Social Networking Sites Banned by Marines

According to the Christian Science Monitor and other reputable media sources, the marines have banned social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter. Currently, the Pentagon is reviewing its entire policy on the use of social networking sites. Can you imagine the enemy discovering troop locations or military tactical data via social networking? Ironic timing, as just a few weeks ago I was delivering an identity theft speech at the Pentagon and recorded a short video about this problem.

Facebook Privacy & The Pentagon

The Christian Science Monitor ran the following quote from a memo distributed Tuesday to all Marines:

The very nature of [social networking sites] creates a larger attack and exploitation window, exposes unnecessary information to adversaries and provides an easy conduit for information leakage that puts [operational and communication security] personnel and the [Marine Corps network] at an elevated risk of compromise.

7 Hazards of Social Networking

Most of the risks of social networking fall into one of the following categories, which I call the 7 Hazards of Social Networking:

  1. Impersonation. Does the social networking account (e.g., Twitter Account) belong to the actual person or company it is representing? For example, if you look at the Twitter account @johnsileo, you will see that my name is used to send business to a gentleman who is also an identity theft speaker. My actual account is @john_sileo. Whether this is considered social networking squatting or social networking identity theft, it’s impersonation.
  2. Ownership. Who owns the data on the social networking sites’ servers? Do you own what you post on Facebook, what you email through GoogleMail or the financials you backup off-site on someone else’s servers? The fact that you don’t know should trouble you as much as it does me.
  3. Breach. How is your social networking site protecting your profile and posting data? Are they susceptible to bots like ZombieSmiles that allow hackers into your Facebook profile through Facebook’s own client interface? Is it easy for a hacker to post something or appeal to your friends as if the hacker is actually you (account takeover impersonation)?
  4. Fraud. Social networking is based in relationships of trust. You trust the people you befriend. Unfortunately, some studies suggest that 25% of the users accept friend requests from total strangers. This, along with account takeover impersonation, opens you up to “friend in distress” scams, information gathering and other forms of social networking fraud.
  5. Disclosure. We are far bolder and far less discretionary with what we share online versus what we share in person. This means we risk giving out information that, given a second thought, we didn’t want to. Think of the New York Times reporters who tweeted about a closed-door meeting where they discussed charging for online content.
  6. Human Error. Have you ever hit the button on an email that was meant to go to someone else? The same phenomenon happens on social networking sites, but the damage is exponential because of the medium – you might have just sent it to hundreds or thousands of followers or friends. I call this phenomenon Tweet Breach.
  7. Underestimation. Because social networking started out as a personal application and still has the flavor of being controlled by individuals (as opposed to corporations), we often underestimate the sheer destruction caused by mishandling this tool. I believe that this is what happened to the military. They originally underestimated the data leakage taking place in the social networking sphere and have since, wisely, begun to rethink their strategy.

Until we recognize that anything posted on the internet (especially if social networking is involved) is Public, Permanent and Admissible in court, we will continue to underestimate the hazards of social networking. Luckily, there are solutions to these hazards, some of which we will discuss in our Social Networking Webinar today.

John Sileo became America’s leading Identity Theft Speaker & Expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To further bulletproof yourself and your business, bring John in to speak at your next meeting or conference. Visit

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