Loose Lips Sink Ships—OPSEC and Privacy

What is OPSEC? And why is it important?

OPSEC is short for “operations security.” In short order, it means to keep your mouth shut. OPSEC is the importance of protecting critical information that could be used against you. It is a phrase developed during the Vietnam War by the United States military.

Preppers and survivalists use the term to remind each other to keep you and your family’s security and safety in mind. It’s a way you protect yourself from those who want to steal from you or do you harm. During a SHTF scenario, people are going to want what you have, that’s why you don’t talk about or reveal what you have stockpiled.

Why have you prepped? To provide for the whole town? Just for your family? Close friends? Neighbors? Friends and family of friends? Friends and family of neighbors? The guy at the corner store and his family?

See where I’m going with this?

Blabbing and boasting about what you have to anybody and everyone means you’ve just made yourself a target. It’s the Zombie Apocalypse and everyone knows you have water, food and ammo. Do you think they will ask nicely for you to share? People are going to get weird during SHTF. Believe me, it’s best to just keep it a secret between your most loved and trusted ones.

Alien doomsday painting

Are people you know ready? One of the first rules of prepping is OPSEC.

Though, I do believe it takes a village—I do not subscribe to the lone wolf philosophy—not everyone will be as willing to support others and will only be looking out for themselves.

Bad OPSEC: Telling people you have a large storage of gas.

Good OPSEC: Keeping your storage and preps hidden from view.

If you live like the average American, it’s nearly impossible to escape your information and activities being tracked and recorded. Your TV watching habits, your internet activity, your credit card purchases, your text messages…even your grocery store follows you if you swipe a store card. I try not to be an alarmist, but I never want to give our government an excuse to come sniffing around. Be smart and cautious about what info you allow to be publicly available. Do I care that my grocery store sends me coupons on my most regularly purchased items? No! That’s actually pretty cool. But do I want to be on some radar due to the amount and frequency of ammo purchases? No. Of course, I don’t. And you don’t either.

Here’s how to keep yourself and your personal information as private and secure as possible.

Keeping Your Personal Data Private

Most of us leave digital breadcrumbs everywhere we go every day and Big Data knows more than you think. Recently, Cambridge Analytica claimed it collected psychological data on 87 million Americans, information they gathered from Facebook profiles and activities. I’m not sure what “psychological data” means exactly, but I really don’t want a computer to determine and predict my behavior and choices. And no, if your account is set to private, you still aren’t safe. The more we integrate artificial intelligence (A.I.) into our lives, the more information we’re freely giving.

You don’t necessarily need to #DeleteFacebook but you DO need to protect your privacy while using the social network:

Don’t allow apps to share your data. To disable apps, go to Facebook-Settings-App Page. There you can delete any apps you no longer want to collect your information. To remove or disable them all: Apps-Website and Plugins-Edit.

Social Media Best Practices

  • Do not check in places or post that you are out of town—and yes, that includes vacation. I know your desire to share is high, but you can post all the cool, fun pictures after you return home.
  • Set your privacy settings to the highest level. Never accept friend requests from people you don’t know. Periodically check for changes in the platform’s privacy policy. They do change, and they don’t necessarily alert you.
  • Set unique and complex passwords for every site you log in to.
  • Don’t put any personal identifying information in your profile or on posts like your birthday, education, or interests. Reveal very little about your life.

Other Safeguards

  • Shred all mail.
  • Open a P.O. Box and have your Amazon Prime deliveries and other packages sent there.
  • Enable Private Browsing when surfing the internet. This is a setting you’ll find on every major web browser. Or do it anonymously by using a web proxy, Virtual Private Network (VPN) or Tor. These will hide your IP address while you are on the internet.
  • Pay for things—especially prepping supplies—in cash.

Smartphone Use

There are nearly one million cell phone towers and microsites that your phone when turned on, pings about every seven seconds sending information of your phone’s location within 50 feet. Lock your phone, use the password and fingerprint protection. Don’t keep, save or search anything on your phone you don’t want other people to see or know about.

As long as you keep a smartphone and use the internet, your data—at least some of it—is going to be collected. Just be smart about it.

A shelf of canned goods

Use standard shelving to hide preps in plain sight.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Cameras are everywhere these days, so keep things hidden as much as possible. The last roof contractor I had made his estimate using a drone. What could he see? Nothing but hail damage, some patio furniture and a barbeque grill, because I keep the important things hidden. Keep your preps in places wandering eyes can’t see—under the bed in totes, in boxes in closets covered in clothes, in the garage or in the basement on shelves disguised as extra pantry storage. This method is especially useful if you jar or can yourself.

Don’t draw attention. Have good cover stories for large projects—rainwater troughs because your conserving water and need to take care of your garden as eco-conscience as possible. You’re having solar installed because your tired of paying the electric company oodles of money and want to reduce your carbon footprint… wink wink. Most projects come with a good excuse.

Keep silent about your preps, your weapons and your bug-out location. Keep all information and plans on a need-to-know basis only. If you must share or want to educate others about the importance of prepping, talk about your natural disaster emergency kit. It is easy for me to bring it up to others because of the severe storms and tornados we experience in North Texas. It benefits us all to have everyone on their own ready for a disaster.

Protecting your privacy doesn’t mean you won’t help your neighbor, it just means you’re putting preventions in place to avoid a possibly dangerous situation if people get desperate.

How are you keeping your preparations private? Share your tips and tricks in the comment section.

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