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Teach Your Children Well

June 2009

Generally speaking, the Army Information Assurance (IA) people are constantly telling you how to keep information to yourself. They are always referring to Army Regulation 25-2, establishing Best Business Practices, and providing course after course of specialized training. They issue guidelines, directives, orders, memoranda, and proclamations from on high on exactly what should be done to protect the Army’s data and each soldier’s Personally Identifying Information (PII).  So here comes a big contradiction. “What?” you say, “Contradictory messages within the military?” Yep. Brace yourself.

As unlikely as it might seem, the IA folks want you to give information to your family, friends and co-workers. The information they want you to divulge is exactly what you have learned about how and why we protect military and personal data. Now, we’re not talking about that hush-hush, cone-of-silence kind of stuff. What needs to be leaked out is how individuals can stay safe out there in cyber space, especially when it comes to phishing.   

For those of you that have skipped all IA training, refused to read/watch/listen to any kind of computer or mainstream news or avoided talking with any computer literate person for the past ten years, phishing is any online attempt to pry money or PII from people through various forms of deception. This kind of scam ranges from fake Middle Eastern Princes who will pay you to help move millions of dollars out of some country to your bank (or at least it seems like your bank) asking for your account numbers, online ID and PIN so they can correct a technical problem and reopen your frozen account.

Savvy Internet users, like all correctly and completely trained Army personnel, usually can spot these scams in an instant. The questions is, can their friends and families? Don’t forget, it’s the weakest link that breaks the chain. That’s why we need to pass along what we have learned about fraudulent emails and web sites to those that do not have the benefit of our knowledge. We must teach others to beware of following links in unsolicited emails and providing any personal information in online transactions they did not start. We need to show them how to install, update and always use effective protective software such as firewalls, antivirus and spam blockers. Most of all, we need to teach them to be aware and wary, much like we teach our children to avoid strangers and look both ways.

Online criminals and terrorists are becoming increasingly sophisticated about how they try to deceive us. As we become more knowledgeable about certain types of scams, they invent new ones and use the latest technologies to ply their trade.  Some techniques can fool even experienced net users, at least for a short time. By staying current on how the bad guys are trying to acquire sensitive information, we all can be safer online. However, we can’t keep this knowledge to ourselves. It’s not fair to our family and friends to leave them at risk when we know how to keep them safe. Also, a soldier’s job is stressful enough. Teaching loved ones online safety can provide a little more peace of mind when on deployment.

For those that think online safety requires only common sense, remember that common sense comes from shared information and experiences. Pass along your Internet safety knowledge to those around you. That’s the kind of information that’s too important not to share.

The On Cyber Patrol© cartoon and supporting articles are created and made available by the U.S. Army’s Office of Information Assurance and Compliance, NETCOM, CIO/G6. For more information on the OCP program or to submit ideas for upcoming cartoons/articles, contact oncyberpatrol@hqda.army.mil.