It’s YOUR Duty: 5 Ways to Protect Your Military Family Online

Sponsored by Association of Military Banks of America, Walman Optical, Engility, Delta Dental, United Concordia, US Family Health Plan

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Military communities all over the world are growing and becoming more active, thanks in part to social media. And finding information about your military family is as easy as a few mouse clicks. But are you putting your family in harm’s way by putting too much out there? 

Operational Security (OPSEC) and Personal Security (PERSEC) keep our military’s information secure and out of the hands of those who could harm us - not just in person, but online, too. Sharing things like your loved one's rank or job title, where they're stationed, or when they're returning home could get you in trouble. In some cases, even having a unit-specific sticker on your car could be a violation of OPSEC. Sharing information online, if not done safely, can be catastrophic.

Try these five simple tricks to keep your family safe online:

  1. Don’t overshare. I know what you’re thinking: “DUH.” Have you stopped to think how much you’re actually sharing on a daily basis? Take Facebook, for example. Your first and last name is listed. Along with the town of your current duty station. From there, one can search property records of the county you live in, and find your home address. Then a quick drive-by would reveal your car, complete with a Half of my Heart is in Afghanistan bumper sticker, in the driveway. So, someone knows where you live, and that you’re home alone.
  2. Speaking of Facebook, keep social media content basic. Yes, social media seems to be the new replacement for human interaction, but don’t put too much trust in it. Keep your social media profiles, like Facebook and Twitter, on restricted settings, and be cautious of accepting invitations to connect from people who you may not know. Under no circumstance should you share information about your deployed service member. This includes, but is not limited to, troop location and movement, departure or arrival dates and times, or photos of your deployed service member in the field. 
  3. What about Facetime and video chatting? Social media is great, yes. But isn’t it special seeing your deployed service member’s face? Programs like Skype and Google Hangouts offer easy-to-use options for video calling. Skype-to-Skype video calls are encrypted (meaning secure, and protected), and safeguard you from malicious eavesdropping. Google Hangouts take place over secure connections, like ‘https,’ but are not encrypted to the level of Skype communications.
  4. Keep your email, and your email content, secure. Most service members have email addresses that are routed through a protected server. But emails coming from other places, like Gmail, Yahoo, or other web domains, might not be as secure. Be aware of emails from unknown or suspicious sources; these types of emails are commonly referred to as “Phishing,” and can contain a malicious link in the body of the email, which if clicked, will download malware onto your computer and into your secure files. Email content is just as important to monitor. Your service member should be aware of OPSEC and PERSEC regulations, so sharing sensitive information, like when they are coming home from a deployment, is discouraged. Rely on your unit family readiness leaders to provide this information to you.
  5. Use encryption when on a public Wi-Fi network. Browsing the internet while at a coffee shop, hotel, or airport seem like commonplace. But you never know who may be monitoring your internet activity when you’re using a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Apps, like Hotspot Shield, are free and easy-to-use and will establish an encrypted link, along with a proxy IP address to mask your location.  

Being aware of what you are sharing is the best bet to keep information safe. Terrorists are just as tech savvy as you and I, and in most cases, have the means and abilities to find out things about us that we didn't know they could. Protecting our Nation is the duty of our service members, protecting your military family online should be yours. Now is as good a time as any to make sure your military family’s personal information and safety are locked down and secure.

Additional tips from General Michael Hayden, former CIA Director and Cyber Security Expert, and Kevin Mandia, top Cybercrime Sleuth:

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Until military families are relieved of the weight of war, we hope you will continue to contribute to their wellbeing.

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