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OPSEC in a Digital Age | U.S. PATRIOT NEWS & REVIEWS

Operational Security is not only the concern of those who work for the FBI, NSA or CIA. It is also a concern for anyone who works for the USA, USN, USAF, USMC and USCG. In this day of continually documenting every movement via social media, it has become easier and easier to violate, but it’s no less important.

I previously wrote an article discussing how the DOD was facing an increased risk of OPSEC violations due to service members posting social media updates from overseas. It detailed how foreign operatives could mine these posts for pictures, locations and similar information. How that information could be combined with other public source documents to determine which units were deployed, where they were active and even the possible mission.

Some of the feedback I received echoed my concerns. Some doubted that a simple social media post could actually result in a serious leak or that someone would have the time to actually piece together such a puzzle. Let me show you how easy it is.

An active service member posted the following update to their Facebook Page:

“Having my last meal aka Pizza and Coca Cola before another long patrol. No so far from home this time so I’ll pop up periodically. As always, I can be reached at XXXXXX@uscg.mil

Now, this was obviously nothing more than an attempt to let friends and family know they would be out of touch for a bit. No big deal. But there is much more that can be determined is one looks a little closer.

  1. The posted was tagged with the members location – which is presumably close to their unit as they state they are having their last meal prior to leaving.
  2. They provided their email address so the specific service is instantly available.
  3. They refer to a “long patrol”, meaning they are probably on a medium or high endurance cutter rather than a smaller coastal patrol boat.
  4. There is also a statement about popping up periodically, indicating they will either be operating close to the coast or pulling in regularly because they will have access to the account.

So what does this tell me?

  1. By using the service and member’s location, I can easily search the online records of local units.
  2. By narrowing the search to medium or high endurance cutters, I can further narrow the search.
  3. A long patrol closer to home paired with the locations would narrow the mission to either drug interdiction, fisheries patrol or migrant interdiction, depending on the home port (I will not announce that here).
  4. By knowing the member will be popping up occasionally, I can narrow the potential patrol area to be closer to US coast or ports where a cell signal will be available from time to time.

Not very hard to see how an innocent “bye, see you soon” can read like a operational plan.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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