Operational Security, now more than ever

  • Published
  • By Herb Henderson
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Operational Security program manager
There's hardly a day that headlines don't feature successful cybercrime, cyber espionage and terror attacks. These attacks pose significant risks to organizations and families! The need to practice Operations Security has never been more important than now.

Team Fairchild performs several missions, which are critical to the defense and well-being of the U. S. and its allies. The success of the missions often depends on secrecy and surprise, which allows quick mission execution and with less risk.

OPSEC integrates other security disciplines like Information Protection, Information Security, Communications Security, and Emissions Security to boost operational effectiveness. Failure to properly use OPSEC measures can result in serious injury or death to our personnel; damage to our weapons systems, equipment and facilities; loss of sensitive technologies; and mission degradation or failure. Failure to implement directed OPSEC measures will be considered by commanders/directors for appropriate disciplinary action.

The U.S.'s adversaries spend an enormous amount to collect vital information about professional and personal operations and defenses. Their main reason for doing so is to effectively destroy some or all of U.S. national security, as well as your financial security, either now or in the future. Enemies of freedom want information, and they'll not only target our airmen, they'll target our families, too.

By using OPSEC, you can win more of these daily battles.

Look, learn and defend. Look at an operation or exercise through the eyes of an enemy combatant, terrorist, or criminal. Imagine for a few moments that you're a criminal, an Al Qaida-trained terrorist, or a North Korean commando. What exact information would you have to have to destroy or severely impair your operation or kill or maim your buddies and co-workers? When you have a clear picture of the information you would need, then you can determine what information you absolutely must control and where information may be escaping. Here are some information items that must be continually guarded:

· Details of current and future operations and exercises
· Vulnerabilities, degradation /outages of critical infrastructures or telecommunications
· Emergency response or contingency plans
· Freedom of Information Act Information
· Personal travel plans
· Personal financial information (bank and credit account numbers)
· Personally identifiable information (full birthdate, address, SSAN, familial details)

Every Air Force family has bits and pieces of information about the military mission. Please educate your family to not discuss information outside of their immediate family. Such critical information includes:

· Detailed unit mission information; times, dates and locations of deployments;
· Names of and specialties deploying personnel;
· Base security details
· References about unit morale or personnel problems.

Social media websites pose a significant threat to OPSEC. Not only by uniformed personnel, but their family members, too. Educate family members about the hazards of posting your work related whereabouts and activities.

Other ways in which sensitive information may be inadvertently revealed include casual chitchat with the cashier at the department store, conversations at restaurants and clubs, or news clippings sent to friends and family via mail or e-mail. Further, technologically savvy countries and groups have the means to intercept and analyze all the systems listed below:

· E-mail
· Administrative telephones
· Cell telephones, Wi-Fi enabled computers and other wireless devices
· Fax machines
· Radio transmissions

If you're not paying attention, even 'low-tech' enemies can acquire your vital info from:

· Trash and recycling
· Unit newsletters and web sites
· Personal social networking sites and websites

When you're in public, others around you can hear what you're saying at the following places:

· Restaurants, bars, pubs, coffee shops and kiosks
· Public transportation (airlines, busses, trains. taxis) and terminals
· At home through spouses, families, neighbors, repairmen, pollsters, mail and package delivery
· At work through co-workers, janitors, food service workers, repairmen, mail and package delivery

To improve OPSEC practices, discover your unit's and your own critical information and then:

· Use secure means to discuss, transmit and process Critical Information; use proper devices for classified information, common access card for sensitive, unclassified info
· Shred/destroy beyond use your outdated CI
· Keep "shop talk" in the shop
· Continually look for vulnerabilities in OPSEC and fix them

To a great degree, we're fighting a war of information, and what a person reveals by mistake could result in enormous organizational and personal loss. What a persona says to their friends, relatives, acquaintances or the store clerk who asks what they know or think about the current situation can easily reach enemy ears. The American public looks to the Air Force to defend this great country. By using OPSEC, we can win this war daily.