Protecting Classified Information, Cybersecurity are All Hands’ Responsibilities

By Commander, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command Public Affairs

Recent media reports about public leaks of protected U.S. Government information may have you wondering what, as a Sailor, you should do when you come across classified material in media reports or elsewhere online.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessica Cummins performs her duties at the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command Maritime Operations Center at Fort Meade, Md., Oct. 3, 2012. (DOD courtesy photo)

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessica Cummins performs her duties at the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command Maritime Operations Center at Fort Meade, Md., Oct. 3, 2012. (DOD courtesy photo)

Therefore, this is a good time for a reminder about our responsibility to properly protect classified information and maintain good “cyber hygiene.”

First and foremost, as a Department of Navy employee within the Department of Defense, while on the web on unclassified government systems (Think your computer at your workstation), you are prohibited from accessing or downloading documents that are known or suspected to contain classified information.

Leaked information remains classified until and unless declassified by proper authorities.

So, specific to the recent reports of possibly leaked classified information, remember:

  1. You should not search for this information on an unclassified information system
  2. Report any unintentional (inadvertent) viewing of potentially leaked information to your command Security officials immediately.

The official DOD memorandum that provides guidance on classified information in the public domain is available online. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper released a statement last Thursday about the unauthorized disclosures.

If you find that you have inadvertently viewed leaked information, it should not – repeat – should not immediately be treated as a spill, however. Report it to your security manager and the data/information owner will be contacted for specific handling instructions of unclassified information systems that may be exposed to possibly leaked information.

But, before getting to the point, similar to the age old wisdom of “when in doubt, salute,” –when online and in doubt, do not click! This goes not only for classified information as with the recent leaks being reported, but always for questionable links, whether in an email or on a website. Being ready requires all hands to protect classified information and observe smart practices when operating in the cyber domain.

120913-N-JG531-CTN2 Walter Cottrell

This brings us to good cyber hygiene, which is another way of saying being smart online to keep your work and family computers safe from both thieves and adversaries. Phishing scams, for example, where spoofed email contains a link to malware that can infect your computer or provide unauthorized access to private information and questionable websites could put both your family and the Nation’s security at risk.

Good cyber hygiene equals cyber security, which is every Sailor’s responsibility.

As Vice Adm. Michal S. Rogers, commander, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. Tenth Fleet, recently said in an interview with American Forces Press Service, one of the things that makes cyber different from the land, sea, air and space domains, is that it’s the only one in which every member of the organization is an operator.

“If we’ve given you access to a keyboard, you’re operating in our domain,” he added. “You can’t really say that about the air or the maritime or the subsurface. Elements of our force are operating in those domains – don’t get me wrong – but not everybody is an operator all the time.”

This reality, the admiral went on to say, “represents to us [not only] an opportunity to gain advantage, but also a potential opportunity for vulnerability for others to exploit, whether it’s intentional or unintentional.”

Adapting to this challenge and succeeding in the cyber domain means changing the mindset of everyone in the Navy who uses a keyboard, Rogers said.

It doesn’t matter, he said, “whether you’re sitting on shore duty in the middle of the United States or you are out on the USS Eisenhower in the Strait of Hormuz. You’re an operator in this domain.”

Finally, being smart online also applies to your interactions on social media. Watch these videos from the Naval Operations Security Team:

Stay tuned for any updates and to learn more about the cyber domain and cyber security. In the meantime, visit

U.S. Fleet Cyber Command serves as the Navy component command to U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Cyber Command, providing operational employment of the Navy’s cyber, network operations, information operations, cryptologic, and space forces and the Navy’s service cryptologic component commander to the National Security Agency/Central Security Service.

What advice do you have about staying safe online?


Protecting Classified Information, Cybersecurity are All Hands’ Responsibilities