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Safeguarding cyber assets

Ensuring that the U.S. Air Force’s cyber assets and our personally identifiable information remain safe and out of the wrong hands is one of the many responsibilities that we, as Airmen, must take seriously. Cyber threats are most commonly a result of negligence and carelessness in taking care of information. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Airman 1st Class Christopher Maldonado)

Ensuring that the U.S. Air Force’s cyber assets and our personally identifiable information remain safe and out of the wrong hands is one of the many responsibilities that we, as Airmen, must take seriously. Cyber threats are most commonly a result of negligence and carelessness in taking care of information. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Airman 1st Class Christopher Maldonado)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Every week, 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Airmen brief deploying Team Shaw members on cyber security and the dangers of over-sharing on social media. As someone who has attended dozens of such briefings and regularly monitors the wing’s social media pages, I have heard and seen firsthand the damage that irresponsible online behavior can cause.

Ensuring that the U.S. Air Force’s cyber assets and our personally identifiable information remain safe and out of the wrong hands is one of the many responsibilities that we, as Airmen, must take seriously.

What steps should you take to defend yourself against challenges such as possible identity theft by cyber threats or the targeting of you or your deployed loved ones, should they arise?

Well, you don’t need to learn extensive coding or analytical formulas to remain safe on the internet; simply being aware of what kind of information you release is sufficient.

In the workplace, simple day-to-day procedures such as removing common access cards when not in use and double-checking all emails for PII can help ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.

PII is information that, if put in the wrong hands, could potentially cause damage to not only your life but also that of your family. This information includes, but is not limited to: your social security number, age, marital status, and medical and financial information.

Without proper protection and preventative measures, such as proper encryptions or typing “for official use only” in subject lines, cyber threats could steal valuable information from directly under your nose.

Electronic messaging can be dangerous on both the receiving and sending end.

Cyber threats may pose as legitimate companies or agencies and attempt to lure the victim - you - into a trap by sending false emails with viruses and fake links intended to steal information. This act is called phishing. Once they gather the information, they can take over your identity and have direct access to your bank accounts or purchase things in your name.

Who wants to pay for a stranger’s dream home or car?

Although many cyber threats gather information by asking for it directly, they can sometimes collect the same information with less effort via social media.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are popular communication tools for service members and their families, but they also pose a threat if not utilized correctly.

Just as humans get smarter, so do the threats online. Posting information about a loved one’s projected deployment, or sending personal data could set off an alarm that assists the threat in finding a vulnerable target.

It is important to remember these threats do not only target the wealthy or those with access to classified information. Everyone is vulnerable.

To ensure these threats do not have the opportunity to target you or your family, remember to double check the information you send and avoid accessing links from unknown sources.

Cyber threats feed and thrive on the carelessness of individuals who are unsafe with their information; they utilize everything at their disposal to reach their goal whether it’s to uncover information on you and your family, track troop movements, or gain a one-way trip to your bank account.

Stopping these threats is not a one-person effort, but a team effort. Together as one, we can band together and eradicate the cyber threats that threaten men and women around the globe. Next time you log into your computer, I urge you to take a few extra seconds to defend yourself, your family, and your wingmen from these malicious threats.