Science and Technology News

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Identity management: What's your digital footprint?

by Capt. Victoria Porto
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

1/6/2014 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- "We are our greatest threat," said Capt. Lauren Quinn, Air Force Special Operations Command military information support operations program manager.

She wasn't addressing our Airmen about a failed operation or training mishap. She was talking to a room full of Hurlburt Field's key spouses during a recent discussion on identity management.

"We put out so much information about our lives and our personal info," she said. "When you post something online, you put it out there for your friends and family, but adversaries and commercial entities are pulling this data all the time."

While many service members receive numerous briefings on operations security throughout their career, this discussion was part of a new initiative in U.S. Special Operations Command's Preservation of the Force and Family program to reach out to family members about the importance of protecting their digital identity and having an awareness of their presence online.

"This is important to us because we want to keep ourselves safe and our families safe," said one of the spouses in attendance.

Quinn reminded the spouses that when people post their personal preferences, family photos, vacation plans and more on websites and social media pages, they are essentially publishing a free database for others to collect information about their lives.

With military families especially, posts about their spouse's deployed location or the timeframe they will be apart can be aggregated to reveal potentially sensitive information not just about one family, but perhaps an entire unit's mission.

Aside from these free resources, information can also be obtained by phishing for passwords or account information, checking geotagged metadata for the location a photo was taken, and even through key-logging malware and facial recognition technology.

Ultimately, the decision on what to post or how much to share online is often a personal or family decision. The military cannot control what spouses or extended family members post.

"You can get to a certain point, but then you have to trust that people will think twice about what they do and say online," another spouse said. "It's hard to do, you just have to trust."

To further build that trust, Quinn, in addition to base OPSEC and information operations personnel will continue to teach people to think about what they share online and who they are really sharing with.

Most of all, they will remind Air Commandos and their families to put the 'quiet' back in 'quiet professional.'

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