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Pentagon Reviews Military Use Of Social Networking Sites

August 5, 2009

Security concerns have prompted officials at the Pentagon to review the use of Twitter and other social networking sites, AFP reported.

Marine Corps spokesman Lieutenant Craig Thomas said the Marines had already banned the use of social media on military networks but issued a more detailed order this week defining which sites were out of bounds and noting possible exceptions to the rule.

A recent post on the Marine Corps website stated: “These Internet sites in general are a proven haven for malicious actors and content and are particularly high risk due to information exposure, user generated content and targeting by adversaries.”

It continued: “The very nature of SNS (social networking sites) creates a larger attack and exploitation window, exposes unnecessary information to adversaries and provides an easy conduit for information leakage that puts opsec (operational security), comsec (communications security)… at an elevated risk of compromise.”

However, it said some marines whose assignments may require access to social media could apply for a waiver.

Thomas said marines working in criminal investigations, press relations and recruiting have a need to use social media to carry out their duties and would likely be granted access.

“But social networking sites have always been banned in the Marine Corps,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department confirmed it was carrying out a formal review of its policies on the use of social networking sites.

William Lynn, the deputy secretary of defense, wrote in a July 31 memo that he had asked the Pentagon’s chief information officer to draw up policy options examining the threats and benefits of so-called Web 2.0 capabilities.

Social networking sites have proved valuable for recruitment, press relations and sharing information with allies and among military families, the memo said.

“However, as with any Internet-based capabilities, there are implementation challenges and operational risks that must be understood and mitigated,” it continued.

Officials would try to strike a balance between benefits and risks arising from the use of social networking, according to Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

“It does highlight the tension between recognizing these as important ways to communicate … and yet, on the other hand, the very real security concerns that the people that maintain our networks have with respect to using these sites,” he said.

Other branches of the armed services have adopted social media with enthusiasm, employing the sites as a means of reaching a wider audience and spreading information within the military.

While the Army has set up a new office for online social media, the military has struggled to balance security concerns with demands to modernize its communications.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that he wants to utilize social networking to help the Pentagon interact with U.S. military members.

The Pentagon’s Web site features a link to its Facebook page and Twitter feed from its public affairs chief.

Image Caption: A squad of soldiers work in a computer lab at an NCO Academy Warrior Leaders Course. The Army is migrating all of its Windows-based computers to Microsoft’s Vista operating system to bolster Internet security and standardize its information systems by Dec. 31. Photo Credit: Christian Marquardt (Joint Multinational Training Command)

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