Cyber OPSEC: Protecting yourself online

U.S. Air Force Graphic/Jim Rainer

U.S. Air Force Graphic/Jim Rainer

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- President Barack Obama declared October as National Cyber Security Awareness month, which directly correlates to Operations Security, or OPSEC, and the protection of critical information.

All Airmen share responsibility for protecting government networks and information residing on them, but protecting personal information is equally important. Participating on social media sites carries a certain amount of risk, especially for Air Force members and their families who may be targeted for critical information, scams or other nefarious purposes.

Ten years ago the Internet of Things (IoT), didn't exist, but now everything from smart phones to vehicles to watches, is online. The convenience of being connected to people and information 24/7 also brings challenges for security. Individual users must be savvy about Internet usage or risk falling prey to cyber criminals.

The most common scam targeting military members involves financial scams where criminals use legitimate-sounding business names and websites that purportedly cater to active duty and veterans. However, these sites are designed to obtain personal information, steal identities and ultimately disrupt the mission.

Learning to recognize scams is key to preventing unnecessary stress and financial hardship.

Scams aren't the only threat to military personnel. Managing the amount of information shared via social media platforms is also a concern. Not everyone on the Internet is a friend, and some personnel may target military for darker purposes. Airmen can protect themselves by managing their online persona to ensure sensitive information does not inadvertently tip off an adversary. By making your online identity a hardened target, Airmen directly contribute to the mission by protecting critical information. Below are some quick cyber OPSEC tips for Airmen and family members:

· Reveal only what you would be comfortable sharing in public
· Lock down privacy on all social media sites and verify "friends" and "followers" identities prior to allowing access to your pages
· Disable location services unless actively using GPS
· Recommend not using uniformed photos as profile pictures
· Do not post critical information including: dates, times and locations of operations, deployments and exercise information about your unit
· Don't use public or unsecured Wi-Fi to connect to sites with sensitive information such as e-mail, social media or banking
· Don't click on links from unknown sources or suspicious links that seem to originate from a friend's email or page
· Utilize antivirus software on all devices and install software updates automatically

For more information on protecting personal devices and information, visit www.onguardonline.gov or www.stopthinkconnect.org. For any questions concerning OPSEC, contact 45SWOPSEC@us.af.mil.