Sunday, February 8, 2015

Singapore Armed Forces SAF Facebook pages should review success factors

On social media channels run by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), extreme care should be taken to avoid unwittingly turning one's target audience into potential targets.

Open source data, compiled over time, can present diligent observers with a good picture of the individuals who populate various SAF units and Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) departments.

Such data mining receives a boost whenever MINDEF/SAF attempts to strengthen its engagement with, and responses from, its respective constituents.

At the most basic level of social media engagement, this can be seen by efforts to rally more MINDEF/SAF personnel to "Like" assorted postings which appear on Facebook pages for the Singapore Army, Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).

In halcyon times, such rallying calls have no adverse consequences and pose no security risks.

But those halcyon times are long past.

When pitted against elements which seek to exploit any chink in the armour, the fact file of who's who in the MINDEF/SAF hierarchy is likely to feature prominently on the list of essential elements of information (EEI). It takes no great intellect to note that such an EEI can be compiled anytime by anyone with an Internet connection from anywhere in the world.

In pre-Internet days, for instance, the list of names which appeared on the last page of the RSN's Navy News represented a regular source of names for data miners to tap. Names were listed whenever warships had a change of command. And additional names were listed for RSN personnel who earned awards and citations for good work. As the SAF's smallest service, there were only so many names to go around. This meant that, over time, one could eventually compile a list of almost nearly every serving RSN key appointment holder.

Sure, you could laugh off such trivial pursuits as a quirky, eccentric past time.

But fast forward to the present-day and one may realise how some elements seek to ruthlessly exploit open source social media profiles.

So we now find ourselves in a quandary: MINDEF/SAF operational departments (these manage the respective FB pages for the three Services) are urged to aim for ever higher of engagements. "Likes" are never high enough. As a staff officer, what do you do?

Alas, the success factors for this engagement strategy may compromise the very individuals who step forward to "Like" various posts.

In recent times, we have seen ample evidence of how the social media profiles of various warfighters have been exploited as source material for announcements which place bounties on their heads.

Of greater concern, however, is the amount of data such elements can gather on the wider social circle of the warfighters mentioned. This includes their immediate family and friends.

Our defence eco-system must be aware that there are nasty elements in cyberspace who may wish harm upon our servicemen and servicewomen, as well as their loved ones. We must also be prepared to take action, proactively and harshly if need be, against any elements who may want to wish harm on MINDEF/SAF personnel and their loved ones.

The urge to touch ever higher participation rates from MINDEF/SAF personnel must therefore be tempered with the understanding that there will be not insignicant pockets of MINDEF/SAF personnel who will NOT want to step forward to click that "Like" button or be the FB friend of officially-sanctioned pages. What's more, there will be MINDEF/SAF personnel who wilfully minimise their social media footprint by staying off sites such as FB and LinkedIn*.

So be it.

Success factors can be measured by other parameters which social media analytics can furnish to administrators fairly easily. These include the Reach of various posts and other data sets that give MINDEF/SAF FB administrators tangible assurance that their work does indeed reach real people.

In the current security environment, success factor yardsticks which work swell for the private sector may not be applicable to the Singapore military.

We have to face up to the new security situation, sooner rather than later.

* If you have time, try drawing up a Venn diagram for SAF KAHs who list their career accomplishments on LinkedIn and see how one individual is linked to another. It presents a most interesting picture of group dynamics.

1 comment:

lai said...

Worse thing is the soldier name is being tagged and worse still I have seen a rsaf pilot being tagged by rsaf fb