security officer.
Operational Security is "designed to protect sensitive, critical information and to keep [it] out of the hands of the bad guys," he said.
Fort Meade makes an effort throughout the year to remind service members, Department of Defense civilians, contractors and family members about OPSEC rules. But this month, the warnings are part of the Army's second annual Anti-Terrorism Awareness Month. The Army antiterrorism program is designed to protect personnel, information, property and facilities in all locations and situations against terrorism.
Mark George, a Fort Meade antiterrorism officer and coordinator of the installation's antiterrorism activities, said that in light of the upcoming 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it is important to remember that the country's adversaries are diligent in their efforts to obtain sensitive information that can help them plan another terrorist attack.
"Our adversaries are watching, listening and learning," George said. "We have the power to stop them from doing this."
About 80 percent of all intelligence the enemy gathers comes from open sources such as websites, interception of cordless phone conversations or texts and trash cans, Davis said. Critical information that adversaries may try to access include data about military personnel such as casualty, damage and serious incident reports and deployment schedules, as well as information regarding operational-readiness and the roles and capabilities of key installation personnel.
Computer hackers and predators can ravage through emails, blogs, Facebook pages and websites for such information, Davis said.
To protect sensitive information, Davis suggests that military personnel and DoD civilians take advantage of the email and instant messaging features available through Army Knowledge Online and Defense Knowledge Online, which are operated by the DoD and have stringent security protocols.
Davis said military personnel should edit emails on AKO or DKO for OPSEC before sending them and use office shedders or burn bags to dispose of documents that include Social Security numbers, personnel records, home addresses, telephone numbers and reports that may hint about the installation's strengths, assets and future operations.
Davis also advises employees not to discuss sensitive work-related information in areas such as restaurants. When texting a message or posting to a blog or personal web page, the author should consider who will have access to the information, he said.
It is wise to always consider that the adversary is reading the material, said Davis.
Family members should never disclose sensitive information such as birthdays, Social Security numbers, information regarding special operations-type units, family photographs, credit card numbers and security codes on Facebook, Twitter, blogs or other websites, he said.
"Be alert and attentive," Davis warned. "The terrorists are always watching and looking for an opportunity to gather information about our mission."