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Beaufort Marines take ban on social Web sites in stride

Photo illustration by Jonathan Dyer/The Beaufort Gazette
Marines have been banned from using social-networking Web sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. In an internal memo signed Aug. 3, the Corps says the Web sites “are a proven haven for malicious actors and content and are particularly high risk due to information exposure.”
Photo illustration by Jonathan Dyer/The Beaufort Gazette Marines have been banned from using social-networking Web sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. In an internal memo signed Aug. 3, the Corps says the Web sites “are a proven haven for malicious actors and content and are particularly high risk due to information exposure.” PHOTO ILLUSTRATION by Jonathan Dyer/The Beaufort Gazette

Local Marines say there is little new about an order signed last week banning them from using popular social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter on the Corps' computer network.

Maj. Gabrielle Chapin, spokeswoman for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, said the depot's Marines have long been banned from sending "tweets" -- 140-character text messages posted to Twitter -- or tagging Facebook photos at work.

"The Marine Corps has always restricted access to social networking sites from Marine Corps computers, for both security reasons and viruses," Chapin said. "Additionally, some social networks use a great deal of bandwidth that could otherwise be used to help mission-related functions."

In an internal memo signed Aug. 3, the Corps banned Marines from accessing the sites on government-owned computers. The memo says the Web sites "are a proven haven for malicious actors and content and are particularly high risk due to information exposure" and create "a larger attack and exploitation window."

Sgt. Monique Wallace, spokeswoman for Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, said Fightertown Marines were hardly caught off guard by this week's memo.

"Marines haven't been able to use (social networking sites) on government computers since (Navy/Marine Corps Intranet) took over," Wallace said. "The Marine Corps just formalized it ... so this is nothing new for us."

The order does not prohibit use of the sites on private computers.

Attempts to reach representatives of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter -- the three Web sites mentioned by name in the memo -- for comment were unsuccessful.

The policy, which expires in August 2010, allows Marines to apply for a waiver if access to the sites is deemed necessary to their duties. Criminal investigators and recruiters were cited by the Corps as those who might need access to the sites.

The policy is not a restriction on the ability of Marines to express themselves or connect with others, but rather an attempt to shore up the Corps' cyber security, said Lt. Joshua Diddams, a spokesman at Headquarters Marine Corps in Quantico, Va.

"Marines are encouraged to tell their stories on social networking sites using personal accounts, remembering the importance of operational security and that they are Marines at all times," Diddams said.

The Corps' memo over the security of the sites came just days before a spam attack, known as a "denial-of-service attack," hobbled Twitter and Facebook -- two sites with a combined user base of about 300 million worldwide. The attack shut down the sites for more than two hours. Both sites said no user information was compromised.

Banning Marines could be the beginning of Pentagon-wide crackdown on social networking sites.

The Pentagon announced last week that Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn ordered a study of the Web sites in the hopes of establishing a departmentwide policy on their use by October.

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