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The Fine Art of OPSEC

May 10, 2017 0 comments

In combat, reconnaissance is said to be king; find the enemy and don't let him find you. This provides the raw fuel for surprise attacks and ambushes. Knowing where the enemy is, what they are doing and how ready they are to attack is invaluable information for planners. With it, they can usually come up with a way to defeat their enemies; without it, they often become victims of those same enemies they wanted to attack.

As a nation, we've invested a fortune in the ability to find the enemy and see what they are doing. Huge agencies in our government are tasked with the responsibility of spying on other countries, especially those who are either enemies or look to be potential enemies. Reconnaissance platforms, like the SR-1 Blackbird and the various models of drones have all been developed with this in mind. While many of these platforms can be armed, their main purpose is to fly unarmed, bringing back information, rather than make any direct attack themselves.

Hand in hand with reconnaissance is the need to deny the enemy information. All the while that you are trying to find out about their disposition, they're trying to find out about yours. At times, it's a race to see who can develop the necessary information first. Other times, it's a race to use information, before it can become outdated.

All of the branches of the military use a considerable amount of OPSEC (operational security) to keep other nations from finding out about their capability. This isn't just in times of war either, but in times of peace. Information gathered in peacetime can often be transferred to wartime, so it's best to just not let anyone with the potential of becoming an enemy know anything.

At times, the manners that the military maintains their OPSEC are simple enough that a child can do them. But at other times they are quite sophisticated. Perhaps one of the most is the augmenters that are installed in our nuclear submarine fleet. These product noise, consistent with that which a submarine would make, but many times louder than our submarines actually produce. That way, they are not operating at their wartime footing. In this manner, our friends and enemies alike are kept in the dark about how hard it is to detect our submarines.

As preppers, we too have enemies. But ours are much more numerous. They consist of all those people out there, who haven't bothered preparing. When the time comes and they are desperate for food and water, those enemies will come out of the woodwork, seeking what they can find. If it's up to them, that means finding all the food and other supplies that you and I have worked so hard to accumulate.

Our job then, is to make sure that people don't know what we have, what we're doing with it, or why we're even bothering. In fact, it's best if our neighbors don't know a thing about us, at least as far as our prepping goes. While that may be impossible, we need to do whatever we can to make it happen.

Communications Security

Operational security all begins with communications security. One of the premier ways that our government finds out about enemy plans, capabilities and intentions is by listening in on their communications. Few people bother to lie to themselves in their internal communications, making those some of the best sources of information, if you can access them.

Of course, the U.S. government has the NSA for just that purpose. They actually don't exist for the purpose of spying on American citizens, but rather spying on our country's enemies. Sadly, the war on terror and what Obama's administration has made of it, has changed their focus towards our own citizens, rather than our enemies.

But the concept still holds for our purposes. The number one source of information that people may have about us and our prepping efforts, may very well be what we say about ourselves. If we go around talking about the survival equipment we have, the food stockpile we're building and how many gallons of water we have, then people are going to take note. They might think we're a bit crazy, but that will cause them to take note as well.

Then there's social media. If there is any one place where we don't want to put any information about our prepping efforts, it's on social media. Not only will all our friends and acquaintances then know what we're doing, but also a whole host of people we don't even know. Some of those people might be ones of low moral character, who would use that information for nefarious purposes.

Of course, when the time comes, it's amazing how many people will remember the things we have said about ourselves. They will remember us as people who are prepared, taking seemingly inconsequential bits of information and putting them together to arrive at those conclusions.

The only way to prevent that from happening, is to make sure that we don't tell people what we are doing. That poses a bit of a problem for us. On one hand, we need to talk to people, so that we can find other like-minded people to covert to the prepping way and/or band together with. On the other hand, we need to keep quiet about what we are doing.

There is no right answer to that dilemma. The only thing you can do is to be extremely careful about who you share that information with. Before talking to someone about prepping, think carefully about who you are talking to, with the idea of making sure that they are not the type to misuse that information or share it with others who will.

Of course, if your survival plans include bugging out to a prepared survival retreat, then you don't need to be quite as careful about what you say, assuming you keep the location of that retreat secret. But if you are planning on sheltering in place, you will want to be extremely careful.

That also means making sure that your children don't talk about what you are doing. Children, especially small children, are notorious for telling secrets, especially big secrets. They just haven't developed the ability for being deceptive that will anger their parents in the teen years. So, you are probably going to have hide the truth from your own kids, rather than trust in their discretion.

Using Misinformation to Your Advantage

Since there are times when you have to say something about your activities, develop a cover story for them. In other words, come up with an otherwise totally plausible reason for what you are doing. Then, when you have to say something, let it be about that other reason.

This works with your kids as well. If you limit your discussions about why you are doing things in their presence, then they won't have the ability to give up your secrets. Of course, you have to be very careful about this, as you will find that your children might very well be listening at times when you don't expect them to be.

You'll have treat your own children as spies for some imaginary enemy. While it might seem a bit like you are a conspirator in a movie, look around before talking; specifically look to see where your children are and whether or not they can hear you.

