FAQ for Clearance Holders on Social Media

Social media hand through screen.

What are social media websites?

Social media websites allow people to collaborate and connect to share information and ideas. Essentially, these sites allow people to socialize in cyberspace. Some are tailored to government and military employees. Facebook and Twitter are the most popular social media sites in the United States.

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What are the benefits of using a social media website?

From a personal perspective, social media websites can be fun, exciting, entertaining, and useful for maintaining relationships. Professionally, people can use social media websites for marketing, managing their public image, connect with customers, and solicit ideas and feedback. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), for example, uses it to issue flood warnings. For people who are homebound due to illness, are stay-at-home parents, or retired, social media is a good way to stay connected.

What are the dangers of using social media websites?

Stalkers, thieves, hackers, phishers/scammers, militant Americans, terrorists, intelligence spies, and pedophiles also use social media.

  • Thieves or stalkers may watch your updates to learn about your present location and schedule so they know when to rob or stalk you.
  • Pedophiles are using social networking to find and connect with kids. There are many well-publicized examples of kids who have been lured away be a pedophile who made friends with them through social networking. According to ABC News, MySpace kicked off 90,000 sex offenders from their site.
  • Phishers/scammers are con artists who send e-mails to people that appear to be authentic communication from a bank, a web service, or some other authority but are in fact a lure. The goal is usually for the user to come to a website that is linked from the e-mail in order to load malicious software on the target's machine or entice them into entering sensitive data such as your username and password.
  • Terrorists have said they are hunting people and their families at home. An Al Qaeda handbook tells its terrorists to seek out "Information about government personnel, officers, important personalities, and all matters related to those (resident, work place, times of leaving and returning, wives and children, places visited)."

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Military family members have received hate mail and harassing phone calls from people who don't like the US military. Government employees and military members have also had their pages raided and defaced.

What should you not share on a social media site?

What you want to keep secret and what some people want from you are not always the same. It's important to know what adversaries are looking for. You should be careful when sharing the names and photos of yourself, your family and your co-workers. Don't share your usernames, passwords, or network details. Don't share your job title, location, salary, or clearance level. Also avoid listing information about your home or work security and logistical details, like how you get to work and travel itineraries. Don't post information about your mission or your unit's capabilities and limitations. Posting your social security number, credit cards, or banking information also puts you at risk of identity theft. Listing your hobbies, likes, dislikes, etc., could be useful information to an enemy, especially for gaining trust and rapport before seeking other information.

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