The social media threat to service personnel

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There’s no escaping that social media has been playing an increasing part in our everyday lives for the last decade and it is this fact that now have military chiefs worried about what information is being shared online by those under their command. This fear has been reinforced as reports have begun to circulate about fake profiles being created in order to follow the activities and locations of serving personnel and even members of youth cadet organisations.

The MailOnline has published reports from members of the British Army’s University Officers’ Training Corps that shows a worrying increase in the number of fake profiles being created and aimed at befriending members online. Security experts are concerned that with last year’s attempted abduction of an RAF NCO as he jogged near his base, members of Jihadist groups operating in the UK are trying to use social media to plot similar kidnappings or attacks.

Other sources claim that Russia is attempting to carry out covert reconnaissance and intelligence gathering operations on British forces via social media or even use it to recruit or coerce service personnel. It is also likely that news and other media outlets are following service personnel online hoping to uncover a story.

The MoD has been aware of the potential impact social media could have on security for quite some time and in 2012 published a booklet that provided a guide on what was acceptable or not. This included asking the following questions about anything put online;

• What if this ends up on the front page of the papers?
• Would I say this to my CO in front of 100 people?
• Would I leave this information lying on a park bench?
• What if a terrorist or criminal gets this information?

British forces aren’t the only ones who have had to learn this lesson with most of the world’s military and government organisations having to regulate their personnel’s use of social media. In July 2014, a Russian soldier named Sergeant Alexander Sotkin posted a photo of himself online with the image being tagged as having been taken in eastern Ukraine despite Russia repeatedly denying it had Russian soldiers fighting alongside pro-Russian rebels there.

Cyberspace represents many challenges when it comes to security. Firstly, unlike secret military equipment it is readily available to anyone and exists well outside the chain of command. Keeping government secrets has always been a part of military life but instead of shady, backroom dealings with mysterious strangers in trench coats the people trying to gather information online will often seem like anyone else with similar interests, personalities and no obvious indications that they are someone whose goal is more nefarious than simply sharing a funny cat video.

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NEWS: Britain’s Online Warriors

ts_sgs_operator_325x244The 77th Brigade is Britain’s answer to the threat posed by online terrorists. Composed of as many as 1,500 full and part time personnel the Brigade’s function is to provide an alternative means to combating terrorism and extremism across the globe without having to put soldiers on the ground or drones in the air.

The Brigade is comprised of experts in the fields of psychological operations, media information operations and the stabilisation support group. The Brigade will utilize the online world including social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to inhibit the influence of extremist factions on impressionable people.

The Brigade can then retaliate against extremists in a “soft” way which involves coercing the likely targets for recruitment to a more neutral or even anti-extremist stance. A “hard” response could then be actually taking down the site/page that they discover is spreading extremist propaganda. There is also a reconnaissance element to the force by using the online services the extremists use to monitor the passing of information in order to build up a more complete picture of extremist operations.

In-effect the hearts-and-minds war is now digital.

Speaking at Chatham House on Monday, General Sir Nicholas Carter said;

“Maneuver is now multidimensional. It started being two-dimensional with fire and movement. We introduced a third dimension with air and artillery. We moved through maneuver in the electromagnetic spectrum and we now find ourselves in an era of information maneuver.”

SITREP – January 2015

WirelessGreetings.

Well it’s a New Year and the site is now passing its sixth month mark. In that time it has developed beyond what I thought it would with a steady stream of hits and regular readers/ commenters. First I would like to thank some of the older hands for sticking with me. Your support has been both gratifying and encouraging. Secondly I would like to take this chance to welcome the newest followers.

For those of you who have never seen a SITREP post before I publish one a month and use it as an opportunity to let you know what I am researching for future posts. If you see anything listed that you think I may not be aware of please don’t hesitate to put something in the comments section. I will of course give full credit to anyone who contributes any information, pictures, etc.

As well as letting you know what I have planned this is also your opportunity to let me know how you think the site is progressing and have your say. Also if you have any recommendations for a future post please feel free to make them in the comments section below.

Also, if any of you are on Facebook please LIKE the Defence of the Realm Facebook page. I regularly update this page with news, links and pictures. This month I have uploaded a host of pictures from my visit to the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton.

So here is January’s SITREP;

  1. In the comments section of last month’s SITREP I was told that the current format of the site can sometimes be difficult to read. I would like to know how widespread this view is and whether anyone else finds the site difficult to read. If so what exactly is difficult?
  2. If you have any requests for aircraft comparisons then please put them in the comments section below.
  3. I am still working on the Cold War recce Chipmunk article. Sadly it seemed to fall by the wayside due to other articles.
  4. I have been looking back on some of the older posts and I have realized that the way I have laid them out is different to my most recent ones. Therefore I plan to rework them to achieve uniformity across the site.
  5. I am planning to do a double feature on the first and last kills of the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm in World War II. As some of you know I have a certain affinity for the Fleet Air Arm’s story and I think it is one that doesn’t nearly get the attention it deserves.
  6. This month I started writing up on warship classifications with articles on battlecruisers and torpedo boat destroyers. I plan to expand on this with more articles on other types of warship, their role and their use.
  7. Going to the other end of the spectrum I plan to start a series of articles highlighting British small arms and comparing them to other weapons in a similar format to the aircraft comparisons.

Happy New Year to you all

– Tony

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Defence of the Realm on Facebook

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“Defence of the Realm” now has a Facebook page for all of you in to social media. The goal of the page, as well as to keep abreast of the latest developments on “Defence of the Realm”, is to provide a forum for debate and to help with introductions between like minded military enthusiasts.

The page is still looking a bit bare as its only two days old now but if you are on Facebook you are welcome to LIKE the page and contribute. I look forward to hearing from you.

Click here to view – Defence of the Realm on Facebook

Look forward to meeting you

– Tony