FBI Social Media Warning to Military Personnel

This week has seen an FBI social media warning issued to the military about threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL, against service members. The warning urged individuals to guard their social media accounts carefully to avoid attracting attention from extremists.

ISIL’s September call for assaults against military, law enforcement and government workers could motivate extremists to carry out attacks in the U.S., the warning said. There have been no direct attacks to date.

Terrorists like to conduct “Spectaculars“, extraordinary events to gain mass attention and public fear. Vulnerabilities from insecure use of social media could allow for a target vector against serving personnel, veterans, or family members. The FBI social media warning will urge caution in adhering to Personal Security (PerSec) protocols.

Knight Associates recommend that all military personnel understand the risks of identity theft and information that’s inadvertently or carelessly publicised through social media. Threats against military personnel are common, and especially during active conflicts.

‘Social Engineering’ via the internet and social media is a method that has been successfully used by terrorists and criminals for many years. In December 2012, Irish police (an Garda Síochána) foiled a plot by dissident Republican terrorist group ‘Continuity IRA’ to murder a British soldier as he planned to visit family during his Christmas leave. It was reported that a Continuity IRA “sympathiser” had befriended the soldier on Facebook and learned of his holiday plans by monitoring his posts on the social networking site.

Military personnel and their families should be careful not to announce events like deployments, relocations or promotions on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.

Here are some simple rules to be aware of to assist in PerSec:

1. Do not ‘Check In’ with your locations. This should especially never be done in real-time i.e. while you are still at that location. Similarly,  you should never Check In to locations that you visit regularly i.e. setting patterns. Ensure that your GPS location tagging is switched off from all posts.

2. Do not publicise your specific job or Unit. Again, this information could narrow down your activities to set regular patterns.

3. Do not post locations or jobs that you are due to travel to. This would include travel information like attendance of airports, train stations, bus stations, and major highways.

4. Do not make posts that state or allude to dates of homecoming after working away.

6. Be aware of your ‘metadata‘. Essentially, metadata is data about data. An example of this is in digital photographs, where GPS location data can be stored.

For trained and disciplined military personnel, it may seem difficult, but the key to PerSec is – BE VAGUE!


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