An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsroomNewsArticle Display

Article - Article View

OPSEC: Keeping safe outside the gate

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Operational security is not something to be taken lightly on base, and it should not be taken less seriously after work hours when it can be easy to loosen up and inadvertently give away information to an adversary.

The kind of information adversaries find useful varies greatly, but a little caution and awareness can prevent such things from getting into the hands of someone who may wish to harm individuals or the U.S. military.

“It’s the same as being on base,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Craddock, 21st Space Wing operational security coordinator. “Just because you take off the uniform when you go home doesn’t mean your connection to the Air Force goes away.”

Compromising OPSEC off base has the same impact as if it were done on base, he said. Situational awareness, knowing what is happening around you, is the key to practicing good OPSEC at any time.

“Be aware of what’s going on around you,” said Craddock. “That kind of flows into everything else. Observe your surroundings and don’t become complacent.”

Many things people take for granted, such as items placed on vehicles or checking into locations online, can be used to do harm, said Paul Alvarez, Interagency OPSEC Support Staff customer service advocate. Those are just a couple of the topics covered in the IOSS briefing on the subject.

Craddock said he does not recommend placing the popular stick figure family decals or other identifiers on vehicles because it makes it easier for people with nefarious purposes to gain insight into personal information.

“My personal advice is not to put stickers on vehicles at all,” he said.
Alvarez said the use of unique vehicles, parking stickers and placards, and the use of vanity license plates can also be used to locate and identify a person, so they should be used cautiously or not at all.

Social media posts are of concern when OPSEC comes into play. Just like when a person is on base, these posts can open up routines and locations that an adversary can use. Craddock said they can be used to discover places people visit regularly, especially when geotagging is enabled. Geotagging adds geographical identification data to a variety of media like photos, videos and social media posts.

“When you make it public, you open yourself to vulnerabilities,” said Craddock.

Another area of OPSEC concern is wearing uniforms off base, said Craddock. Airmen should not wear their Airman Battle Uniform for extended periods off base as a matter of OPSEC and regulations. Air Force Instruction 36-2903 states that ABUs may be worn off base for short convenience stops and in some dining situations.

Alvarez said the use of specialized clothing and equipment, badges and organization-affiliated products can identify someone as being part of the military and lead to them being targeted by an adversary.

Technology is helpful and convenient, but OPSEC needs to be considered in its use, Craddock said. One of the biggest precautions one can take is to make sure and read what is in the agreements required to download applications for use on computers and mobile devices.

“Make sure you know what you are agreeing to,” he said.
For instance, Craddock said the popular Pokemon GO application user agreement allowed access to all data on the device to which it was downloaded. He also mentioned a flashlight application for cell phones that was discovered to allow malicious access.

It can be a difficult undertaking to be OPSEC aware at all times, but it’s a necessary task, said Craddock.

“It’s hard,” he said. “Watch out if someone seems particularly interested in your occupation or military service. Also, it’s back to situational awareness – does anything or anyone seem out of place?”

OPSEC outside the gate is not limited to the person who works on a military installation, but it extends to their family members, as well. Alvarez advised making sure OPSEC information is shared with immediate family members to make them difficult targets for anyone wishing them, or the military, harm.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui