This is our seventh article in our series for the new prepper. If you would like to read them in order, click here.
In our last article, we discussed some of the basic security measure a prepper (or anyone else for that matter) needs to implement to protect themselves. So lets continue on in search of OPSEC.
O.K., now I am going to address a subject that sends shivers down the spine of lots of people, causes normally rational folks to begin foaming at the mouth, and probably, in one way or another, consumes more bandwidth on the web than any other subject:
I’m going to assume that this is not the only prepper website you have ever visited so you know that the attitude of the prepper community to being on a government list runs the gamut from “So what” to ” FEMA and DHS are coming to round you up right now!”. Many preppers are afraid of any action that would put them on a government “list” Well guess what? We are all on government “lists”. Have a social security number? Ever use it to file your taxes, buy anything, open a bank account, rent an apartment? Get a credit card? Passport? Ever buy a firearm from a Federally licensed dealer? Ever join the NRA? You, Beginning Prepper, are on all kinds of “lists” They are called computer data banks. So, should you be concerned? Maybe, maybe not. First of all, are you involved in anything illegal? If you are then you need to be worried. (you also don’t need to be here, or at least don’t advertise it here). Are you a member of a Neo-Nazi hate group? Actively planning on overthrowing the government? Then you need to be worried (and again, definitely not posting here). Prepper, we live in the information age and Big Brother has snuck up on us all. And it isn’t necessarily all sinister either, for reasons we will explore below.
Like it or not, the vast majority of your life, where you live, what you buy, what you like or don’t like, who you associate with, your medical history, all of the things that make you you, are in some computer database somewhere, and if the government wants access to it they can easily get it. It’s called The Patriot Act. Take yours truly for example. Twenty years in the Army, Vietnam combat veteran, Secret clearances in the past (where they document everything about you) four years security contracting overseas, a business teaching defensive firearms training, and this blog! I’m probably on so many lists they need another list just to keep track of them! So am I worried? No. Heck, I even give you my real name on my “About” page.
What this means is that you should use common sense in your affairs so as not to draw undue attention to yourself. You know, things like not joking with the TSA agent at your local airport about the gun in your pocket and the bomb in your baggage. THAT will get you put on a list, immediately if not sooner! Probably the No Fly List. So lets explore some of the issues we all face and see where we can use some common precautions so as not to stand out like a sore thumb to the ‘Guvment” computer hackers, and other assorted villains.
Prepper groups have been going on for a long time. Sometimes the immediate instinct of a Beginning Prepper is to get online, find a local prepper group and join up. Don’t. Again, don’t. First of all, do you really want to attach yourself to a group of people you really don’t know in an endeavor as important as your and your family’s survival? I’m not against prepper groups per se, and I will be doing another article on the Lone Wolf prepper compared to the group prepper. But for now, you need to tread carefully as to who you associate with in the prepper community until you know who is who. Unfortunately some prepper groups and their leadership have their own agenda and it might not necessarily be your agenda. Take your time. Your first group should be your immediate trusted family, and then, little by little, get to know people in the prepper community.
Does the government infiltrate prepper groups? Probably. Under the current administration and DHS policies they seem to lump prepper groups and militia into the same mold. Keep in mind that fairly recently a group of armed citizens backed down armed federal agents who were trying to prevent a Nevada rancher from using land he and his family had always grazed their cattle on. I’m not making a judgement call as to whether the rancher was in the right or not, I’m just pointing out that this situation has undoubtedly caused great consternation within the powers that be. Just take your time and form your own group of trusted family and other like-minded people who you get to know and trust.
Communication Security (COMSEC)
We live in the information age, and we are the ones providing all of that information to others. We all use electronic devices such as cell phones and computers. I am not an IT expert, but you don’t have to be to take prudent safeguards when using your computer.
We do all kinds of things with computers. We send Emails, visit this blog and click the “vote for me” icon in the upper right hand corner (sorry!), surf the web, buy products online and use map programs like Google Earth. Most computer users understand that you need a good anti-virus program, but in case you are a new computer user as well as a Beginning Prepper, there are a number of good free ones you can download such as AVG. But virus’s aren’t your only online enemy. Hacker use malware to attack your computer and hopefully steal things from you like passwords to you bank accounts. A good free malware program is Malwarebytes.
