Our nation’s servicemen and servicewomen sacrifice a lot to protect us, both here and overseas. They put their lives on the line every day to ensure we are safe from all different forms of threats.

Our armed forces are in the line of danger when on duty, but unfortunately, that is not the only arena where they are in harm’s way. 

The personal information of U.S. military personnel is readily available for anyone to purchase, and can be done so through legal means.

Because of this, military members, and their families are at risk, and it’s imperative that action is taken to ensure their privacy and security are protected.

Study Highlights Ease of Obtaining of Active Duty Members’ Data

In a startling revelation, a study by Duke University researchers uncovers the alarming ease with which sensitive personal information of active-duty US military personnel can be acquired online. This data, available at shockingly low prices from data brokers, includes details like home addresses and health conditions.

Imagine being able to pinpoint the location of a service member based on their proximity to high-security military bases such as Fort Bragg or Quantico. The researchers did just that, acquiring data for as little as $0.12 per record. 

This raises critical national security concerns. Foreign intelligence services could easily build profiles on US military members, tracking their movements and identifying vulnerabilities. The implications are severe, extending to potential stalking or blackmailing of military families.


How Data Brokers Operate

The US data-broker ecosystem is vast, spanning from well-known credit reporting agencies to lesser-known analytics firms and mobile apps that sell user location data. The concerning aspect is the lack of stringent legal restrictions in the US on purchasing and selling such data. Justin Sherman, a senior fellow at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, emphasizes the alarming simplicity of acquiring this data. With no substantial checks on purchases, the potential for misuse by foreign adversaries is immense.

Personal information, including Social Security numbers, addresses, and employment history, is routinely sold by data brokers. While some uses are legitimate, like background checks, the lack of regulation has drawn the attention of regulators. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is exploring new rules to limit data broker activities, and the Federal Trade Commission is considering new regulations.


Why Personal Cybersecurity for Active Duty Military is Imperative

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden highlights the Duke University study as a stark warning. The data broker industry, he asserts, is not just out of control but also a serious threat to US national security. The Pentagon, too, acknowledges the gravity of the situation. Timothy Gorman, a spokesperson for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, stresses the importance of safeguarding the privacy interests of military personnel.

The sale of personal data online isn’t just a tool for intelligence gathering; it’s a profound privacy risk. The US intelligence community and the Pentagon have long been wary of how foreign spies might exploit this data market. Measures like the 2018 ban on deployed personnel using geolocation-enabled devices like fitness trackers and smartphones underscore the seriousness of the threat.

The findings from Duke University serve as a clarion call. The ease of accessing the personal data of US military personnel not only compromises their safety but also poses a significant threat to national security. It’s a situation that demands an immediate and robust policy response.

Until the day comes when policy is put in place, it’s imperative that we work together to protect the privacy and security of those who have given so much to our country. Those who serve have given everything to protect our freedom, and it’s vital that we in turn work to protect their digital lives.

To learn more and stay up-to-date on all the latest cybersecurity news and strategies, review BlackCloak’s personal cybersecurity blog.