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OPSEC dumpster diving
Tech. Sgt. Christopher Mosley, 354th Fighter Wing Plans and Programs NCO in charge, searches for operations security and personally identifiable information violations Jan. 28, 2014, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. During Operational Readiness Exercises, units are evaluated on OPSEC to ensure critical information is properly disposed of. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Perras/Released)
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Unseen eyes watch unaware Airmen

Posted 2/25/2014   Updated 2/25/2014 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Peter Reft
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/25/2014 - Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska -- Social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr can provide an instantaneous and highly entertaining feedback stream of your daily activities to friends and family. The latest videos of dogs running with fireworks in their mouths, kittens tumbling in the snow or Internet memes of celebrity humiliations spam the news feeds of people around the world.

With so much content online and so many life events to share, it is easy to forget that unwanted eyes may be watching. Without realizing it, Airmen may unknowingly jeopardize the safety of themselves, their family, their friends or fellow military members.

The Operation Security program aims to reduce the vulnerability of Air Force missions by reducing the vulnerability of critical information.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 298 which established the National Operations Security program. The opening paragraph in the document states, "Security programs and procedures already exist to protect classified matter. However, information generally available to the public as well as certain detectable activities reveals the existence of, and sometimes details about, classified or sensitive information or undertakings."

"Social networking media is a big one," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Cooper, 354th Medical Group OPSEC program manager. "People don't realize that giving certain things out such as 'I have be out to an area of operation for the next six months' just gave the adversaries an indication of military activity.

"Then they can get the demographic information off your profile, figure out where you are and what base you're at. And now they know you're gearing up for deployment and can figure out who's deploying, when and where they're going, and who has what missions."

Another acute danger of Airmen posting to social networks involves smart phones automatically geo-tagging pictures with data that can reveal exact locations of critical assets.

"If a photo of a sensitive airframe, troop movement, building or equipment were to be published, it could give away key information on a possibly critical operation," said Tech.
Sgt. Joseph Speirs, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron OPSEC manager. "Giving away GPS coordinates of military assets can also give potential targets for terrorists or other adversaries."

OPSEC applies to all activities that prepare, sustain, or employ forces during all phases of operations.

There are five steps in the OPSEC process are identifying critical information, analyzing threats, analyzing vulnerabilities, assessing risks and applying countermeasures.

The one step that every military member, regardless of special training, is capable of doing is identifying critical information.

"That's the foundation -- finding out that critical information that adversaries can use to undermine your objectives," said Cooper. "Without that foundation, the program won't succeed."

OPSEC incidents are not simply limited to on-duty work environments and military tactical operations. They can also occur when someone is not careful with how they live at home.
"This is not just a program for while you're on the job or mission," said Cooper. "It's also one you can take home."

Airmen need to be cautious about certain visual indicators that may advertise their absence to potential criminals.

Cooper said, "If you have mail piled up and three or four newspapers on your porch, somebody who wants to break in to your home could be watching for that."

Realizing beforehand how those indicators can affect your security is needed for applying the proper countermeasures to prevent incidents.

"Taking simple steps such as calling the newspaper to tell them to stop delivering for the next few weeks or having a light switch timer that gives the impression somebody is home is a very good idea," said Cooper.

The OPSEC program encompasses the entirety of military operations that can affected by military members, civilian workers, friends or family.

"OPSEC is not only for military members. It applies to everyone -- contractors, military spouses, friends and families, etc.," said Speirs. "Spreading the knowledge and reasoning behind the program to all involved with the military ensures everyone understands the importance of maintaining OPSEC with day to day operations."

Each unit employs an OPSEC manager to whom anybody may report suspected OPSEC incidents. For more information regarding OPSEC, refer to AFI 10-701 on the Air Force e-Publishing website or contact your unit OPSEC manager.

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