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Perimeter

3/4/2010
05:30 AM
Gadi Evron
Gadi Evron
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Social Networks, Data Leaks, And Operation Security

Following a Facebook update from a soldier on an upcoming operation, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) canceled an operation into the West Bank, illustrating how the connected world makes maintaining operational security (OPSEC) all the more difficult.

Following a Facebook update from a soldier on an upcoming operation, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) canceled an operation into the West Bank, illustrating how the connected world makes maintaining operational security (OPSEC) all the more difficult.According to HaHaretz:

The Israel Defense Forces called off a raid in Palestinian territory after a soldier posted details, including the time and place, on the social networking website Facebook, Army Radio reported on Wednesday.

The soldier - since relieved of combat duty - described in a status update how his unit planned a "clean-up" arrest raid in a West Bank area, Army Radio said.

"On Wednesday we clean up Qatanah, and on Thursday, god willing, we come home," the soldier wrote on his Facebook page, refering to a West Bank village near Ramallah.

The soldier also disclosed the name of the combat unit, the place of the operation and the time it will take place. Facebook friends then reported him to military authorities.

Last year I wrote a post about how citizen journalism is raising new questions on privacy and security:
In 2006, Israel sent forces into Southern Lebanon during what is now known as the 2006 Lebanon War. Israel had security concerns about missiles harming its civilian population, but what it didn't bargain for was military citizen journalism.

Think, for a moment, about the potential chaos of such live war reporting: SMS messages from soldiers up front telling of deaths before families can be notified, or live videos of bloody battles recorded from cell phones and sent to the press.

In Israel, this is more problematic than with other militaries. All able citizens who have not been excused legally are drafted into the military at 18 to serve for a minimum of three years, and then continue serving in active duty at least once a year as reservists. For many, this means potentially losing business by not being at work -- not to mention their families waiting to hear from them and of them being alive.

This month, two civilian incidents in the United States illustrated the problem Israel faced -- and open the broader discussion about how new social technologies impact our organizational security, and our own privacy.

Two examples I provided were of a police officer who caused a case to be lost as he set his MySpace mood to "Devious" before an arrest, and a juror who tweeted that he just took a lot of money from the defendant.

The privacy questions are not likely to be resolved in the near future, but this latest incident from Israel demonstrates how OPSEC can no longer account for the Internet by simply posting instructions on not to use the Internet.

My partner in writing a recent social psychology paper on the Estonia incident, the marvelous Dr. Rosanna Guadagno, wrote interesting observations in a comment to my previous post on this topic:

There is a growing body of research in the social sciences illustrating exactly what you are talking about. Research on communication online indicates that people who communicate this way are more focused on themselves than on the actual or potential audience because they can't see their audience. So, when updating their twitter or facebook pages, people are prone to disclose more information about themselves than they might using other modes of communication (such as a face-to-face interaction where they can see their audience).

This is problematic because it is a psychological reaction to the way technology is currently designed so urging people to be mindful of what they say online may not be enough to actually get people to take steps to guard their privacy. Anecdotally, I have observed that the present generation of teens and tweens are developing a different set of norms (social rules for behavior) for privacy. It remains to be seen what the long term implications will be but it may be that in another few generations, privacy will be a thing of the past. As someone who is old enough to value her privacy, I find this last point alarming but that's where I see things going.

Active monitoring of Internet activity, as well as prevention of Internet access, might be a necessity in the military, but overkill for a friendly corporate environment. At our civilian end, we should ensure employees are aware of risks, legally bound to prevent them, or at the very least that social networks are monitored for leaks.

Follow Gadi Evron on Twitter: http://twitter.com/gadievron.

Gadi Evron is an independent security strategist based in Israel. Special to Dark Reading. Gadi is CEO and founder of Cymmetria, a cyber deception startup and chairman of the Israeli CERT. Previously, he was vice president of cybersecurity strategy for Kaspersky Lab and led PwC's Cyber Security Center of Excellence, located in Israel. He is widely recognized for ... View Full Bio

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