Secure, enjoyable social networking with privacy settings

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mark Wyatt
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Social media sites provide individuals an opportunity to globally connect with others in real time easily and quickly. For members of the military, it provides an effective way to stay connected to family and friends during a deployment or extended assignment.

However, as 157th Air Refueling Wing Antiterrorism Officer Capt. Aaron McCarthy stresses, members must take precautions with the use of social media to avoid cybercrime and unintentionally providing information to adversaries.

"Airmen should be proud of their military affiliation, but be careful who that information is shared with," said McCarthy. "(They should) also be aware of the background in photos, as sensitive or classified information could inadvertently be shown. The background could give clues as to where you are and what you are doing."

McCarthy suggests that Airmen disable geo-tagging on their social media platforms, which can alert adversaries to your location during a deployment or assignment. He also said service members should not post work or personal schedules as well as travel itineraries to avoid disclosing troop locations and movements.

The U.S. Air Force employs social networking to connect worldwide with Airmen through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, as well as an Air Force blog.

On, the service's official website, a social media directory reveals more than 500 official Facebook pages, 200 Twitter accounts, 100 YouTube channels and many other sites created by Air Force bases around the world, The New Hampshire National Guard included.

"Social media not only serves as a way to communicate internally with our Airmen, but also as a means to tell the story of our Airmen to external audiences who themselves are actively engaged in social networks," Command Chief Master Sgt. Brain Hornback, Air Force Global Strike Command, wrote in a 2013 Air Force Social Media Guide.

In addition to the Air Force guide, Defense Media Activity officials highlight in their own eight-page guide that this medium is an integral part of the strategic communications and public affairs missions of the Defense Department.

But as the FBI posts on their Counterintelligence website, "con artists, criminals and other dishonest actors are exploiting this capability for nefarious purposes."

Airmen must consider the information they are posting to their own personal pages.

"Carefully consider how much information you make available and to whom," said Tanya Schusler, Air Force Public Affairs Agency social media chief. "You need to protect your safety, your career and the Air Force's mission while balancing your need to connect with people."

She encourages Airmen to take a few seconds to consider what they share online, because the consequences of a misstep could follow someone for a long time.

It includes posting an image or opinion that is in conflict to Air Force policy or discredits the Air Force, but also sharing information adversaries could use for exploitation. 

"Terrorist organizations have recently been gathering information from personal social media sites to identify and target individuals with military affiliations," he said. "In particular, the enemy has been trolling for those individuals who have deployed overseas and have posted pictures from that deployment to their personal Facebook pages."

Special agents assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations strongly encourage employees to practice good operational security, or OPSEC.

"Social networking users should avoid sharing any personal details on these sites," said Special Agent George Liu, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., AFOSI Detachment 102. "Risks arise when critical information such as usernames, passwords, salary, pay grades, clearances, mailing addresses, names and relationship of family members and more are shared in any unsecure environment."

Liu recommends safeguarding personal sites by securing them through privacy settings. 

"Social network sites provide security setting options, and while these are important, Airmen should not rely solely on those settings," he said. "Airmen should make their profiles as secure as possible and make sure other steps are taken."

To help with that, the FBI created smart cards to minimize profiles for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

For further information on using social media safely and effectively, visit