Why OPSEC is Bullshit

November 21, 2013 by | 12 Comments

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.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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12 Comments

  • Howard says:

    Good post, opsec may work with the public, but not with the government. Personally I work with a lot of people to help them prepare.

  • kimmaccarron says:

    Fabulous post! This is now my favorite.

    It made me laugh and think–even at the same time. 🙂

    I think it’s important to casually mention to people issues affecting our country or just to say that it’s recommended for every American to be able to provide for themselves for a “couple weeks” in case of a disaster. Once people start thinking about those two weeks, they start thinking in terms of a month. And then a year. That’s what happened to me.

    I don’t want to keep people in the dark. That’s where I was. Let’s bring others into a state of awareness. Just in a smart way.

    Thanks for a great, positive (and funny) post.

  • BadAmerican says:

    A “fresh view” article.

    Well written.

    Well played.

    p.s. when I read your last name, it makes me want to say “bless you”, lol.

    …be safe….stay the course….BA.

  • Maddmac says:

    I was one of those hyper paranoid types for a long time, scolding my grown up kids every time they would joke with a new boyfriend/girlfriend about their dad being a prepper. Until I realized I was already on the government radar because of the websites I visit and companies I ordered from. My neighbors and friends I know I garden big and can everything and we have chickens, too. They’ve made comments about our trying to be self sufficient so I’m sure its crossed their minds about what we do. But like you said, I never share detailed info on what we have, how much we have or where we have it. I do share how we grow it, build it or reuse it. So, I agree that its hard to stay completely under everyones radar

  • Great post. OPSEC is about security, not secrecy. If people know you prepare, you haven’t made a breach of security. If you tell them sensitive information, that is breaking OPSEC. It is important to involve others and teach them, but, like you said, they don’t need to know how to get to you bugout location or the combination to your gun safe. If it allows people to breach your security then you have breached OPSEC. In the military, it’s okay if people know you’re a soldier, but you wouldn’t tell them which village in Afghanistan you’re going to at what time and the route to it.

  • dave says:

    I’m not sure when – I think about 15 years ago – but DARA developed the ability to grab every credit card transaction made as it was being done. And everything you buy by check is also recorded by the feds too when the check clears. What’s worse, is these purchases give them the ability to go to your transaction record with the vendor and get the SKU of every item you bought. So basically, anything you bought with plastic or a check is a matter of record – going back at least to when Bush was first in office.

    Which means, there is some slight increase in privacy to buy some things by cash. Things you don’t necessarily want recorded – range time, ammo, firearms, certain gear, MREs – you know, those things that label you as a “prepper”. Remember, it is standard cop procedure now to send an entire swat team and bust in your door if they know you own even one gun, any time they decide they want to talk with you. If your purchases label you as a prepper, you’re already identified by the feds as a terrorist threat, so they will send the SWAT team.

  • Dart says:

    I agree! Thanks for the well written article!

  • Vicki Barber says:

    Wow great post!! This is how I live my life. I want friends family and like minded folks to share ideas for all our benefit.
    Thank you for also bringing in the humor.
    It made a tough subject easy to absorb!!

  • Debbie says:

    I once took advantage of a great sale on large packages of toilet paper, paper towels and napkins. I had three of each in my cart and was approached by two different women wanting to know why I had bought so much of each and what did I know that they did not. I just told them that when you call your mother and daughter and tell them you are going to go pick up sale items, they always say grab one of each for me. People are watching what you purchase and how much. People are becoming less shy about asking what is going on. Watch your back at the stores!

    • Jeremy Knauff says:

      That’s a good idea. I had thought about telling people I was buying food for the poor, but just chose to change the subject instead.

  • D. Griggs Terry says:

    I’ve been buying in bulk for decades now. Coming from a large family, people are just used to me buying large. I’m also known for gifting dinners in a jar, seasoning blends, homemade instant chocolate mix etc. So although I am aware of ‘being watched,’ it’s not out of my norm. I’ve been doing the “be prepared” since I first learn it in scouts. I tell people I first learned it from Moses or was that Joseph’s interpretation to the Pharaoh? 😉 As to other things, anyone hear of bartering?

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