As I sit here at my iMac computer while sipping coffee, the iPhone rings alerting me to a new “tweet” (or whatever the heck it’s called by Twitter in the past tense). Whether it’s for your vehicle, work, your kids and even your dog, our world is now driven by electronics and social media. The digital fingerprint we as Americans and Service Members leave is quite significant. The question arises: “Is it worth it?”
I just read an article about a woman at a job-related conference who posted a photo of some guys sitting behind her. She hash-tagged the conference name and stated these gentlemen were offending her with their inappropriate statements. Shortly after this was posted on Twitter, conference security escorted the gentlemen out, and they were later fired from their companies – all because some stupid person posted a picture and made a hash-tag! These stories are happening more and more. So what does this have to do with you or your fellow Service Members?
Why Protect Your Information on Social Media?
I have undergone training courses at Counter Terrorism Schools, Counter Surveillance, and even some Cyber Protection throughout my career. In one of these courses, they took each of us into a room to show us all of the information they found through open (public) sources. They told me where I had lived in the past 15 years, what my family did for a living, and how many brothers and sisters I had, with pictures supporting every one of these statements. The purpose behind this was to prepare us for the chance we might be captured and face a similar situation. Also, in conducting HUMINT (Human Intelligence) operations, we would know how to engage our audience to gain information. It is no secret that social media is here to stay, but how well protected can we be?
With every Facebook post, Instagram photo or Tweet, we are putting more and more information about ourselves out there on the Internet. Every link you click and every website and keystroke you type in, your information is being thrown out there. Now I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t have a Xanga or MySpace account at one time. But one thing I never did or do was put certain information out there on the Internet. I understand this may sound paranoid as you may like using these social media outlets, and rightly so. However, please keep a few things in mind before you post that next picture or comment on Johnny’s status.
Things Not To Post
- Birthdays: This is used to help open fake names, credit cards, and social security.
- Middle Name: Same as above. Studies have shown passwords often contain some form of your middle name or the initials of your full name.
- Pet Names: Same as above and used to figure out passwords.
- Geo Tag Locations of Photos: Anyone who is trying to locate you can vector in on your frequently visited locations.
- Vacation Plans: Anyone monitoring is now given great intelligence on your plans and it could lead to abduction or home invasion.
- Extended Absence From Home: This is perfect for the “Home Goods Robbers”
Think Before You Post
There are many other bits of information you should avoid, but training has shown me that the six above are the most likely to get honed in on. Whether you are law enforcement, fire fighter, lawyer, construction contractor or any job where you find yourself in a position of power, you can become the target of horrendous crimes, including identity theft. If you don’t believe me, go to www.whitepages.com and type in your name or the name of someone you know and do a search. It’s just one easy-to-use site. There are other sites where you can find arrest records, background checks, credit reports, and spending history. If you are bored enough or have the motivation to do so, you can “hack” into almost anyone’s life.
I know this may not be the typical post you see from such a prestigious site as Chairborne Commandos, but with more and more cyber attacks on America from China and North Korea, you may be surprised by who is actually looking into you – even your own government. Just think before you post, and ensure what you post is a general statement rather than a specific fact. In my opinion, delete your Facebook and other social media outlets and see how much less drama and bull crap you put up with. It is liberating!