This our sixth article in our series for beginning preppers. To start from the first, begin here.
OPSEC=Operations Security. This military term has been broadly used to describe keeping other people, typically adversaries or potential adversaries from gaining information that could harm you.
As this series of articles is addressed to those who are in the beginning stages of emergency preparation activities (Preppers) it is going to be an overview of those areas you need to be concerned with, and in reality, applies to anyone whether prepper or not. For the beginning prepper who has followed our series you should now be cognizant of the threats you feel are most likely and that you should prepare for, as well as have a 72hr emergency Bug Out Bag (BOB) for each member of you family. But too many beginning preppers think in terms of SHTF or TEOTWAWKI scenarios. The reality is that you have to prepare yourself as well for the ongoing daily realities. Read my article on Surviving the Active Shooter.
OPSEC is one of the hotly debated issues in the prepper community with extremes on both ends. There are those who believe you should live a Secret Squirrel lifestyle hiding everything possible from both your neighbors and the “Government” and those who feel you should let the whole world know you are preparing for everything from a temporary power outage all the way to ‘Doomsday” in the hopes of convincing them to prep also. As in most situations like this, your reality lies somewhere in between.
However, for right now beginning prepper, I recommend that you keep your prepping activities a closely held secret between you and your immediate family. In other words, those who need to know. As you become familiar with many of the concepts here, you will begin to develop your own plan, based on a logical evaluation of your personal situation, as to whom you will confide in. But just keeping quiet about your activities is only part of the equation. And there are a large number of areas (information) about your life you need to protect and control from potential adversaries. So who are these potential adversaries? They range from the petty thief and house burglar in relatively good times all the way up to starving neighbors in a total infrastructure collapse situation. And anybody in between who would like to take what you own be it your bank account electronically or your food at the point of a gun.
So how much Operations Security do you need? It is going to be a balance between your assessment of the risks against practicality. You need to understand a basic concept: There is no such thing as perfect security. I do security professionally and have one of the highest non-IT security certifications you can get, the ASIS Physical Security Professional Certification. I had a client once ask me how I was going to provide her organization 100% security. I told her that I could not guarantee 100% but only 99.9% percent and it would kill her business. I could get to 99.9% with no workplace violence, active shooters, or petty theft but her clients might be put off by the armed guards carrying AK assault rifles and barking guard dogs on a leash at every entrance and exit, and if that didn’t do it, the total strip search going in and leaving certainly would. I just couldn’t guarantee that an airplane wouldn’t fall out of the sky on her establishment so therefore only 99.9%. Do you see the point? Security has to be in balance. Much about OPSEC has to do with awareness and I recommend you read this article about it here. Survival is about stacking the odds in your favor as much as possible, then playing the hand you are dealt. But there are certain critical areas that you need to be aware of to practice proper balanced OPSEC. so lets take a look at them.
What You Say.
This should be a no-brainier but it is the weakest area in most people’s OPSEC. Keep in mind that associates are not friends, and sometimes neither are friends. Does the person you are talking to really need to know about your preparation activities? And if so, what about the people around you within hearing range? For example, if you are siting in your local tavern having a beer with your shooting buddy Joe and talking about how accurate your new .300 Magnum is, that may be O.K. because your buddy Joe has been out shooting with you and knows you are a gun owner. But how about the guy sitting a couple stools down? Well, now he knows you are a gun owner. And he may have just gotten out of jail for burglary. Once again, be aware of who is around you and what they might be hearing.
Be careful with your children. Do your little ones really need to see and know all about your prepping supplies? You are going to have to insure your teenagers take this seriously and do not discus it with friends. Whether to talk about your activities with other close relatives should be considered carefully. Do you really want your drunk Uncle Harry who never had two nickles to rub together because he spends it all at the liquor store to know you have a year’s supply of food in your cellar during and extended grid outage? Think carefully about who you want to let into your prepper inner circle.
Another issue is alcohol. Do you like to party a lot? Many of us have said things we regretted while under the influence. It’s something to think about. If you can’t keep sensitive information under wraps after having a few, consider joining George Thorogood and Drink Alone.
How You Look
Americans are some of the most “fashion” conscious people in the world, (next to the French) and love to make fashion statements during activities. I love going to gun shows, and it never ceases to amaze me at the number of people there wearing military camouflage. Now, do you think those people actually dress like that all of the time? Probably not. And they sort of blend in with all the other folks “dressing for the occasion” at the gun show. But what about the neighbors? If they see you go to work every day in work clothes or business attire, and then stroll out to your vehicle some Saturday morning looking like a Rambo rerun, what does that tell them? And especially when you come home carrying those long cardboard boxes under you arm? “Guns”, “Prepper” “Militia’?
Many people cannot afford a dedicated bug out vehicle and some can. Many people will invest in a super-duper maxed out HUMMER with all the bolt on gadgets they can think of because they feel that if SHTF they need all of that. Look, I live in an area where 4WD is common and few people look twice at them. But what if you live in an urban community where they are not common? Your bug out vehicle should be able to get you to your pre-determined (hopefully) bug out location through whatever route you need to take. But insure it fits in to a large degree with your local area. Bumper stickers are almost an American hobby. I daily see bumper stickers that say “Obama ………” “Cold Dead Fingers” “Vote Billy Bob” not to mention NRA stickers and family stick figure decals. So what does that tell the world ( and people cruising your neighborhood for a mark) about you? Your politics, your family size and you are a gun owner.
Paper and Trash
I had a friend once who was a private investigator tell me he could read my entire life just by going through my trash. He was right. Get yourself an inexpensive shredder (Wall Mart) and get into the habit of shredding all of your mail or any personal papers you throw away. Especially your bills. Identity thieves are out there and yes, they do dig through people’s trash if they have you identified as a mark. It is also helpful to go paperless and have your statements sent to you electronically. There are issues there too, but I will cover them in a second article.
Significant Other Ex’s
Unfortunately most divorces and even non-marriage breakups end up badly. There is not much you can do if you have been married ten years, it goes South and your “Ex” has a bad attitude and tells the world that you are a right-wing extremest gun-toting Tea Party card-carrying Militia joining nut case with a swastika tattooed on your butt and that’s why she (he) left you to begin with. Relocating to another living location might be high on your list. If you are single and just dating, consider keeping your significant other in the dark about your prepping activities until the bond is solid. And you don’t need to be showing your overnight “guests” all of your goodies. Suppression of ego is the mark of the survivor.
This is a pretty complicated subject that I am going to break into two parts. In Part 2 I am going to discuss electronic and communication security, the “Govment” and any lingering issues I forgot here.
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O.K. If you have absorbed this, lets continu on with Part 2