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Britain warns of social media dangers

June 20, 2011 at 7:45 AM   |   Comments

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LONDON, June 20 (UPI) -- "Loose Lips Sink Ships," the admonition on information security is as pertinent in the 21st century as it was in World War II, if not more so.

Computers and the Internet have spawned hacking into information systems by military and business adversaries and rivals. So, too, eavesdropping on computer conversations and social media can create security issues.

Britain's Ministry of Defense, recognizing the potential dangers of cyber communications, has instituted a campaign to imprint the importance of minding the keystrokes.

"Guarding personal information released into cyberspace is as important as defending a barracks from attack," the ministry says. That's the message the Ministry of Defense wants to get across to all recruits and service," officials said.

The campaign, called "Think Before You …," provides guidance on usage of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, while not putting service personnel or others at increased risk by releasing too much information about themselves or operational details.

The campaign and materials have been given cross-department buy-in and will be incorporated into Phase 1 training when applicants first join the services and into other mandated training materials.

"Social media has enabled our personnel to stay in touch with their families and their friends no matter where they are in the world," said Maj. Gen. John Lorimer, the Chief of the Defense Staff Strategic communications officer. "We want our men and women to embrace the use of sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube but also want them to be aware of the risks that sharing too much information may pose.

"You don't always know who else is watching in cyberspace."

Lorimer said the Ministry of Defense has its own Facebook, YouTube and Twitter feeds and sees no reason to stop British military personnel from tweeting or posting on their own walls. But the ministry points out it has a responsibility to warn personnel of the risks they could be exposing themselves to.

The Ministry of Defense said social media like Facebook and YouTube will be utilized in the multichannel campaign, along with more traditional, ambient and print advertising, complimented by fillers run in in-house publications and broadcast by British Forces Broadcasting Service and Garrison Radio.

Service personnel will be the primary audience of the campaign but it is envisaged there will be a ripple effect to families and veterans.

It is being launched as a reminder that personal and operational security should be a primary concern and that social media merely provides a different context where sensitive details can be found, it said.

Risks to service personnel -- and potentially their families -- the ministry warns, include posting details and locations of troop movements, operational events, location and travel details of ships or aircraft, as well as people's home addresses.

"We do not want to scare service personnel, families and veterans and we certainly do not want them to stop using social media," Lorimer said. "We are not here to gag people because we acknowledge the ubiquity and significant benefits that social media offers to people and the Ministry of Defense.

"I am a big fan of Facebook and Twitter and I use them on a regular basis. These channels are vital to communicating in a digital age."

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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