Social media smart cards available for download along with tips for online safety

SANDSTON, Va. — Social media is a great tool for staying connected and keeping in touch with friends, family and coworkers, but members of the military should be cautious about how much personal information they share. Virginia National Guard personnel and their families should take time to review the settings on their social media accounts and remember operational security in their online activities.

Key online safety and security recommendations:

– All Virginia Army National Guard, Virginia Air National Guard, Virginia Defense Force, federal and state civilian employees as well as family members are encouraged to ensure privacy settings on social media accounts or online forums are adjusted to limit the amount of available personal information.

– All personnel are encouraged to remove personal details such as physical addresses, email addresses and phone numbers from their online or social media accounts.

– Remember that each service component and unit may have special OPSEC considerations depending on their mission, so check with your chain of command for more specific guidance.

“We should all take the warnings about social media security seriously, and I encourage all of our uniformed personnel, civilian employees and their families to review their social media accounts,” said Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “We should not abandon our online identities and our efforts to communicate by platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but we do need to be smart and vigilant about how we operate in cyberspace.”

A series of “smart cards” are available for download with information specific to popular social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn:

Primary references:

“Obviously, there is a risk in using social media,” said Rear Admiral John Kirby, former Pentagon Press Secretary. “But so, too, is there a risk in not using it. To ignore it — to shut it down — simply because someone with ill intent might exploit it would be to risk losing our share of an important conversation out there on national security issues. It would risk missing out on opportunities to keep our troops and their families better informed, and it would risk widening the gap between the American people and their military.

“No communication tool by itself is ever sufficient, especially today. And I’ve never known one by itself that didn’t require a little bit of courage to use. We’re going to stay engaged in social media, because that’s where billions of other people stay engaged. We’re going to keep sharing our story with the public, because we have an obligation to do so. And, of course, we’re going to learn from this incident and apply those lessons in the future, because we’d be foolish not to. You don’t run from risk. You learn to manage it,” he said.

Full text of National Guard Bureau Social Media Guidance:

Background: National Guard military and civilian members are encouraged to use social media to share their experiences and conduct themselves online in a safe and professional manner worthy of their status and calling to support and defend the American people.

Official Use: Official online posts involve content released in an official capacity by a National Guard public affairs office. Official contact information, such as official duty telephone numbers or postal and email addresses, should be used to establish official-use accounts when such information is required. Posting internal documents or information that the National Guard has not officially released to the public is prohibited, including memos, emails, meeting notes, message traffic, white papers, public affairs guidance, drill weekend or other training guidance, pre-decisional materials, investigatory information and proprietary information.

Personal Use: National Guard members are personally responsible for all the content that they publish on social media networking sites, blogs or other websites. Personal contact information, such as personal telephone numbers or postal and email address, should be used with discretion to establish personal-use social media accounts. Guard members must comply with their State, Territory or District guidelines and with Army or Air Force guidelines for use of social media. When assigned to a federal mission, Guard members are subject to disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Guard members should be mindful that reviewing posts on public and social networking sites may be used as a part of character evaluations and background checks for security clearances.

Tips on Using Social Media
– Guard members may identify themselves as and include their rank, military component and status. However, if they decide not to identify themselves as Guard members, they should not disguise or misrepresent their identity or affiliation with the National Guard.

– When expressing personal opinions, Guard members should make it clear that they are speaking for themselves and not on behalf of the National Guard. They are also encouraged to use a disclaimer such as: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t represent the National Guard’s positions or opinions.”

– As with other forms of personal public engagement, Guard members must avoid offensive and inappropriate behavior that could bring discredit upon themselves and the National Guard. This includes posting any defamatory, libelous, obscene, abusive, threatening, racially or ethnic hateful or otherwise offensive or illegal information or material.

– Correcting errors and misrepresentations made by others about the National Guard should be done professionally respectfully, not emotionally. Guard members should contact their chain of command or public affairs office for guidance if they are uncertain about the need for a response.

– When posting political content, Guard members must adhere to policy in Department of Defense Directive 1344.10. They should not also imply National Guard endorsement of any opinions, products or causes other than those already officially endorsed by the National Guard.

