In a rather frightening bulletin issued jointly by the FBI and The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. military members were urged to rid their social media profiles and online presence of personal information or anything that might pique the attention of violent extremists.
Why this advice and why now? The good folks at the FBI are concerned that ISIS, the Islamic militant group seizing control of land in Iraq and Syria, are tracking U.S. soldiers and possibly their families based on their social media posts. Then once a target is identified, ISIS operatives contact U.S. based violent extremists to carry out attacks on unsuspecting soldiers. This is not a joke.
We often roll our eyes at OPSEC or operational security. As a senior officer spouse, I would remind our squadron family members to take caution when posting on social media, especially in the weeks and months leading up to a deployment. And then, like clockwork, Facebook pages lit up with teary goodbyes when our service members left. And to be honest, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there’s a lovely military spouse home – alone. But while the threats then were more about burglaries and scams, this notice is far more serious.
Here are some tips that will help keep you and your family safe.
Check your privacy settings on your social media accounts and make sure they are set to the highest, most secure setting. Even if you just checked, check again as companies change their codes and algorithms often and it may affect your security settings. For example, if you are tagged in an inappropriate photo that violates OPSEC, go back and check the box that requires approval for tagged photos to appear online.
Don’t post on social media about work-related information.
Keep any and all of your opinions about any military-related activity or your views of extremism off social media, chat rooms, blogs or any Internet sites!
Steer clear of posting about deployment departure and homecoming dates. Our service members are very vulnerable when traveling en masse so keep that in mind. And cryptic posts like “I’ll be the happiest Marine wife around in just 36 hours” are really not as ambiguous as you think.
Change your passwords regularly. We hear it all the time and I bet most of your passwords are some variation of the same thing. Research password manager software, like LastPass and Dashlane. Then spend an hour or two installing it on all your devices.
Do you accept all LinkedIn and friend requests? I don’t and you shouldn’t either. Amassing hundreds of casual contacts isn’t safe especially if you’re a serial over-sharer. And wasting time plowing through an endless Facebook feed is just not a good use of time.
And while you are at it, clean up your online profile and get rid of any racy posts and pictures. Keep in mind that 94 percent of recruiters are already or plan to utilize social networks to find employees so if you are going to start looking for a job anytime soon, it’s best to be spic and span. If you wouldn’t want your mother to see it, it probably shouldn’t be online.
It’s hard not to share those precious military moments, like deployments and homecoming. We should be proud of what we are doing as spouses and family members. But putting yourself at risk or your family isn’t worth it. Definitely snap a picture at the homecoming but instead of posting it online, hang it where all important photos should reside. On the refrigerator.
Molly Blake is a freelance writer. Her husband recently retired after serving 20 years in the United States Marine Corps. She attended the University of Dayton and writes about issues affecting military families and other parenting issues. Follow her on twitter @mblakewrites.