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There is quite a bit of disagreement among preppers relative to the importance of OPSEC. Do you keep your activities hush hush, even amongst family members? Or do you blab to the world, hoping you can be joined by others who share similar philosophies and goal? Or is it something in-between?
In layman’s terms Operations Security or OPSEC means keeping your activities secret so “enemies” can not figure out what you are up to. Remember the old military term “loose lips, sink ships”? Something like that.
Whether or not you publicize your prepping activities is a matter of personal preference and most certainly, we are all entitled to formulate a mindset that works best for our own situation. For many, it is a tough call. Seriously. Who wants zombies (thugs and marauders) to come knocking their door if the stuff hits the fan?
I recently came across a thought-provoking article on the topic of prepper OPSEC. As I usually do when I find something especially interesting, I contact that author and ask permission to share his or her work with readers at Backdoor Survival.
Today it gives me pleasure to share an article by Jeremy Knauff at the How To Survive It website. Read it, think about it, and come to your own conclusions.
Why OPSEC is BS
There’s a lot of talk within the prepper community about OPSEC and how it’s critical to your survival.
I think this is largely a matter of semantics.
Some believe that OPSEC means keeping all aspects of your prepper lifestyle a secret. I disagree; in fact, I believe we should all make a focused effort to educate more people about the lifestyle. OPSEC does have its place though; for example I don’t think it’s wise to tell someone where your food is stored, what weapons you own, or how to get to your bug out location, for example.
In my opinion, we should bring more people into the fold, teach them as much as we can, but only limit the sharing of information that could be detrimental to our own preps to a select few trusted individuals. A good analogy would be your finances; you might share information on what you invest in or even how much you have saved, but you would never share your account numbers or login information.
OPSEC, as most people “understand” it, is bullshit.
Your “secrets” aren’t even remotely secret to begin with
Many preppers have this cute notion that by carefully choosing who they share details of their lifestyle with, they are somehow living in the shadows like some sort of black ops ninja. Guess what, sport, you’re not. Even if we don’t take into account the NSA (and every other TLA in America) monitoring your phone calls, emails, and internet usage, you still deal with regular companies who have a shocking amount of data about you. And many of them are selling that data directly to the government anyway.
Every purchase you make is recorded by the merchant and your credit card company. That info is often shared with dozens of other companies and is easily accessed by several thousand employees.
You didn’t tell anyone you’re a prepper? Great, but when the UPS guy throws out his back hauling a few cases of .308 to you’re door, he’ll quickly figure out that you’re not a casual plinker. The same goes for buying surplus food. Just a few days ago I had 35 pounds of dried beans in my cart while grocery shopping, and in less than 15 minutes, was asked by several strangers why I needed so many beans.
Have you ever noticed how ads on websites, even those unrelated to prepping, so often appeal to you? That’s because the companies that serve these ads have special software that determines your interests based on your web browsing history. And your mobile phone is even worse because its built-in GPS relays data back to your provider on everywhere you’ve gone to within a few feet.
You don’t have an encrypted phone, fake passports, or a safe house. You, sir, are not Mitch Rapp. (If it makes you feel any better, neither am I.)
Before I develop carpal tunnel syndrome from deleting all the hate mail this is bound to generate, I should clarify something; I’m not saying you should post all the details of your prepping on Facebook or anything like that. What I’m saying is that your “secrets” really aren’t all that secret and that you shouldn’t develop a false sense of security.
You can’t survive a long-term disaster alone
You are just one major injury or illness away from becoming incapacitated. It’s great to be Mr. Survivorman (or Mrs. Survivorwoman) who can light a fire in a Typhoon by simply rubbing two sticks together, hunt bear with a sling shot, and build an armored personnel carrier out of empty Dinty Moore stew cans, but what happens when you break your arm or get food poisoning?
The “lone wolf” survival strategy is a myth. You need to be able to depend not only on your immediate family, but also your neighbors. It’s relatively simple to ride out a short-term disaster on your own, but a long-term disaster will require your local community to come together. No one person has the skills to do everything, and some things can’t physically be done without a large number of people.
This means you’ll need to educate your neighbors and learn to work together. It’s kind of tough to do that if you’ve never talked to them about becoming prepared ahead of time. It’s a too late to start teaching survival and prepping skills when the hurricane is already knocking down telephone poles.
You need to show others that they don’t need to rely on the government
Self-reliance requires a lot of individual effort, but to reach our full potential, we need for others to become self-reliant as well. When you show people that instead of food stamps and other government assistance programs, they can grow their own food and/or raise small livestock like chickens or rabbits, it does two things:
1. It shows people that they really can take care of themselves. Aside from the obvious benefits of producing additional food that isn’t loaded with pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics, this also helps to instill general confidence.
