What is operational security (OPSEC) anyway? In the preppers world, operational security may not be something you think about, but it’s a significant part of who you are and may save you and your loved one’s life. We hear in the news often about people, usually in the government, causing breaches of security. The past national election cycle demonstrated this problem throughout the government; Hillary offering one of the best examples of what may be considered as “Optional Security over Operational Security”. If you’re still scratching your head and thinking about whether you need to practice good OPSEC, I’ll help you out here. The answer is YES, you as a prepper, family member, or just as a normal person need to practice good OPSEC.
We have recently moved houses in Dubai and a worker broke the elevator (yes, we have an elevator in our home, its Dubai, duh). As the guy was removing the broken parts, he required a payment. The amount he asked for was more than I had on me. I was sitting in the kitchen and gave my wife the money, as she’s the designated PR person when it comes to dealing with third country nationals. My jaw tightened as I heard her ask this guy (a contractor) who was in my house, if it’s okay to give him half of the agreed upon amount and the rest when he completes the project due to the problem I had that morning getting into the cash in our safe. My jaw dropped and I communicated the mistake to my lovely and beautiful wife that she was not required to be overly honest with someone, especially considering a stranger in our home, who now knows we have a safe with money in it. Luckily, our security system includes three German Shepherds, a Golden Retriever, and bad ass Chihuahua.; all whom roam freely about the house and property, so no one gets any ideas…
The story of my wife offering more information than was necessary happens to everyone but needs to be addressed. Things we do, our trash, things we order, and movements in our daily activities make up a part of openly providing others with personal information about us. This is not the desired OPSEC we’re seeking. It may not seem that big of a deal, but in an emergency, the FedEx guy will remember who he just delivered three months of food too. That friend you boastfully showed off your storage room bragged to his friends (even strangers) about how prepared you are for an emergency. I’m not saying you have a spy in your family or within your close friend group, but once you provide information, you lose control where it goes and to whom who it goes. Here are some ideas to provide better OPSEC in your home and within your family.
Operational security starts with situational awareness. This means knowing your environment and how to manage your life within that environment. Consider someone is always observing you, even though they’re not…hopefully. Consider everything you do and how you prepare for your vision of an emergency. Communicate with your family members the importance of OPSEC and just what that means to them, especially children. It goes without saying, children are naturally curious and love to brag about cool things. I think it’s important to build the team, and that includes the children. Just as a military unit operates, the troops don’t know all the secrets, nor do they need to. Keep this in mind and share only what needs to be shared. Situational awareness includes understanding your vulnerabilities and even recognizing your weaknesses within the team. Below are some bullet points I try to practice. I am lucky that all my kids are out of the home so I only need to count on my wife; however, we know she may have a way of over-sharing (love you, Honey).
You must consider all scenarios you may encounter, emergency from natural disasters, manmade acts, crime, and a world without law. This is the worst case and when your use of great OPSEC will prove its worth. Staying off the radar of people looking for help increases your chances of survival. The less people who know your business, the better you and your loved ones are. This does not mean you must live a hermit’s life, just be smart and practice good OPSEC. No one needs to know your business. OPSEC combines many areas: actual communication security, information security, trash security, etc. When you buy a new 72-inch high definition TV, you don’t want to leave the box outside on the curb for everyone to see what you have in your house. You should shred, burn, or destroy items that provide information about your business. Keep garages closed, consider burning items if your neighborhood allows this, if not shred and destroy sensitive information.
Remember, just like anything, information can be used against you. Think about how people gossip and use information they hear from others to spread or use that information for adverse actions. Hopefully it’s just hurt feelings that result, but in a doom’s day situation it can mean much, much more and put you and your loved ones at risk. Also consider how big your group is, there’s much to be said for surrounding yourself with like-minded people with certain skills that can assist the group or community in a bad situation. However, you need to be cautious with who knows what. I love the saying “Trust, but verify”, so feel free to use this process when meeting new people or bringing outsiders into your group.
Also, another reason to practice good OPSEC is neighbors. "Good fences make for good neighbors" has loads of meaning here. Keep your business away from their eyes and ears. You could run into a host of problems with a nosey neighbor. Maybe they’re scared you’re a terrorist as they see weapons or ammo deliveries and they call the police. This is unwanted attention on you and your family. I’m telling you this so you can be careful. Again, you don’t need to live in fear! Everyone is not out to get you, but be smart. Analyze your threats and assess your vulnerabilities often.
► When shipping important and sensitive logistical needs (bullets, training gear, guns and food) I try not have it delivered to my home. I want to avoid the delivery guy or gal that knows everything that is coming to my home. Consider options of other ways to ship items to you.
► Keeping survival items (extra food, water, fuel, and other necessities) out of view from visitors, including contractors (plumbers, repairmen, etc.) who have access in your home.
► Consider secret off-site cache points (if possible, even on public land) and strongly restrict knowledge of these areas to anyone (this is where you keep information away from kids)
► Limit who knows your skill sets and do not brag about carrying a weapon or attending a prepper conference to just anyone.
► Keep any health issues inside the family; you don’t need to alert others to any weakness you may have.
► Watch your social media postings and even your groups and links.
► Don’t talk or post about vacation plans, attending training, or making certain purchases that connect to your mindset. Understand that not everyone gets you, understands your preparedness, or even sees a need for this.
► Remember, we have great friends and hopefully great neighbors. That being said, we don’t necessarily want them coming to us for help in that SHTF moment, so the less they know the better you are.
These are just a few ideas I suggest using. Everyone’s personal and living situation is unique and calls for different practice. It’s much easier to live rurally and keep things away from others over living in a tight, “block party” type of urban neighborhood. It may be hard, but with practice you can manage better in either situation. Think about what it will be like when the lights go out and no one is prepared in your area except you. Are you prepared to not have the neighborhood coming to you for help?
Stay alert, stay alive…