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Talking turkey: Avoiding cyber blunders

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Svetlana Kozikowski
  • 436th Communications Squadron

The holiday season is just around the corner. It’s time to live in the moment with family and catch up with relatives, but it’s also a time for sweet deals on the newest and greatest technology of the year. That’s right – Black Friday shopping is just around the corner!

Despite the hype surrounding any new gadgetry, it’s important to keep in mind the risks it could pose to you in the cyber domain. Cyberattacks, such as identity theft, ransomware and social engineering, distract us from our daily lives and disrupt our mission. For example, that seemingly harmless advertisement that pops up during an online search could be a phishing attempt for your personal information; a malicious party may be using it in an attempt to collect your username, password, credit card information and billing address. Once this happens, your attention will have to divert from your typical priorities, and your mind may be consumed by the panic of having your identity stolen.

Luckily, there are ways we can guard ourselves against cyberattacks and threats. For starters, you can ensure the URLs of the sites you visit start with “https” and not “http” (the “s” stands for “Secure”). Restricting the amount of information you post on social media can also reduce the chances of your personal information getting into the wrong hands.  

When it comes to social media, our families are genuinely interested in being a part of our military careers and can be loud and proud about our service. They may not mean harm in posting pictures of you in uniform and geotagging you in their posts, but their actions could unintentionally subject you to becoming a target. When someone posts seemingly harmless details about your travels, adversaries can use them in combination with other pieces of information to form a bigger picture about the mission. This may jeopardize safety and adversely affect our nation’s competitive advantage against our adversaries. To safeguard your identity, make sure your social media privacy settings are limited to your long-term friends and family. This includes turning off geotagging in your phone and computer settings. Avoid discussing your deployment or TDY travel plans with family members at Thanksgiving, and keep it at a need-to-know basis to reduce the risk of social media exposure. 

Let’s put all phones and electronics aside and just enjoy one of the few times during the year we can devote to being with our families. Let’s guard ourselves against cyberattacks to ensure we can focus on our everyday responsibilities. Be aware of your surroundings – in both the physical space and cyberspace – to reduce threats to information security.