2. It incrementally takes the power back from the government and returns it to the people where it belongs.
You can talk about self-reliance until you’re blue in the face, but until people see tangible results first hand, they aren’t likely to change what they’re doing.
Privacy disappears during a grid-down scenario
Without Facebook, The Real Housewives, or XBox to keep them occupied, people will have a lot of free time on their hands after a disaster, which often leads to wandering the neighborhood. Some may be harmless sightseers or concerned neighbors, but there will undoubtedly be a few bored or angry folks looking to vandalize or loot. Unfortunately, this could include your home.
A quick peek over your fence and all the effort you put into keeping your garden, livestock, and rainwater collection systems hush-hush will disappear.
There aren’t going to be “roving hoards” to hide from
OK, I know this is a subject that a lot of people in the prepper community get giddy about, like a 14-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert, but, spoiler alert—there’s a 99% chance that you will never encounter these mythical “roving hoards” who are supposedly coming Mad Max-style to get your goodies. Unless you live in some third world shit hole like Detroit, and even then, probably not.
It’s a simple matter of human nature.
Gangs are territorial by nature. They will stick to the areas they know, maybe even expand their territory by a few blocks, but they aren’t going to go on a road trip to steal your mac and cheese. There are plenty of people in their own neighborhoods they can victimize. If you happen to live in an area with heavy gang activity, you’re pretty much screwed.
People will conserve resources in a time of need; that means they aren’t going to waste valuable gas, food, and water, wandering around hoping to find someone who might have a stockpile of whatever it is they need or want.
Risk vs. reward rules the world. As long as they aren’t high on bath salts, most people are not going to risk getting killed by an unknown opponent with unknown firepower for an unknown payout, especially when they already know who is weak or unarmed in their own neighborhood.
Transparency can be a deterrence
You don’t have to strut around your front yard with an AR-15 on a patrol sling while mowing the lawn to make it clear that you are not a soft target. Simply inviting your neighbors to the range from time to time will show them that you’re equipped and trained to defend yourself and your family.
You don’t have to brag about your skills, what weapons, or how much ammunition you own, and most people won’t even give it a second thought until a disaster strikes, but rest assured that when it does, those subtle trips to the range will serve as a reminder that your home is not a safe target for them.
The Final Word
You are probably wondering where I stand on the issue of OPSEC. I will answer the best way I can which is to say that for me, spreading the message of preparedness if more important than maintaining a high level of secrecy. That said, as much as I reveal about myself, where I live, and my various preps, there are pieces of information I hold close and I have hidden caches that no one knows about.
This is a tough issue. I would like to thank Jeremy for sharing with us and invite you to visit his website or Facebook page where you will find many other well-written and interesting articles.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: Couple being a good neighbor and with strong primary defenses and you have a winning combination. Here are some items to consider as you build up your fortress.
Dorcy LED Wireless Motion Sensor Flood Lite: This light is awesome. I use mine downstairs as well as on my stairway and when I get up in the middle of the night, they come on automatically. They are quite unobtrusive and give off a ton of light. Runs for a year on 3 D size batteries.
BaoFeng UV-5R Dual-Band Ham Radio: The Baofeng UV-5R is a compact hand held transceiver providing 4 watts in the frequency range of 136-174 MHz and 400-480 MHz. It is a compact, economical HT that includes a special VHF receive band from 65 – 108 MHz which includes the regular FM broadcast band. Dual watch and dual reception is supported.
Tecsun PL-660 Portable AM/FM/LW/Air Shortwave Radio: This is a world band receiver with a comprehensive frequency coverage including AM/FM, longwave, shortwave, single side band and the aviation band. As add-ons, George suggests the Kaito AN-200 Tunable Passive AM Antenna and the Sangean ANT-60 Short Wave Antenna.
Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart: This is a really good book from Joe Nobody – a book you should read if you care about defending your homestead.
Two-Way Radios and Scanners For Dummies: I will say it again. Yes, I love these books for “dummies” even though I actually think I am quite smart.
Midland 36-Mile 50-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radios: These are the handheld radios that I own. There are lots of good uses for the these radios. Handy while hiking, traveling, or simply keeping in touch with your partner while out shopping. They are waterproof – a quality that I feel is important. Plus, in addition to using the included rechargeable batteries, they can use regular AAs in a pinch. Note: the true range for this type of radio is actually 4 to 6 miles, regardless of brand. Don’t be fooled.
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33 Responses to “Is Prepper OPSEC Really Important?”
I am an OPSEC professional. I teach classes all the time. When we talk about OPSEC it is Operations Security not Operational Security. If anyone tries to tell you they are the same thing run, for thay do NOT know what OPSEC is.
