By Tara Gaston
“In this day, successful attorneys must have websites, a social media presence, and really put themselves out there!”
“In this day, servicemembers and their families must be careful in the information they release in the event that it is obtained and used to harm the military as a whole, or particular servicemembers and families.”
Information security is the buzzword of the day, especially for servicemembers and their families. From security breaches at major retailers to intrusions at the Office of Personnel Management, determining how to keep one’s sensitive information private and secure is at the top of many to-do lists. Government offices have released a number of “smart cards” designed to lead personnel into making smart decisions about social media, while journalists across the internet play to the fears of those less familiar with technology (see smart cards for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn here). Will ISIS take over our military command centers, or target servicemembers at home and abroad? Or is the risk“merely” potential financial and reputation damage?
Regardless of the type of potential risk, military spouse professionals are in a unique situation with respect to information security. First, many servicemembers may have little to no control over how much of their personal information is released over traditional and social media. Much of the information in the recent “ISIS hit list” was readily available in public releases regarding troop and vessel movements, missions, and personnel achievements. This data will be released by public affairs officers and commands, potentially without the knowledge or consent of the servicemember. Additionally, military spouse professionals often need to maintain a public presence to maintain connections as they seek work in various locations. Attorneys in particular may rely on a public presence to attract clients in addition to maintaining connections.
With the conflicting interests and advice, it is then important for military spouse attorneys to make decisions regarding their personal security keeping in mind that each person will have to develop a unique plan according to their specific risks. For instance, a pilot may have more exposure than a submariner, and a litigator will generally have more exposure than a transactional attorney. However, all military spouse professionals must consider the same factors to decide their level of openness and comfort with both traditional and social media.
– What is the servicemember’s potential public profile? The type of command, missions served, and position in the command structure will all have an impact.
– What is the spouse’s potential public profile? Is the spouse an attorney looking for work, or a well-known litigator? Does the spouse currently hold government office or is engaged in political campaigning? Is the spouse or any child engaged in high-profile sports or competition?
– What is the spouse’s knowledge and comfort level with technology? Are they able to understand and utilize the security features built into computer and mobile applications, internet browsers, social media applications, and hardware?
– Where does the spouse generally work? Do they have access to a private and secure network, or do they use primarily open networks such as those found in public areas or cooperative work offices?
– Do other family members, such as parents or children, have a basic understanding of the servicemember’s job and the security risks involved? Can they understand operational and personal security, or can they be isolated from sensitive information?
– When using social media and professional communications, what is the level of distinction between that information and personal information such as home phone numbers, home addresses, schools, churches, etc.?
After considering these questions (and others that may arise situationally), each military spouse professional must determine their own risk profile, and the level of risk they are willing to accept for themselves and their families. There is no right decision for each family with respect to personal security – although operational security and classified information should always be secure – and each servicemember and spouse must make their own decision.