Marines

Social networks challenge security

8 Mar 2012 | Lance Cpl. Paul Peterson

Social networking online isn’t the flu, but Americans have certainly caught the bug for it. Marines and their families are not immune to the outbreak, and the need for information security poses unique challenges as they balance the responsibilities of military service with high-speed social scenes.

Luckily, family readiness officers and resources offered on the ever expanding eMARINE website stand poised to help maintain the shield of security as Marines and their families stay connected. Taking some simple precautions online and staying in contact with the FRO are two ways Marines can mitigate security risks in the online world.

Family readiness officers are the direct link between families, Marines and the unit commands, said Kara Collins, the FRO for the 2nd Dental Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

Collins’ work as a FRO has revealed some of the troubles families encounter on social networking sites.

The social networking sites families use are not secure, and other people have access to what they say, said Collins. “People will post the most mundane information, and they just don’t see the ramification. It’s just like saying, ‘I left the key under the mat.’”

Publicizing information about a Marine’s whereabouts and activities places the Marine at risk and exposes the family to people with nefarious intentions. Collins deals with family members that are harassed by bogus phone calls or feel their security is compromised because of information that malicious people have gathered about the family.

“This parent or this wife is totally panicked because somebody has realized that their (Marine) is deployed and found out exactly what unit they’re with,” said Collins. “That happens entirely too often with families posting things that they should not be posting on public websites.”

It’s a situation that families can readily guard against. Staying in touch with the FRO and taking the time to understand their units procedures for passing on information is key, said Lisa Castleberry, the FRO for the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit command element aboard MCB Camp Lejeune. The more family members know the better they will be able to deal with a breach of their personal information and prevent people from manipulating them.

Keeping private information from going public is essential to personal security. The eMARINE website, which is nearing 100,000 subscribers in less than one year, offers secure forums for families to communicate with units, even when they are on deployment.

“We are actually putting together a deployment page,” said Castleberry. “This is where we are going to direct our families to come and get the latest information about what is going on with the deployment.”

The FRO can act as a moderator on eMARINE for families when units deploy and when they are home, noted Castleberry. The website is flexible, and families can contact their FRO if they want to see something put up for the unit.

It’s also an easy way for families to get reliable, updated information and offers solutions to some of the hazards of social networking sites. The website is secure, said Castleberry, and not open for everyone to see. Family members and Marines need to register ahead of time, and they are connected to their particular unit’s section on eMARINE.

The website also offers links to other military related resources like MyPay, TriCare and the Single Marine Program. It has options to create photo galleries and conduct forum based discussions. The eMARINE site even has an operational security guide for family members who aren’t sure what information needs to be protected.

 “It’s very much a one-stop-shop for a lot of families,” said Collins. “We’re hoping that they will catch on and realize what a fabulous tool this is.”

For more information on eMARINE and protecting your information, visit www.eMARINE.org or contact your unit’s FRO.