OPSEC, Social Media: Hidden Risks

Story Number: NNS170508-19Release Date: 5/8/2017 9:52:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kristen Yarber, USS George Washington Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- As the ship prepares for a long maintenance period, USS George Washington reminds Sailors how OPSEC is still important.

Loose lips sink ships.

It's a phrase every Sailor hears at some point in their career. operational security (OPSEC) training is frequently given to Sailors. Posters depicting the dangers of violating OPSEC hang on ships' bulkheads. The issue is stressed time and time again. Constant repetition of this message can cause the crew to forget its importance, especially a crew on a ship that will be in port for a long time, such as the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). However, OPSEC still holds as much importance in port as it does out to sea.

"OPSEC is vital to the George Washington because information doesn't have an 'operational' or 'maintenance' phase. It is always valuable to our adversaries," said Cmdr. Jason Davis, the ship's intelligence officer. "In today's day and age with the advent of social media, information is always plentiful and available. Therefore, the only way for us to protect ourselves from our adversaries and competitors is to continually rely on a systematic method of how, what and when we present that information."

For instance, sharing a photo on a social media platform such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram seems harmless enough. What some do not know is that these photos have something embedded into them that could be of use to our adversaries.

"One thing that most people don't know about, in regards to posting photos online, is metadata," said Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom, a social media manager for George Washington's Facebook page. "When you post a photo on Facebook, regardless of a status or a location tag associated with it, that photo could have information encrypted in it called metadata. Modern cameras log certain metadata like dates, times and even preprogrammed information, but on advanced cameras and some smartphones, it will auto-log locations and other information that is considered OPSEC."

Therefore, posting a photo with metadata attached to it can be equated to posting a specific location on social media.

Even posting selfies or photos of coworkers can violate OPSEC, depending on where the photo is taken and what equipment is in the background.

A particular job description can give away sensitive information about how the Navy operates. Posting details about training can disclose specific skills needed for a certain job. Even posting pictures that were taken in a workplace can reveal equipment, which someone could use to gather information about the Navy.

Misusing OPSEC can lead to punitive action and possible loss of security clearances.

"Exercise common sense," said Seaman Timothy Parrott, a legal clerk aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). "Certain things that we see on a day-to-day basis are pretty interesting and pretty cool, but at the same time you don't want to put your command or your ship at risk by putting it out for the whole world or the whole internet to see."

Sailors aboard George Washington need to be well-informed about these OPSEC violations due to the current state of the ship. The ship will soon begin refuel and complex overhaul (RCOH) and Sailors will experience a completely different environment. Their mission will not only be to rebuild the ship, but to avoid sharing sensitive information about RCOH. The crew must remain vigilant and think twice about the details they post on social media or any other public platform.

Join the conversation with GW online at http://www.facebook.com/USSGW and http://www.twitter.com/GW_CVN73.

For more information, visit http://www.navy.mil, http://www.facebook.com/usnavy, or http://www.twitter.com/usnavy.

For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit http://www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.

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