By Reginald Rogers/ParaglideSeptember 10, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- The rising popularity of social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter has prompted more U.S. military servicemembers and their Families to become more technologically saavy.
Soldiers and Family members now have the capability to distribute personal information, such as photos, videos and e-mail messages in real time. It is because of this that Fort Bragg officials warn against the distribution of sensitive information on public websites.
"Every person has a piece to the puzzle," explained Kellie Neuschwanger, Operations Security Specialist at Fort Bragg's Directorate of Emergency Services. "And we want to make sure not to provide those pieces to the adversary - whoever that adversary may be. It could be your neighborhood criminal or it could be a terrorist downrange looking to hurt the Soldiers, the Families and the citizens of Fort Bragg and surrounding areas."
Neuschwanger said the purpose of not providing sensitive information to the public is to make it more difficult for an adversary to identify and exploit our vulnerabilities (personal, unit, installation, Army, military).
She added that it's important to educate the community about what is considered sensitive information and how to protect that information.
Neuschwanger pointed out some examples of sensitive information include: deployment/
redeployment information, numbers/lists (personnel, logistics, shortages, etc.), meeting times/locations, duty rosters and phone trees, training schedules, and at times, Family support activities (location, types of activities - especially if connected to unit deployment/
redeployment, number of participants).
She added that what may seem like everyday conversation to some, such as personnel strengths and shortages or even the mention of a Family readiness group gathering could lead to big consequences if it is released to the wrong person.
"We do not want to publish specific information about the Family readiness group redeployment briefings on Facebook. You never know who might show up uninvited," Neuschwanger said. "It's all about educating and using the right forums to communicate."
She pointed out that everybody wants to put information on Facebook (or other social networking sites) because it's easy.
"They want the command to post unit details on these pages, which are open to the public - we need to continue to educate and discuss the reasons why we can't," Neuschwanger added.
She explained that the Army has several forums that will allow Families to exchange information.
"Virtual FRG is one of the forums that is underutilized. And we should be encouraging spouses and Family members to use AKO (Army Knowledge Online) accounts to disseminate information," Neuschwanger added.
Army Knowledge Online is a valuable tool that allows spouses, Family members and their Soldiers to stay in touch and is a better method than just using Yahoo, Facebook or other public websites, she said.
Neuschwanger added that there are steps community members can take to ensure they are complying with operations security policy.
Some of these steps include: obtaining and using AKO e-mail accounts for spouses and Family members; adhering to the Fort Bragg 100 percent destruction policy, such as shredding all paper material; asking your unit OPSEC officer to review photos and information before posting to a public websites and visiting your unit OPSEC officer for your command's critical information.
She said there are other steps community members can take to ensure they minimize the threat of divulging valuable information. These include: Don't talk on your cell phone in public places about unit information. Don't post unit information/pictures on social networking sites.
Understand and comply with existing security policies. Report suspicious behavior.
Contact your unit OPSEC officer for training opportunities.
She said social networking can be a great tool for the Army and its members, if it is used in the right capacity.
"That's what it all comes down to - being able to discern between what should be protected versus what can be put out to everybody," Neuschwanger said.
"Is social networking a good thing' Yes, it can be a great thing! But it's a matter of educating people on how to effectively do it."