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Midshipman Trains Fellow Students on Cyber Security Awareness

  POSTED ON: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 11:26 AM by USNA PAO

“Computer systems are very complex and hard to break in to. Humans are easy.”

So said Midshipman 2nd Class Zachary Dannelly while teaching a cyber security awareness course to his fellow midshipmen Oct. 3.

Dannelly, a midshipman in his third year at the academy, gave a presentation on the dangers inherent in using social media. His course focused on methods, techniques and ways of using various social media platforms, analytics technologies and other open source tools to understand and exploit the cyber domain.

Dannelly explained that when people post information about themselves on the internet, it leaves data that can later be collected by someone. Eventually, there will be enough to build a profile of this person.

“The media that you post is already out there and no matter how much you want it to, it is not going to go away,” he said. “Information about the area we live in and where we grew up is free to everyone through open source media.”

Dannelly developed his training while interning with the White Canvas Group LLC, a veteran-owned small business and technology firm in Alexandria, Va. He supported the training staff on a cyber project with the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office, a program under the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflicts.

He proved his point by showing his peers how much you can learn about an individual from a collection of social media posts. With proprietary software from WCG he was able to target an individual to find out who they are, where they live, and who their family members are.

The software used open-source sites such a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – sites anyone can access – to track the locations of social media posts and pinpoint locations where the poster has updated their status, checked into a location, and posted photos. With a world map overlay, a person using this software could essentially find where you live, where you work and where you have traveled.

Throughout the training course, Dannelly made it very clear that service members and their families should be very careful as to what they post on social media sites.

“You can be the strongest point of defense against these cyber attacks by relying on what you know about operational security to only post things that you wouldn’t mind everyone in the world to see,” said Dannelly.

For midshipmen, personal security is just one of their concerns. Most will go onto military positions where practicing sound operational security is critical to eliminating or reducing enemy exploitation.

“As a leader you have to realize the importance of operational security and inform your enlisted sailors and Marines about their personal responsibilities of knowing and managing their social media footprint,” said Dannelly.

Dannelly is among the first class of midshipmen to major in cyber operations at the Naval Academy. Cyber operations is an interdisciplinary major that covers the entire scope of cyberspace and related operations, both technical and non-technical.


Category: Midshipmen

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