Your neighbors will be naturally curious about anything unusual they see going on at your home. Whether they see you drilling a well or putting in a vegetable garden, they will want to know about it. So, you'll need to be ready to tell them. But you won't want to tell them the truth. Instead, you'll want to tell them something else that will make sense from their perspective.

Take the garden, for example. That's a good starting point. There are a lot of people around who have vegetable gardens, so you adding one to your backyard shouldn't seem like anything all that wild. All you have to do, is talk about it like any other gardener. If you want to say something more, talk about how you don't trust GMO produce. That will give you a plausible excuse for growing your own produce, which won't do more than have them think you're a little bit nuts.

Your garden can then become cover for other things you do. That 250 gallon water tank you want to put in, that's for your garden. Tell the neighbors you mix liquid fertilizers in it, so that they go into the garden, right with the water. Take advantage of a water shortage as an excuse to put in a well, because you don't want your garden to die. Oh, and the shed you build outside is for your gardening tools, regardless of what you keep there.

Stories like these are believable, simply because other people who are not preppers do them too. So, what you're actually doing is playing upon your neighbors' preconceived ideas. When you confirm what they were already thinking, it makes them feel like they were smart for figuring it out.

What about your solar power and wind turbine? Those are easy to explain away as part of your battle against high energy costs. You can throw in a little song and dance about green energy while you're at it. Maybe you're putting them in so that you'll have power in an emergency, but there are others who put them in just to save money. All you're doing is piggybacking on something that is a growing trend.

Taking Camouflage to New Heights

The art of camouflage was actually invented by the Russians. The idea, in general, is to make something blend in with the surroundings. During the Cold War, they perfected this art, putting ICBM silos under industrial facilities. This made it extremely hard for the CIA and other interested parties to find them.

Today when we talk about camouflage, we usually think about clothing that is printed to look like parts of a tree. That's great if you're trying to hide in the woods, but not if you're trying to hide things in your home or backyard. Even if you have a bunch of trees, hiding your prepping supplies by wrapping them in camouflage fabric isn't going to do much more than raise curiosity.

That's not to say that you can't camouflage them though. The trick, like what the Soviets did, is to make your prepping equipment and supplies look like something else; preferably something that is easy to        explain.

One of my favorite examples of this is water. Most of us have trouble stockpiling enough water to last us through an emergency. That's because we're trying to store that water in gallon jugs and 55 gallon drums. But those aren't very efficient means of storing that water.

I've already mentioned my 250 gallon water tank; actually I have two of them, but one is where the neighbors can't see it. But I've got something even better than that; a swimming pool. An above-ground swimming pool really isn't all that expensive an addition to your home, and depending on the size, it could easily hold a couple of thousand gallons of water; hiding it in plain sight.

Not only does the swimming pool hide that water, but everyone will expect you to keep the water clean. So, when you're out there checking the ph level and adding chlorine to the water, it will seem perfectly normal to them. They just don't need to know that you're keeping that water clean to use in an emergency.

Many other things can be camouflaged as well. Your bug out vehicle doesn't need to look like a bug out vehicle. Lots of people have pickup trucks, without using them as bug out vehicles. So have your four-wheel-drive truck, just don't paint "Getting Out of Dodge" on the side, or for that matter, don't put accessories on the outside which look like they are saying the same thing.

Camouflaged Gardening

You can actually do this with gardening, hiding your survival garden in your backyard, without people realizing what it is. This takes a little time and planning, but it is possible.

The first thing is to pick plants which aren't going to obviously tell people what you're doing. Most of us, even those who have never seen a farm, can identify a corn stalk. So, avoid the corn. Instead, plant things that people aren't going to recognize. Asparagus is nutritious and doesn't look like something you're growing for food. For that matter, blueberry bushes don't look much like a food source either.

Planting your vegetable garden in nice neat rows is a dead giveaway; but planting the same plants randomly in a planter around the edge of your yard just looks like you like flowers. To finish off the effect, intersperse flowering plants between the edible ones.

You can even grow beans and other climbing vine plants on your fence, while making your neighbors think they are just flowers. Simply intersperse your beans with flowering vines. It will just look like you've planted a variety of vines along the fence. Nobody will expect that some of those vines are actually giving you something to eat.

How about planters? Put some dwarf fruit trees or tomato plants in planters sitting around your deck or patio. Few people will look closely enough at them to realize what they are. Of course, when they have fruit it will be obvious, but only when they have fruit.

Don't forget about gardening indoors either. Many people have potted plants inside their homes, either hanging in pots or sitting on tables and countertops. Okay, so yours just happen to be dwarf fruit trees, strawberries growing in hanging pots and a watermelon plant that is growing around the perimeter of the room, behind and under the furniture.

Camouflage Your Defenses

You can take this idea a step further by camouflaging your home's defenses. When you put in a new steel door for your entryway, make sure that it has a nice glass window. But make sure that the window has a nice wrought-iron decorative grating over it; perhaps something that looks like a vine, instead of bars. It will provide security to the door, without showing what it is.

