How to be a Prepper: OPSEC for Preppers Part 5:
Piecing together OPSEC Indicators
You need to learn how to be a prepper who thinks about not only what you’re doing but how other people see what you’re doing. The need to hide some things is obvious, such as the combination to your safe. Some things, however, are not so obvious. Some military and government agents are trained how to piece together things. As we learned in the last section- OPSEC for Preppers (5) – What Does the Enemy Want to Know? – these things are the OPSEC indicators I mentioned before. Sometimes an indicator in itself isn’t all that important. Putting together an event, person, or thing together as a pattern of events or along with other events, people or actions can also be an indictor. What can they find out that they could use to piece it together?
An OPSEC indicator has five major characteristics:
A Signature is basically what causes something to stand out. If the signature is out-of-the-ordinary and happens frequently, it’s more easily identified that it’s something important. If it keeps happening, especially in a certain pattern, it’s more easily predicted and collectors and analysts can either learn more about it when they want to or they can start piecing that action along with other items that happen at the same frequency or at the same location. Changing the locations and the times of different actions reduces their signature. That’s why you should vary your routes when you go back to your bug-out or bug-in location.
An Association is how one indicator is related to another. This is a key item for analysts because it can give away a lot. Let’s say for example that you leave your house to the North every day and are back usually in about an hour but on certain days you head South and are gone every day. This could be because maybe you go for coffee every day to the North but on certain days you drop off the kids to the babysitter while you go to your job.
After watching this pattern for a while, if they see you head South on a certain day, they wouldn’t have to follow you that day because most likely, you’ll be at your office, where surveillance can pick you up again. Varying your pattern of directions in this case would make it much more difficult to piece together your pattern of life and predict your actions.
A Profile is the sum of several signatures. The more unique and indicator is, the easier it is to associate it into a profile. If you’re in a SHTF scenario and you’re heading for water, watch what you do, when you do it, what you bring and what you wear. Sometimes people can put things together that you might believe are unrelated. If you knew that when a person went to the South from their house that they were going to work that day, and if you also knew that if they dressed up that day that they were meeting the person that they were dating, you could, perhaps, piece together that the person that they were dating may either show up at their work or maybe they’ll be meeting during lunch.
Also, if you’re at a bug-out location and you always check your traps when you go for water, you give away that you’re going to be at your traps later in the day if you leave your place with a water bucket; they don’t need to see you bring out anything trap-related because you’ve associated the two patterns together by not varying them. Watch what things you’re doing lead up to other things you’re doing. A profile is the sum of multiple signatures. In other words, when multiple signatures are detected, the combination therein would be more or less unique to a particular mission or task.
For instance, if signatures are detected that indicate that aircraft fueling capacities are in place, as well as air traffic control, personnel and weaponry, a profile can be compiled indicating future air-based operations. If a unique profile is observed, an analyst may be able to accurately determine which type of operation is in progress, minimizing the need for additional observation and analysis.
A Contrast is a difference in behavior or pattern that has been established. This one is a key one because people don’t usually plan this in as part of their OPSEC Measures. If you do the same thing day after day, it’s expected that you’ll continue doing it. If they are watching you and know that something’s happened, such as in the case of a trader that you know might come into the area recently from out of town, they don’t have to have an established pattern of seeing you meet the person. By you varying your route the very next day after that person arrives, they might conclude that you’re going to meet that person and could set up an ambush for them to take their supplies. The more your indicator contrasts with normal operations, and the more the profile of your indicators changes, the more likely it is that this contrast is associated with something else.
Exposure is how long and how frequent an indicator is seen. If you do something for hours, it’s likely to be noticed. Also, if you do things every day, even for just a few minutes, it’s likely to be noticed. The more exposure an indicator has, the easier it is to tie it to a pattern, put it into a profile, and associate it with other indicators. If you need to do something on a regular basis, change how you do it, where you do it, and when you do it.
People in desperate times can be masters at putting together clues. If you walked up to a house and saw a plastic rattle in the yard and smelled dirty diapers coming from the trash, what would you think? Obviously the house most likely has a baby in it. Does it matter that someone knows that you have diapers in the house? Not directly unless they desperately need some for their own baby but putting this together with other clues leads them to the conclusion that you might have other things that they want. What do people who have babies typically have with them? A girl or a woman to protect them and care for them? Medicine? Baby food?
Remember, you’re adversary doesn’t have to actually know what you have in order to be a threat, he just has to think you do and think that it’s worth whatever trouble he assumes he’ll face in order to take it. You have to get into the mind of your adversary, think about what they can see, smell, hear and find out about, and then try to figure out what they would piece together. Ever had your car broken into because you had an empty wallet or purse sitting in it? It’s not about what you have, it’s about what they think you have; and what they want. You have to consider things from the viewpoint of the dragon, not your own.