Lips Can Still Sink Ships
Barbara A. Eastom-Bates
The development of the World Wide Web has been a communication
boon to military families who are now able to use
its technology as a means to stay closer to their
deployed service member. What many don't recognize
is, without careful use, internet activities can also
put their service member and others at risk.
The motto "Loose Lips May Sink Ships," was originally
devised by the Navy during WWII to drive home the
importance of operational security (OPSEC). In its
most basic form, OPSEC is concerned with keeping information
out of the hands of those who would use it to do harm.
The famous WWII motto is just as important in achieving
OPSEC today as it was back then, although the internet
presents brand new challenges to security that never
would have been considered during its original inception.
The abundance of family home pages, message boards,
mailing lists and chat rooms make it easy and fun
to share information, resources and friendship with
others in the military community. Cyber-support is
never further than a few mouse clicks away, and can
be a lifesaver for families of reservists or active
duty filling assignments that take them outside the
military support system.
The downfall of this seemingly innocent communication
is, "information posted may be intended only for an
internal audience - perhaps even a very small and
very specific group of people. But on the Net, it's
available to the world," according to Paul Stone,
American Forces Information Service.
When you make information available on the web, you
can never truly be sure who has access to it - or
of their intentions. The friendly spouse you're chatting
with online may be exactly who she claims to be. Then
again, she may not. Resist the temptation to disclose
unnecessary information about your spouse and his
or her job. Don't allow pride in your loved one to
become a means for endangering them.
When participating in online communities or building
a personal web site, use caution in revealing information
about yourself and your family. Avoid disclosure of
your last name and location, discussion of specific
unit information, movements, or dates, deployment
information or base security measures. And don't forget
about pictures - while photographs are fun to share,
always bear in mind a picture is worth a thousand
words. Make sure those words are ones you mean to
If you correspond with your spouse through email or
instant messages, keep in mind such connections are
not secure and avoid discussion of sensitive information.
The same is true of online chat rooms.
Air Force Lt. Col. Buzz Walsh remarked, "The biggest
mistake people make [on the internet] is they don't
understand how easy it is to aggregate information."
Like a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces don't mean much
individually, information can be put together to determine
a more complete picture. Seemingly insignificant details
can become very important when they're the final pieces
of the puzzle.
Compromise of military operations is not the only
feared result of OPSEC violations. The Department
of Defense is also concerned for the safety of families
who may unwittingly become targets of hostility because
of their connection to the military.
Military spouses should be smart, not scared, when
it comes to online communications. Precautionary measures
are meant to ensure safety, not cause unnecessary
If you have questions about OPSEC and appropriate
communications, contact your command family support
liaison for more information.
# # # #
Barbara Eastom-Bates has been married
to the Marine Corps for eight years, and is the mother
of two children. She is the author of the upcoming
release, "Basic Training for Brides-to-Be," and develops
quality of life media for LIFELines Services Network.
Her work additionally appears in Good
Sense and Military