The US Air Forces Central Command has updated the old World War II slogan, “Loose lips sink ships,” for the social media age.
“Loose tweets destroy fleets,” reads a recent operational security notice sent out from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar to American armed services members. Military commanders are concerned about social media-savvy groups such as ISIS gleaning details about US service members and even upcoming missions.
“Social media can be a useful tool to stay connected to friends, family, and quick entertainment,” the Central Command say, in a statement. “However, there is sometimes a fine line between letting your friends see what you’re up to and providing an adversary critical information about your connection to the military and its mission.”
In March, a group purportedly connected to ISIS posted an online “hit list” of American soldiers it said were helping with a US airstrike campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The list included the names and home addresses of 100 service members, as well as photos of those members. Defense officials said at the time that the information hadn’t been posted as the result of a hack or data breach; rather, it had been compiled from publicly available information the service members had posted on social media networks.
“It’s vital to check your security settings in your social media accounts to make sure that just your friends are able to see what you post and remember to be smart about what you post and share,” Capt. Jonathan McDonald, Air Forces Central Command force protection chief, says in the bulletin.
“As social media keeps evolving [it] can be used by ISIS sympathizers, ‘lone wolves,’ to track down and hurt our military members outside the safety of the base,” he adds. “So not only is it important to not post vital mission related information, but it’s also important to not post detailed personal information to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.”
In addition to tightening down social media security and privacy settings, the bulletin also recommends that military service members use secure lines to make phone calls, encrypt e-mail conversations, and shred paper notes.
The “Loose tweets destroy fleets” slogan reflects the risks, as well as the opportunities, created in the information age. In World War II, service members communicated with their families through paper letters sent back and forth. Now, service members can use social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter to communicate – but information shared may be visible to “ISIS sympathizers” and others seeking to harm American soldiers, military leaders say.