Have enjoyed these blog posts and comments. I have been the victim of identity theft in the past. Lately, a rash of stolen checks from our mailbox (locked mailbox is a solution) was followed by credit cards arriving from other victims (NYC, LA,Boston, Philly). Dozens of victims info going to several victims on my block. Why? How? We (me and the police) could never figure out the scam, but I was holding $20K on three cards from a stranger in Boston. Walmart is the biggest offender since they rarely check ID. I could have racked up some cash buying gift cards, ammo, etc… Instead, I locate the victim in less time than it takes to go pop a bag of popcorn. Same with the other victims via Facebook and Google. A frightening reality. I pursue it with the police. They dutifully take the info down but told me in their jurisdiction identity theft is not a crime unless a fraud is actually committed. The USPS was contacted since the thieves used online change of address forms to forward the mail after ordering the CC’s. They said it was rampant. None cared or were too overwhelmed and helpless. I don’t know which national account got hacked, but at dinner with friends a few days later, every one had been the victim of some ID theft in recent months. My local small town bank at least attempted to narrow it down. A few restaraunts were likely culprits with employees swiping the numbers. My brothers copied (or replaced) Sears card was in the hand of a thief in Pennsylvania. Would love to see thoughts about how to unplug yourself financially. Me… an account at different banks. One for drafting bills. Another for ebay/Paypal. C.D’s and cash for my emergency fund. Safety Deposit Box. Old school passbook works as long as it is off the banks online system. Some bank employees were clueless since they didn’t have passbook or even physical CD’s anymore.
Wow. I suppose I should not be shocked but that is the reality of today’s society. Years ago we had our credit card information stolen at what turned out to be a local gas station. This was in an urban area. There were only a dozen or so charges made, and the credit card company took care of them. The local police did get involved but I doubt that they caught the thieves.
Great idea for a topic. So noted.
If those of you who feel confident enough to tell the whole world about your preps, go ahead. Talking on-line is one thing. And has it’s own dangers-hackers. But they are really interested in the big money-movie stars, wealthy businessmen, companies. It’s a lot easier to make an electronic invasion and syphon money away than it is to literally go from town to town kicking in doors for what ever. BUT how you run your mouth around your neighbors and co-workers and total strangers is quite another. OPSEC occurs in the military for a purpose: “need to know”. And 99.99999% of the people any of us are acquainted with or friends with do NOT NEED TO KNOW. Yes, the many gov’t agencies and credit bureaus can track our non-cash purchases. When I spend $200 to $400 at Costco for food storage, they know who I am by my membership card. Still, the need to know basis applies to as any parts of society as you deem necessary, and are able to control. Just a matter of risk reduction, the same way an insurance company evaluates your application and driving history, etc. Tom B. above has it quite well structured, although we do not share any information about these matters with them, other than mildly suggest that it might not hurt to build a small and slowly growing stockpile of water and food. We use the Great Floods of 1993 and 2008 in Iowa to remind or inform them of how quickly stores were cleaned out of everything, and how difficult it was to get around Des Moines. We are at confluence of the 2 major rivers of Iowa, and consequently have a lot of bridges, almost all of which were closed due to flooding. That helps them at least give a little more thought, if they are inclined, to dong even just some little thing to be ready for something that might keep them homebound. We get blizzards and ground blizzards that make motorized traffic deadly foolish, if not impossible. From this coming Sunday night to Monday afternoon the NWS is projecting: “…brutally cold conditions with wind chills -30 to -50 F….and ….ground blizzards which will make traveling extremely dangerous if not impossible.” And it could go longer too. The NWS has the best equipment and most highly trained meteorologists in the world, but this oncoming weather is really up to God, and I cannot read His mind. Yet I can take precautions, and that’s the best and most I can do. In closing, I ask you to think about the NE US and the terrific pounding it has taken since Sandy. That should be in your short term memory banks, and help you make better-for you- decisions about OPSEC.
Semper Fi Semper Vigilans
Most of us will be forced into uneasy alliances. Too many people hear “group” and picture a commune.
It might be worthwhile separating OPSEC into two categories: What the government and big business knows, and what the neighbors, friends, and acquaintances know.
It is probable that no person in the government knows anything about any of us. If they want to though, the data is in the computer banks. They can correlate where our cell phones have been the last five years with where anyone else’s has been. They can access metadata from all of our phone calls and emails (and I suspect they do have the contents as well. Just because they deny it doesn’t make it so) They can read all of our comments to news stories and blogs. They can access all our Amazon order data.
However, unless we are suspected of actively working to overthrow the government, they have little reason to look at that info.
Neighbors, friends, acquaintances: We cannot expect them to help themselves if we do not discuss the possibility with them. I have discussed hurricane preparedness with a small number of people, and seem to have influenced one to store some water. Another upgraded his water filtration gear. I don’t know about the rest.
