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OPSEC slips can slay Soldiers, says SMA

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Dec. 01, 2010) -- Sharing what seems to be even trivial information online can be dangerous to your loved one and the fellow Soldiers in their unit -- and may even get them killed.

"Failure to practice good operations security puts those we cherish the most at risk," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston in one of two public service announcements that highlight the importance of operations security to both the Army and to Army Families.

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Online, America's enemies scour blogs, forums, chat rooms and personal websites to piece together actionable information to be used to harm the United States and its Soldiers. The adversary -- Al Qaeda and domestic terrorists and criminals for instance -- have made it clear they are looking, said Linda Roseboro, chief, Army OPSEC Support Element, 1st Information Operations command.

"They are surfing the Internet, they are looking at the blogs, at Facebook," Roseboro said. "We have to make sure that what we're talking about and saying, especially in the public -- that there's not someone else listening. Anything to do with spouses, deployment, the unit and the military in general should never be discussed out there in the public."

An OPSEC training scenario offered to Family members through the Army Knowledge Online website details how the fictional "Kim," an Army spouse, brought harm to Soldiers by revealing very simple information online.

While using a website related to cooking, the fictional Kim -- using the screen name "ArmyWife99" online -- made public she was frustrated that her husband was still at work, training on a new vehicle that can "stop the bombs they are putting in the roads over in Iraq."

The fictional "Alice" -- working for an adversarial foreign government -- used online search tools to stitch together information about the Army and its activities. Because Kim's online activities were public, they were picked up in search engines. Alice's search for "Baghdad deployment" eventually lead her to one of Kim's posts as "ArmyWife99."

A further online search for Kim's screen name led to more websites where Kim had posted additional information about equipment vulnerabilities and deployment dates she had learned about through casual discussions with her husband. The searches also led Alice to more information about Kim, including a page that mentioned Kim's real name and also pages that were posted by her own children.

The fictional training scenario resulted in Soldiers being killed due to information revealed online by Kim regarding combat-vehicle vulnerabilities.

The scenario is fictional, said Roseboro, but what's not fictional is that America's enemies are paying attention to what goes online. "The worst-case scenario is the death of a Soldier," said Roseboro.

When Army Family members post things online, she said, even seemingly trivial things, America's enemies can piece together a larger picture of what the Army is doing and use those breeches of OPSEC against Soldiers.

Roseboro went on to say that when online, it's not a good idea to mention rank, unit, location, deployment dates or locations, names, or anything about equipment or equipment capabilities.

"Our adversaries are trolling social networks, blogs and forums, trying to find sensitive information they can use about our military goals and objectives," said Preston. "Therefore, it is imperative that all Soldiers and Family members understand the importance of practicing good operations security measures."

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