MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
I hope you and your family had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. As we enter in to the Christmas season, it's a good time to reflect back on another busy year as a Swamp Fox and prepare for 2015. Take this Christmas season to enjoy some down time with your family and friends and take some much-needed time off.
I'm also reminded this time of year is when criminals can strike and we need to protect our online presence just as we would protect our homes. So many of us use social media to communicate with our friends and families, but our digital footprint means we can open ourselves up for criminals to strike. Just a few months ago an alert was put out to warn military members that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is using social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) to search social media to find names of soldiers or where their family members live.
As an example of this current drive to find military members on social media, a South Carolina Army National Guardsman received a "friend request" on his Facebook account from someone that he didn't recognize. It turns out that the request was from a supporter of ISIS and the name on his Facebook page, when translated to English meant "We're bringing the war to you."
While we must guard ourselves from this newest asymmetric threat, one threat we've always dealt with this time of year is the criminal who sadly uses the holidays as a time to steal and victimize innocents. Just as you would leave the lights on if you were away from your home, social media can also announce when your home is unattended.
Just as we need to use OPSEC to protect our military mission, I suggest to each of you to use the same principles to protect your home and family from criminals who use the holiday season to steal. Just as we would never post the departure or return times of a deployment, a good rule of thumb is to never post when you may be leaving your home, or when you are away. As you might know, there are numerous security settings that can be altered by the user. For example, you can select whether anyone (i.e., the public) can see your posts, or all of your friends, or only certain individuals.
To see how easy it is, I did an internet search for my first/last name and "home address." Within a matter of seconds I found my house number, street and zip code. The website also had my spouse's name, our home phone number and other personal information including the last five places that I have lived. The website even gave directions on how to get to my house. With such easy access to this kind of information it is very easy for a person to find any one of us.
While social media is a good thing, and allows us to stay connected to friends and loved ones, it means we need to protect ourselves from criminals. A good resource to find out how to protect your Facebook account can be found here:
As mentioned above, if you have a social media account, learn how to make it secure. Don't accept friend requests from people you don't know, even if they are a friend of a friend. On social media and in public, be careful of highlighting yourself, your military affiliation, and holiday travel plans. Be aware of your surroundings and don't let your guard down.