Operational Security for Safety

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This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Operational Security (OPSEC) is a term that is frequently used in preparedness sites.  What does it mean?  The term originated in the military, and loosely means protecting critical pieces of information about yourself, so that it is not used against you.   This information can be small pieces of seemingly irrelevant information that can be grouped together and used to make conclusions about you.

Why does this matter?

We hear a lot about home invasion robberies, and wonder why the households became a target.  In many cases, the criminal notices something about the homeowner, then proceeds to follow them.  I am not blaming the victim in any way; they are usually just innocently going about their business.  One way to protect yourself is to “think like a criminal.”  The other way is to pay attention to OPSEC, and what little pieces of information you are giving away about yourself.

Here are little details to watch for:

How you dress

Wear clothes that are appropriate to your environment.  Consider what might make you stand out – expensive jewelry or watch, strong perfume, heavy makeup?  It is good to have an individual style, but be aware what you are saying to the world by the way you are dressed.  Avoid anything that says “I have a lot of money.” (Even if you really don’t, you may be perceived that way.)

What you inadvertently announce to the world

Window and bumper stickers.  Many people have window stickers on their car windows that show family members and pets.  This may seem so innocuous, but a thief casing them out will now find out how many people live at home; dogs, if any, and start figuring out their schedule based on kids’ ages.  If you think about it, how hard would it be to figure out that the kids have to be dropped off to school before 7:30? From this they can figure out when people are not likely to be home.  If you have stickers showing sports activities, then can figure out what months your family would most likely be out and about watching games and such based on the season.  If you really like making a statement via stickers, just be aware what you are announcing to everyone.

Social media  I have a cousin who announces every little thing she does on Facebook, such as what she had for dinner, where she is going for the weekend, etc.  I worry she is revealing too much about her activities online.  Even if you are not being watched by thieves, do you really want work colleagues, potential employers or creditors knowing the bars and restaurants you frequent, or even what you had for dinner?

Other online activities  Do you check your personal email at work, or visit various personal interest websites?  If yes, your employer likely knows your activities.  I once had a conversation with one of our IT guys and he let on that it was easy enough to tell what sites anyone in the company visits at any time.

Your front yard

What do you have on display on your front yard?  Are your blinds and windows wide open so anyone can see into your house and possessions?  Naturally, people will take notice, and you may get unwanted attention.  Do you have stickers in your windows or yard signs that give away your child’s school name?  Some signs are helpful, such as “Beware of dog” or alarm company signs warning casual observers that you do have some protection.

Do you leave your garage door open?

A lot of my neighbors leave their garage door open and you can see what junk they have lying around.  That may be harmless in itself, but you can also tell right away when they are home and when they leave.  I can also tell who is going on a weekend trip or a vacation, as you see them loading their cars with camping gear.  It may be fine if your trusted neighbors know you’re leaving for the weekend, but you can’t keep track of everyone they may talk to.  A co-worker of mine had her laptop and jewelry stolen – when she looked at the security camera records, the thief turned out to be teenage friends of one of the neighbor kids.

What does your trash say about you?

You can tell what people in your neighborhood have purchased during trash day:  large boxes that once contained a big screen TV, computer or even a shipment of dehydrated food are all signs about what you have and others don’t.  Tear up all boxes before trash day and pack them up in the recycling bin so your trash looks uninteresting like everyone else.  Shred all documents with identifying information before tossing them in the trash bin.

The old saying “The devil is in the details.”  applies here:  these small, seemingly inconsequential details all create an image of your and your habits.   Don’t make it easy for thieves or anyone with ill-intent to figure it out.

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