Feds warn current, former military personnel about social media accounts

Published: Dec. 3, 2014 at 2:33 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 11, 2014 at 2:33 AM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The FBI and Department of Homeland Security fear the terrorist group ISIS is using Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to target members of the U.S. military.

The federal government is urging members of the military, veterans and their families to be careful what they post on their accounts.


International security consultant Karl de la Guerra says he wasn't surprised to hear of the new advisory, warning those in uniform that they could become a target of stateside ISIS attacks. It is the feds' strongest warning to date.

"ISIS has mastered the use of the internet," he said. "If you think about how many people out there fit that category, it starts to be some alarming numbers"

The bulletin specifically warns current and former military personnel and those connected with people in the military to review their social media accounts for anything that might attract the attention of ISIS. They are also advised to remove anything that reveals individual service members' identities.

Darrick Long is a marketing expert at Alabama State University whose focus is social media. He says even if posts and pictures and accounts are deleted, material can still be out there in cyberspace.

"What the reality is is that it's hard to really get rid of stuff once it's on the internet. You could delete you Facebook page right now but something would still come up in Google because search engines capture information and hold it there. That's why your search is so quick," he said. "Service members should go ahead and delete anything they're worried about especially if it deals with their family or units but there's a lot of reposting going on, a lot of sharing, a lot of liking so things are just going all over social media. Going forward, always pay attention to what you're posting."

David Payne is a Vietnam vet who works with other veterans across the state. He says the bulletin should serve as a heads up to those affiliated with the military.

"I think it's legitimate. I don't think it's a scare tactic. Information that's put out there that can be used against us, will definitely be used against us. Loose lips sink ships," he said.

WSFA 12 News did reach out to Maxwell Air Force Base to see what guidance they are issuing to airmen about the warning. They declined to comment. Fort Rucker officials say information from the Department of Defense is being disseminated on post and that any threat would be pushed out to soldiers and family members.

In a Facebook post, Huntsville's Redstone Arsenal gave tips about social media and personal security:

  • Avoid posting your home or work address and phone numbers or any government or military affiliation.
  • Think before you post and assume everyone in the world will be able to see what you are posting, or tweeting, even if the site limits your posts to your friends and family.
  • Limit who can view your social media sites; but do not trust these settings as absolute.
  • Avoid providing detailed accounts of your day (e.g., when you leave for or return from work).
  • Never allow applications to geolocate your location.

At home

  • Always lock doors, windows and garages.
  • Make sure home entrances are well-lighted, and minimize bushes where intruders can hide before their ambush.
  • Use the peephole before opening the door to anyone. Don't use the chain latch to open the door part-way. Don't open the door to solicitors or strangers.
  • Install solid-core doors, heavy-duty locks and window security systems.
  • Establish a safe haven.
  • Hold a family meeting to work out home security plans.
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