Since there are several swimming pools in our area, we do plan on providing water filtration services for neighbors if the municipal water supply gets knocked out, most likely because the power grid it relies on gets knocked out. We can’t supply food, so we don’t worry about what we cannot do.
We are natural disaster preppers, not TEOTWAWKI preppers, because we just don’t think TEOTWAWKI is survivable on Oahu, at least not by us, and because the probability seems too low to worry us much. That automatically makes us less threatening/’weird’ to others, because we can talk about the utterly unarguable reality of hurricanes and other disasters.
So, we keep it low key, we prep so we can help the neighbors, at least with water, and don’t make a big deal of it. If people respond positively to a comment, we can follow up. If not, we let it drop.
I openly recruit fellow preppers to work together, myself included. It is no secret that I am a preppers and encourage others to do the same. I have however, had the words said to me “I know where I am going when the SHTF!”. My response to them is always the same, if you come to my house, what are you going to contribute? They give me a funny look and either say “what do you mean?” Or “why should I contribute if you already have everything?”. My response to the first comment is “if you are wanting to share what I have, I will want to share what you have equally. If you have nothing, then you will get nothing.” My response to the second comment is; “I am not here to take care of you or your family, I am here to take care of mine, you show up on my property, you will find that I am very, very protective of keeping what I have for my family. You should start prepping for yourself and your family, because you won’t be welcome with mine.” I have said this and it hurt some feelings, but that is ok, I dont invite them to Christmas dinner anyway. In summary, I feel it is important to come together with other similar minded people. And those that want to let others do the prep and swoop in and just take, are clearly told that they are not welcome and should make some effort for themselves. I do agree that the details of individual preps should not be discussed. But sharing your knowledge and learning from others is a smart way to prep further. Rambling response but it is just an opinion of one.
“need to know basis only!”
OH HOW RIGHT YOU ARE!!! Unless you entrust the keys to your house to them, keep those flapping lips sealed shut. People don’t need to know what you’re doing or what you have. It takes time to develop life and death trust. And that is what this is about. NO roving gangs? Go tell the cops in Chicago that. I lived there 7 long years. They go where they want and when. “Territory” is meaningless when you have transportation. It’s all your territory if you are well armed, as are they. When I go hunting or shooting I take the firearms to the car trunk after dark, and leave them in a locked garage. We have hung cheap blue tarps in the basement to close the view to our food reserves. We don’t talk to anybody about our prepping. The TV show makes it seem insane, and I think some of them may be a little off but that’s ok. What’s not ok is having your entire program displayed on worldwide TV for all to see. Why bother. OPSEC is the most important thing. I worked at Finkel Foundry in Chicago on Armitage at the Chicago River. Back in the depths of the north side complex, was an old blue sign on a power pole: “Loose Lips Sink Ships”. From WW2, I could see. And that goes for now too. Some people who describe themselves as “liberal’s and good people” may just decide may just call the FBI or Homeland Security to tell them about “the nut down the street who has too many guns and too much ammunition and a lot of food and water”, as did actually happen in New York State in the last 50 days. Generally. we are our own worst enemies on this subject. After you’ve known people for several years, then bring the subject up obliquely as in ” by the way, what do you think about….? Yes, we all know the US and State governmental agencies have way too much information about us, and that retailers and MC and VISA and all the rest most likely report what they think is odd about your purchasing patterns, and that is inescapable, unless you drive up with a load of cash and sign no receipts and even then the security cameras will probably get you. Paranoia cam be fun, so lay back and learn to enjoy it. And if by then you don’t know what your neighbors do for a living, and where, I guess it goes that those who can’t talk about their work are not to be trusted, because the probability is that they are part of some brown or black agency that keeps quiet about itself, and has a public information officer who makes the official statements, if they ever decide it’s necessary. By the way, ketchup that was bottled in ’06 doesn’t taste good– probably the light getting through the clear plastic does something nasty to it.
It seems that the discussion here shouldn’t be “either – or”… “right or wrong”… or “share or don’t share”. The course of action that would be the safest all-around-choice would be doing both.
It seems a no-brainer to share the great information provided in BackDoorSurvival with anyone and everyone that you possibly can. The more of our neighbors and others in our towns and cities that are aware of the choices that they personally can make for their survival AHEAD of time… reduces the less there will be of otherwise good people who have become desparate… doing desparate things for the survival of their loved-ones and themselves.
As for sharing your PERSONAL survival preparations with others AHEAD of time… good ‘ol common sense and serious discretion would seem best.
I know one thing for certain… that I wouldn’t feel very secure for very long… if I was the only one prepared for survival while all the others are desparately combing the countryside for means of survival AFTER the need has presented itself. Ugh!