Operational security is something all military, civilian and dependents should be aware of, especially when it’s so easy to share information in today’s technological world.
OPSEC is the process of keeping unclassified, critical and sensitive information protected from possible adversaries.
If people aren’t paying attention to possible OPSEC violations, who is there to catch those errors? Does the Air Force have someone watching for possible threats and violations?
The answer is yes. Airmen from the 352nd Network Warfare Squadron Detachment 1 keep a close eye on communications that happen while using government resources. Email and phone calls made on direct service network lines or social networking tools, such as Facebook, used on government computers are all monitored for possible OPSEC violations.
“Our job is unique in the fact that we’re one of three units in the Air Force,” said 1st Lt. Cheri Fairman, 352nd NWS Detachment 1 operations flight commander. “We deny enemies’ access to sensitive data from friendly telecommunications. It gives us a chance to impact OPSEC across the Air Force.”
Airmen at the 352nd NWS Detachment 1 have equipment that flags communications containing information that may pose a risk to OPSEC. An analyst then scrutinizes the message to determine what the impact would be if it fell into the wrong hands.
“What we look for varies but could deal with ongoing operations, exercises, personally identifiable information, classified information and any information commanders feel is worth protecting,” said Airman 1st Class Nathan
Crossey, 352nd NWS Detachment 1 cyberspace operations analyst.
As intelligence professionals, cyberspace operations Airmen go through six months of training at technical school. There, they focus on critical thinking and are taught to recognize threats to strategic, operational and tactical missions and assets.
“We’re here to report vulnerabilities to commanders so they can train their personnel on using better OPSEC practices,” said Tech. Sgt. Marcus Anderson, 352nd NWS Detachment 1 cyberspace mission director. “We’re not the bad guys here to get people in trouble.”
The KMC is a large military community with more than 50,000 people. Service members, civilians and dependents who live and work here provide support to the local area and downrange. This also means there are many more opportunities for OPSEC violations to happen.
“For one particular mission, we usually see about 3,000 messages a day, and it could be a hit or miss on finding anything,” Crossey said. “We may find five disclosures in one day or zero. Zero is not bad; it just means people are paying attention to OPSEC.”
Watching what one posts on social media sites and being aware of what is sent in an email or said over the phone can save lives.
“We want everyone to understand that we need to protect our sensitive, unclassified and personal information just like we do our classified,” Anderson said. “Times are different, and our enemies are getting smarter.”