Letter Re: Operational Security (OPSEC) 101

Dear Mr. Rawles,

The importance of operational security is well known by most of the readers of this site. It is, however, easy to assume that as long as one doesn’t blab it all to the neighbors one is doing just fine. This may not be the case. Security breaches come in more forms that loose lips. There are lots of little ways to betray what is going on behind the quiet facade of 101 Preparation Place.

Do you realize what you throw away tells about what you have? An old lawnmower at the curb reveals my neighbor just purchased a new one. A cardboard box with Stuff on the outside tells the world that a new Stuff Is Inside. This is just the beginning of what our trash says. If you are buying toilet paper by the case, how long before the nosy neighbor across the street begins to wonder why you need a case of tp a week? Nothing may come of it, but with the prevailing attitude that everything out of the ordinary is a possible terrorist plot, do you really want to get a visit from the people in blue? What will you say when they want to know why you are buying all those 50 lbs. bags of rice? Or all that ammo?

By the way, what does the hard drive on that old computer resting on your curb say that might be of interest to thieves? Or cops? What about that box of old discs? This is why they make matches. They are cheap until you run out. So are paper shredders.

What does your car say? That is a really great bumper sticker, but what does it say to those who don’t want to vote for Dud? Is it wise to advertise that you have a gun you will give up when they take it from your dead hand? What is gained here? Have you ever been persuaded by a bumper sticker, yard sign, a tee shirt? You have a right to express your opinion, but what are you giving up?

Is the outside of your house advertising for a visit from the code inspector? Is it time to get rid of that junk car that last year you said would be gone by the first of the month? Does your house stand out as better or worse than the rest of the houses on the block? Paint is cheap. Buy some; use it. Blending in is great camouflage. The retired guy down the street who spends every other day on the riding lawn mower will drop the dime on you, so keep the lawn mowed. Bureaucrats are always looking for something to do and people to do it to.

What does the meter reader see? Two cans of tuna on a basement shelf is nothing odd. Two hundred cans of tuna is a curious thing. That gun safe says, “Guns are here; rob somewhere else.” It also says, “I know where we can get some guns.”

When you are stopped for some traffic violation, what does the back seat of your car say to the cop? The empties may say that it is time to test your breath. Move them to the trunk before you leave home. What will his computer say when he runs your license? Fix this now. Every contact you have with the system makes you more prominent. What will you say when the cop questions you about what you have in that box on the back seat or what is in your trunk?

Contraband, anyone? This is all risk and no reward. It is hard to prepare to survive when you are doing time. What will the gun shop owner say when he finds out about that felony?

What is in your garage? You know what the neighbors have. The cars in their driveways told you they have lots of stuff. Leaving the doors open allowed you to take a quick inventory.

Have you taken the time to update your profile on your favorite social web site? Did you take the test to determine what kind of space alien you are? These sites are being mined by the powers that be. While this information may seem innocuous, each little bit builds a profile. It lasts forever, even after you delete it. This information will not be used to help you.

What do your kids say? You cannot long keep secret disaster preparation from family members. Why should you? They are part of the preparation. It is a matter of unintentional leaks. You children will say things to their friends. They can be pumped for information by school teachers. (This assumes that you have not yet removed them from the government’s stupid factories.) During the Green class time little Johnny may decide to assure the teacher that his family does not worry because “we have a generator and lots of food and guns too.” This may be remembered during crunch time. The phone book will reveal your address. When you get an unlisted number, make sure it is the kind that is not available from directory assistance because the grid may not go down when you need it to. It is Murphy’s Law.

What does the mail man know? He will connect your mail with your address. He has been doing the same route for so long that he has it all memorized. A Post Office Box is cheap, even in another town, where it becomes another layer of insulation between your house and your mail.

The census is coming. What will you say? We are assured that all information is confidential. I also know that this is a government promise.

Your bank records are a great source of information. Money orders are cheap, effective security when they are bought from a bank you don’t use. What is the amount of money that triggers a cash transaction report?

I hope this gets you thinking about ways to prevent security leaks. Security is neither cheap nor convenient, but it is essential. – Randy W.

JWR Adds:A recent e-mail from SurvivalBlog reader Todd S. also noted: “Here is a link with some info about Facebook. Anyone serious about OPSEC should never have a Facebook [or similar social networking] account.”