– Guard members should use privacy settings on social networking sites so only their “friends” can view their photos and updates. They should also recognize that social network “friends” and “followers” could affect determinations in background investigations for security clearances.

– The National Guard, Army or Air Force logo and other symbols may be used in unofficial posts as long as the symbols are used in a manner that does not bring discredit on the Guard, result in personal financial gain or give the impression of official or implied endorsement.

– Guard members should not release personal identifiable information, such as Social Security number, home address or driver’s license number that could be used to distinguish their individual identity or that of another Guardsman.

– Guard members are also not allowed to release National Guard email addresses, telephone numbers or fax numbers not already authorized for public release. By piecing together information provided on different websites, criminals can use information to impersonate Guard members and steal passwords.

– Guard members should not post information that would infringe upon the privacy, proprietary or personal rights of others or use any words, logos or other marks that would infringe upon the trademark, service mark, certification mark, or other intellectual property rights of the owners of such marks without permission of the owners.

– Finally, Guard members should review their accounts daily for possible use for changes by unauthorized users and should install and maintain current anti-virus and anti-spyware software on their personal computers.

The Air Force offers the following tips to make it more difficult for unwanted users to acquire your data through social media:

• Be cautious when accepting friend requests and interacting with people online.

• You should never accept a friend request from someone you do not know, even if they know a friend of yours.

• Don’t share information you don’t want to become public. Remember, once you put something out there, you can’t control where it goes.

• Disable location-based social networking, or geotagging, on all social media platforms. Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification to photographs, video, websites and text messages.

• Avoid posting work or personal schedules and travel itineraries, especially deployment information and return dates for yourself, a loved one or a unit.

• If you ever hesitate before clicking ‘post’, reconsider the content you are about to share. Our team follows the motto: When in doubt, throw it out!

• Adjust your privacy settings to ensure your posts and profile information is secured and seen only by approved audiences.

The following are tips for helping your family stay safe as they enjoy social networking courtesy of

• Privacy and security settings exist for a reason: Learn about and use the privacy and security settings on social networks. They are there to help you control who sees what you post and manage your online experience in a positive way.

• Once posted, always posted: Protect your reputation on social networks. What you post online stays online. Think twice before posting pictures you wouldn’t want your parents or future employers to see. Recent research found that 70% of job recruiters rejected candidates based on information they found online.

• Your online reputation can be a good thing: Recent research also found that recruiters respond to a strong, positive personal brand online. So show your smarts, thoughtfulness and mastery of the environment.

• Keep personal info personal: Be cautious about how much personal information you provide on social networking sites. The more information you post, the easier it may be for a hacker or someone else to use that information to steal your identity, access your data, or commit other crimes such as stalking.

• Know and manage your friends: Social networks can be used for a variety of purposes. Some of the fun is creating a large pool of friends from many aspects of your life. That doesn’t mean all friends are created equal. Use tools to manage the information you share with friends in different groups or even have multiple online pages. If you’re trying to create a public persona as a blogger or expert, create an open profile or a “fan” page that encourages broad participation and limits personal information. Use your personal profile to keep your real friends (the ones you know and trust) more synched up with your daily life.

• Be honest if you’re uncomfortable: If a friend posts something about you that makes you uncomfortable or you think is inappropriate, let them know. Likewise, stay open-minded if a friend approaches you because something you’ve posted makes him or her uncomfortable. People have different tolerances for how much the world knows about them. Respect those differences.

• Know what action to take: If someone is harassing or threatening you, remove them from your friends list, block them, and report them to the site administrator.

Protect Yourself with these STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Tips:

• Keep a clean machine: Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats.

• Own your online presence: When applicable, set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s ok to limit how you share information.

• Make passwords long and strong: Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password.

• Unique account, unique password: Separate passwords for every account helps to thwart cybercriminals.

• When in doubt, throw it out: Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or if appropriate, mark as junk email.

• Post only about others as you have them post about you.


More information:

U. S. Department of Defense Social Media Education and Training

Safeguarding Your Digital Footprint General Online Safety Resources

Guard cyber experts offer computer security tips

Servicemembers warned anew to scrub social media accounts