In today’s world it seems like nothing is private anymore. Scrolling through a friend’s Facebook profile can tell you a lot about that person, probably more than he or she realizes. It tells you where they sleep, where they ate lunch and their children’s and mother-in-law’s birthdays.
Cybersecurity, while not a new concern, is a growing concern for many military families. In March, a “kill-list” was circulated by the self-described hacking division of the Islamic State group that included photos, names and addresses of 100 U.S. troops. That same month, several military spouses’ Twitter accounts were hacked and the Department of Defense asked military families around the world to be mindful of operational security.
Are you concerned about cybersecurity? Wondering what you can do to prevent your private information from being found online?
The Marine Corps’ cybersecurity division recently published a 11-page handbook, titled “Public People Search Database Removal Guide.” This handbook, available for download, describes methods “to get sensitive or personal information removed from easy access points online, including top search engine Google.”
This guide highlights 10 people search database websites, such as WhitePages and PeopleFinders. These database websites gather information from existing public records and are operated using “implicit consent, which means individuals have to explicitly opt out of each website in order to discontinue access to personal data from the online records.” For each database website, the handbook explains how to opt out and provides a link to these online requests.
The handbook also explains which websites require verification to remove the information from the database. In those circumstances, the service members are asked to upload a copy of a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license. Individuals are advised to black out the photo and ID number before submitting the ID copy to the website.
The handbook also lists 5 tips for removing your information from the technology search giant, Google. It acknowledges that opting out of Google can be a challenging endeavor, but it isn’t impossible.
The Marine Corps’ guide recommends that service members refuse to take no for an answer and also that they be courteous when making their requests to remove their private information.
Be nice. They are not only busy, but they are under no obligation to help you. If they do help, it is really as a favor. No one will want to help you if you are a jerk, so be nice!
Here are 3 other things service members and their spouses should consider regarding cybersecurity:
1. Search Yourself. Is your home address or phone number available online? Not sure. Take the time to Google yourself. Look at the databases mentioned in the Public People Search Database Removal Guide and see what private information is available on you. Then take the steps to have your information removed from that website.
2. Pause Before Posting. Before posting on social media websites or submitting your address, take a moment to think about how that information could be used by others. Ask yourself, is this information that should stay private? What harm could come from this information floating around in the cyberworld?
Take time to think before posting because once it’s out there, it’s out there. Forever. Even if you delete it or edit the information, a digital copy is still online somewhere. The handbook calls this our digital tattoo.
3. Pay for Privacy. You may want to purchase help from a private company to “eliminate access” to your personal information. But beware. “The terms and conditions vary among different service providers and should be carefully examined and evaluated prior to any purchase or subscription to services,” the handbook said.