Speaking of passwords, if you are like me, you have a number of accounts with log ins and passwords that you have a hard time keeping track of. A lot of folks just write them down on paper and keep them in their wallet (sure, go ahead and lose that wallet. Not only does someone now have your credit cards, they can log onto your account, take money out of the ATM with the pin you just conveniently provided, as well as hack your bank account). Some people just list them on a Word document and keep it on their desk top. Definitely NOT good. There is a free solution to the problem named KeyPass. It is a free downloadable encryption program that encodes all of your accounts including the web URL and you can organize them into categories. They even make a version for USB drives so you can encode your important document info on that flash drive you keep in your bug out bag. Using a program like this is good OPSEC and good sense.
Have you ever noticed that when you go online and open up your start page, oddly enough, there seems to be ads for items you have searched for in the past? Thats because search engines like Google track your browsing history and store information as to where on the internet you have been. Solving this problem is a bit more in depth than we have space for here, but this site has some good information.
Be careful what you post on the web, and especially on prepper blogs like this or any political blog. Use some common sense. You may dislike the current White House resident, but never, never, never, threaten or advocate violence against them or any other politician. (most blog owners moderate posts before they allow them to be seen. I certainly do). We live in a world of rampant nut cases and the “Guvment” takes threats seriously. You may be just blowing off steam and wouldn’t really hurt anyone, but they don’t know that. Social sites like LinkedIn and Facebook can be fun and useful. I use LinedIn a lot to network and to post articles from this blog on. I also have personal and company Facebook accounts. But keep your profile private and be carefull what information you post on these sites. People have been robbed for showing off new expensive items on Facebook. You may want to share that real cool Christmas picture of you and your family on Facebook. Did you notice that in the background is your really cool gun cabinet with all your shiny bullet launchers?
You Email is stored on your server (unless you are the IRS and they get constantly “lost”). But you can set you Email software to not leave a copy on the server when you download it to your computer. You are going to have to figure out your particular software program’s setting out for yourself, but it can be done. Never open an unknown Email attachment from an unknown source. That is one way hackers gain access you your computer as well as all the addresses in your address book. Email can be easily intercepted using the right technology, so if you want to send very sensitive personal or business information, you need to encrypt the message. There is a tremendous number of encryption programs available, too many to go into in this article, but a good comparison on a number of them is listed here.
Most people do not realize that they are being constantly tracked when their cell phone is on, and your local carrier is keeping records of where you have been. Your cell phone doesn’t have to be used, just turned on. It sends constant roaming pings to find cell towers and you are triangulated that way. This is an area that you might actually want to be concerned about. There have been a large number of abuses of this by certain elements of law enforcement and you need to be aware. So if you are going to be someplace that you do not want a record of, turn your phone off. You can always check your voice mail afterwards. If you want to read an interesting article of this subject, check here. It is from the ACLU ( I know, I know, but even a blind squirrel gets an acorn every now and then.)
O.K. In this and Part 1 we completed a good overview of areas you need to consider to maintain your personal security using OPSEC. No article like this can cover the subject in-depth, so, as always Beginning Prepper, you need to do some more research, especially in regards to computer security and the tremendous amount of software available. A good OPSEC reference is the Army’s AR-630-1 OPSEC which you can download in .pdf format Here. Army documents can be as dry to read as the Gobi Desert, but if you can hack through it, you can get a lot of valuable information. You can find an index of books for sale on the subject by Amazon by clicking here.
A Final Thought
I meet a lot of folks who begin prepping, get wrapped up in all the conspiracy theories and become slightly paranoid. It is obvious that we live in a dangerous world and America has been heading in the wrong direction for a long time and that eventually it will be the devil to pay one way or the other. I have even met former Liberal Muffins who have seen the light and recognize that their bankrupt philosophy is what brought us to this. (If you meet any, be kind. You cannot eliminate a lifetime of stupid thinking overnight.) But don’t get to where you see a demon on every door knob and a government agent under every bed. Just use basic common sense, practical security measures, consistent thought out prepping, and enjoy your life!
If you have followed this series this far, you now need to start thinking seriously about personal defense in a serious emergency, short term or long. So lets start considering putting a survival battery of firearms together.
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