March 30, 2014

The threat from the other side of the screen

"The Internet and social media are part of today's battlefield."
                 - Congressional Testimony, 6 Dec 2011, Brian Jenkins.

The Internet has shaped an ambiguous battleground by erasing the traditional boundaries of conventional conflicts, which means the impact is not limited to the military. As technology continues to interconnect our world, it's imperative to take preventative steps to protect yourself and not paint yourself as a target.

"A post on a jihadist website instructs followers to gather intelligence about U.S. military units and the family members of U.S. service members, including 'what state they are from, their family situation, and where their family members (wife and children) live,' and to 'monitor every website used by the personnel ... and attempt to discover what is in these contacts.'"
                -"Embedded with Facebook: DoD Faces Risks from Social Media," Naval Postgraduate School.

How much information do we let the rest of the world see in our social network profiles?

Of course the threats are not just limited to terrorists or traditional fighters, but can be from the criminal element (i.e. identity thieves). In a 2012 survey by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and McAfee, "one in five Americans have come in contact with someone online who made them feel uncomfortable through stalking, persistent emails, and other aggressive outreach attempts... [Additionally,]one in five Americans have been victimized through experiences like identity theft, data theft, stalking, bullying or auction fraud... " Is this really any surprise when we look at what information we so readily provide online?

Keep in mind, social network sites were originally designed to share information to the maxim extent to provide an enhanced and personalized social experience online. They were not designed with security in mind. The site will default to setting that will give you more connections all in the name of giving you a "social" experience. Not all the connections are necessarily the ones you may want.

Act now.

1)      Check your privacy settings. The wide world web does not need to read everything you post. Proper privacy settings,  will limit who can see what and ensure you are not sharing with unintended audiences.

2)      "Spring Clean" your online profile. You don't need to include your phone number, home address, or other contact information. Your real friends already know this information, so why place it out there for it to potentially fall into the wrong hands? When Facebook implements updates, they temporarily set all profiles to the default settings.

3)      Don't accept "friend" request from strangers. It's mother's old advice, don't talk to strangers, brought into the cyber realm. The Robin Sage experiment, which was a fake profile, "accumulated hundreds of connections... includ[ing] executives at government agencies...[and] much of the information revealed to Robin Sage violated OPSEC procedures."

4)      Think about what photos you post. Are you unintentionally giving away personal or sensitive information?  Many digital photos include geotags, which provides people with location information. In 2010, MythBusters host Adam Savage posted on his Twitter account a photo of his car with the update "off to work." The photo had geotags, so with this one status update, he provided the exact location of his home, what vehicle he drives and the time he leaves his house.

5)      Create a STRONG password. The top method attackers used to gain access was through exploitation of weak or guessable passwords. The more complex, the better. The whole point of passwords is not to inconvenience you but to help ensure it is YOU accessing the account.

6)      Don't use location-based services. If used too often or publically, these services can help somebody see where you go and track you down. All they have to do is see where and when you typically check-in, as well as pull up an online photo of you, to easily find you or worse.

US Army Public Affairs Social Media Division Social Media Roundup, "Dangers of location-based social networking and geotagging" Link:

U.S. Army Social Media Handbook, August 2011. Link:

Please Rob Me, Raising awareness about over-sharing. Link:

Facebook Security Handbook. Link:

1 comment:

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