MySpace.com use brings Air Force warning
January 22, 2007
RAF LAKENHEATH, England — The Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations is warning airmen to exercise caution when using the popular Internet social networking site MySpace.com.
The warning comes after OSI Special Agent Ryan Amedure investigated several airmen who were solicited “specific information” via MySpace.com about RAF Lakenheath in the past several months.
“There are people out there who are trying to target military personnel for information,” Amedure said. “The fact that this has happened a number of times in such a short period is what concerned us.”
He would not go into detail about the solicitations.
Unfortunately for investigators, the anonymity of the Internet makes investigations difficult. Amedure said no arrests have been made in connection with the probe.
“Without a court order, there’s not much we can do,” he said.
The military has always been concerned with troops divulging information that’s not necessarily classified but still a threat to the base via a conversation with a stranger at a bar or restaurant.
“People like to talk and brag about what they do. It’s human nature,” Amedure said. “It’s not classified per se, but it’s not something that everyone needs to know about.”
However, with the advent of sites such as MySpace.com and other social networking Web sites, OSI agents are concerned that America’s adversaries are taking their quest for info online. According to Alexa.com, which tracks Internet activity, MySpace.com trails only Yahoo! and Google in number of visitors.
Airmen need to be aware of the dangers, Amedure said.
“Our enemies aren’t dumb,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with having a MySpace site, people just have to use good judgment. What we’re trying to do is educate the military members.”
He said he’s unaware of similar solicitations at other Air Force installations, “but I’m sure other people are aware of it,” he said.
Stars and Stripes tried but was unable to reach a MySpace.com representative for comment.
Kevin Beaver, a Georgia-based Internet security expert who co-authored the book “Hacking for Dummies,” said the practice of soliciting info online is nothing new.
“It’s in the news quite often where hackers, stalkers and others with nothing better to do try soliciting information posing as someone else,” Beaver wrote to Stars and Stripes in an e-mail. “This is nothing more than phishing — or, in its most basic form — social engineering.”
Beaver, founder of Principle Logic LLC, said law enforcement officials have lamented to him that technology — and the criminals who exploit it — are moving more rapidly than security officials, and even corporations that ban the use of such technology find employees circumventing the rules.
“It’s like anything, the bad guys are usually going to be a step or two ahead,” he wrote.
Last year, the Air Force put out its own release about the dangers of social networking sites.
In the release, Special Agent Jared Whittenberg called operational security violations one of OSI’s primary concerns. Posting information on deployments, numbers of troops in an area and aircraft capability can potentially put the nation at risk.
As a result of the increased popularity of MySpace.com, OSI agents check the site for incriminating information, Whittenberg said.
“Servicemembers must remember they represent the military as a whole, 24 hours a day, and are responsible for what they post,” he said. “The effects of what you do in the comfort of your own home can potentially have an impact worldwide.”