For that matter, the same idea can be incorporated into burglar bars for your windows. I've got a tower in the corner of my living room, with five windows in it; a very vulnerable part of my home. While I haven't started building it yet, I've got plans for making a "sculpture" of a vine that will cover those windows, acting as burglar bars. To add to the effect, the main stalk of the vine will actually cross form one window to the next, tying the all together.

Another way you can hide your security measures is to use a hedge in front of your home, rather than a fence. I've got a four foot tall, three foot thick hedge of bugambilia plants around my front yard. We've taken the branches from the individual bushes and intertwined them, so that nobody can just push through. They either have to cut down the plant (not easy and very time-consuming), go over it (also not easy) or go through the gate (easy).

Of course, if they come through the gate, I can see them through my office window; so there won't be any surprises... except to them, that is. If anyone comes through the gate with mischief on their mind, all I have to do is step out of my office onto the balcony, with my shotgun. That will discourage all bu tthe most adventurous all by itself.

Hiding Things in Your Home

Just because something is in your home, doesn't mean that nobody will ever see it. We all have friends and family who come to visit from time to time. You don't want them to see stacks of canned goods lining your walls. That would be a sure giveaway as to what you are doing.

This can be a problem in smaller homes or homes that don't have a basement. Even so, you have to find ways of hiding your stockpile, as well as any special survival equipment that you have. There's just too much of a risk of someone else remembering something they see, for you to leave it sitting out in plain sight. At the minimum, drape a blanket over it to hide it.

The average home has countless hiding places in it, if you just look. A few unusual hiding places for your stockpile, which I've run across include:

  • Inside walls
  • Above the basement ceiling
  • Inside false ductwork in the attic
  • Inside false drain pipes in the basement
  • Behind the toe kick under kitchen cabinets
  • Behind the soffit above kitchen cabinets
  • Buried in five-gallon buckets in the backyard
  • In hidden rooms
  • Inside hidden parts of furniture

Many of these ideas require extra work to accomplish. You actually have to construct the place where the food will be hidden. But they are worth the effort, as they help you keep others from knowing what you have and where it is hidden. Ultimately, they add to your family's security.

Make sure that as you unload your car or truck, bringing in a supply of food or other supplies for your stockpile, that you do it without attracting attention. If you are buying it a little bit at a time at the grocery store, this is easy, as you bring it in with the rest of the groceries. But if you buy large quantities of something, such as 100 pound bags of rice, you'll need to be extra-careful. If possible, bring the vehicle into the garage and unload it there, with the door closed. That will keep the contents from being seen.

OPSEC During a Disaster

The most difficult time to keep your OPSEC going will be in the aftermath of a disaster. Everyone will be looking for the basic necessities for survival and any sign you give that you are better off than everyone else will be seen as an invitation for attack.

So, the trick will be to look like everyone else and act like everyone else. More than anything, that will mean losing weight when everyone else is losing weight. If everyone is short of rations and your family looks fat and happy (literally), it's going to be a sure sign that you've got food, when nobody else does. So, you're going to have to bite the bullet and stop biting the food so much.

This has practical value as well, as you're going to need to reduce your food intake anyway, just to make your stockpile last as long as possible. Running through your food rapidly, because you're trying to eat like normal, isn't a good survival plan.

The second big sign that you'll have to watch out for is your trash. A large amount of the trash we generate is food related; packages for one thing we eat or another. You are probably repackaging your prepping supplies in a way that will reduce your overall trash, so that will help. But you want to be careful about how you dispose of the rest of it. More than anything, you want to burn the evidence, rather than dispose of it in any other way.

Leftover food can be fed to your chickens, dogs and any other animals you have. That eliminates it as a source of trash for people to be curious about. But be careful about how you do that. You don't want your neighbors to see you feeding table scraps to your dog, when they are going hungry. That would seem like an extremely cruel stroke of fate to them, and might cause an adverse reaction.

If people's homes start looking run down, with trash piling up on the curb, you'll want to let yours start looking run down as well. This won't be the time to be mowing your lawn or planting flowers. Most people won't have that capability and to waste whatever gasoline you have on something so trivial would truly be a waste.

Night time will be a time when you need to be especially careful. You'll need blackout curtains for all your windows, to keep people from realizing that you have enough electricity to run your lights. Light can be seen from a long way away at night, so any light peeking through your curtains will draw a lot of attention.

Just like light, noise can be a problem, and can usually be heard at a much greater distance than in the daytime. Some people have mentioned the idea of using recorded movies for entertainment. There's nothing wrong with that; you just don't want others to hear it. So, make sure that the volume is set in such a way that the sound doesn't escape your home and attract the attention of others. They may want to know where there share is.

It is possible to keep everything you are doing a secret; although it is not easy. However, the more you can keep secret, the better. You don't want uninvited visitors during the crisis and you certainly don't want an armed gang showing up at your door. Keeping things a secret is the price you have to pay, in order to have that security.

Dave Steen

About The Author: Dave is a 58 year old survivalist; father of three; with over 40 years of survival experience. He started young, learning survival the hard way, in the school of hard knocks. Now, after years of study, he's gray-haired and slightly overweight. That hasn't dimmed his interest in survival though. If anything, Dave has a greater commitment to survival than ever, so that he can protect his family. Click Here To Read More About Dave


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