OPSEC: A necessary practice for all

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- I know each of us spends the obligatory ten minutes each year reviewing the operational security training slides to check the box, but have you really thought about OPSEC in your daily life?

Have you considered how the words you say to your buddy while walking through the airport or the blog your spouse or child is writing on a social networking site, such as Facebook, can reveal details to those who may want to cause harm?

I was reminded recently of how easy it is for information to leak if not cautious. I was TDY to a U.S. location with a large group of host-nation military and government personnel. The first night there, several of us went to dinner at a local restaurant. The wait staff asked the normal question, "What brings you to our town?" When told by one of the team that we were visiting from overseas, the waitress responded, "Oh, you're with that NATO team."

How do you suppose she knew that?

According to captured adversary manuals, they believe 80 to 85 percent of the intelligence needed to execute their mission can be found online. The adversary we are fighting using the most capable naval, ground, air and space forces in the world can get nearly all intelligence data from an internet café using a search engine. They don't need to penetrate our bases or tap our phones.

At the same time, reports indicate upwards of 30 percent of teenage children have been approached at least once by a stranger online. I won't assume each contact was malicious, but we should all understand what details our children are making available while they surf. The bottom line is, there are people out there who would harm them, and they can get everything they need without ever leaving home.

Recognizing the problem is part of the battle. Doing something about it, however, is equally vital. What can you do to demand a higher price from our adversaries for the data they are seeking. First, It's important to understand what they are looking for and what your vulnerabilities are from your adversary's perspective.

Is the Air Force's most mortal characteristic a gunshot wound? Or is there a chance somebody could more severely harm Air Force people through a social-networking phishing campaign?

I'll bet we're all ready for the first scenario, but have you thought about the second one? I suspect adversaries don't care about in-depth aircraft details or paperwork protocols. They want to degrade your morale and cause you to deliver less than Saber standard performance.

Another way to be operationally secure is to know what information about you is flowing and attempt to control it. Have you "friended" your child on their social networking pages so you can see what's on their page? If you haven't, I strongly recommend it. You'll be amazed what is being shared that could enable a person with malicious intent. Worse yet, those stray comments about a spouse or parent "being gone for a long time to the desert" can quickly add up to useful operational details that can be used against you in theater and at home. Ultimately, it's the little stuff that will put you at risk - at home, in the ready room, on the flightline and in the air.

Think about it. Search sources of information for vulnerability in all areas of your life and get operationally secure now. The life you save may be your own, your wingman's or a family member's. It's up to you to be OPSEC aware.