Reverse OPSEC: Intel Gathering For Survival

OPSEC is just an acronym for Operational Security, a fancy way of saying keep your secrets. We all know that there are things to keep to yourself for your own protection. We have all heard it before; don’t share your most personal information. But one man’s privacy is another man’s Intel. How does one walk the line between keeping your own secrets while simultaneously trying to learn about other people? Have you ever wondered how to be the person who gathers the intel? Let’s start with an example situation where you have two choices, either you can be the investigator or the investigated:

Why we practice OPSEC

A word of caution, there are people out there who try to gain information from you for less than honorable purposes. Some people are natural con artists. Unfortunately I’ve seen this in action when some self purported free meeting in the park “survival expert” would lure unwitting families to hear various discussions on preparing for doomsday. Aside from plenty of questionable knowledge there was a more nefarious angle. This person was able to convince others that in an “eat or be eaten” world, they should already know who in their area had resources such as food storage, equipment, fruit trees or even who may be elderly. Why all this “intel gathering”? Because the so called expert framed it as a preparedness plan, if you know where the resources are, there’s no need to store your own because you can rely on other people’s hard work (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it).  But there’s more to this story than meets the eye, as the “expert” was not only encouraging people to steal, he was actually mapping out how to get the resources for himself! The moral of this story is that OPSEC remains a priority when planning for your post-SHTF life.

Which Side Of The Conversation Are You On?

Let’s say you’ve found yourself talking survival with someone and all of a sudden, as conversations often do, you are far from where you started. In that moment youhave this sudden panic. “Did I share something I shouldn’t have? How well do you know this person with all the slick questions? Is this an innocent chat or is this person possibly a threat at some point in the future?”

Situational awareness is not just for dark parking lots, it is for everything all the time. History is riddled with examples of people being lulled into a false sense of security only to have that confidence betrayed later. Now that you’ve put the tin foil on and you’re hiding in your home vowing never to speak to anyone ever again, let me reassure you that not everyone is out to steal your secrets. At some point in the future your survival may depend on information trusted to someone else.

Information as Currency

Imagine yourself trying to navigate a hostile-ridden existence, trying to navigate a long bug-out with the family through unfamiliar territory. You’ve heard rumors of criminal activity in the area and hints that there may be a route of safe passage that is safely guarded. Think of something like an underground railroad. In this instance, it’s going to be very important to try and gain as much information about the area as possible. While food and gear are the “usual” barter items, If you have knowledge of value this is where you will want to start playing some cards.

If you as the new, unknown people just start asking all kinds of questions you may not be trusted with any information or worse, you may attract some very unwanted attention. To fly low under the radar but seem trustworthy in such a skeptical environment you’ll want to seem nonthreatening. The gray man approach is a good start but you want to come off as easy to talk to. In this case your currency may be information. While you may not be able to talk your way into something tangible such as food or gear, you may be able to loosen the lips of someone else just enough to learn the lay of the land.

The Moral Of The Story

While you are going about your everyday survival it pays to keep your ears and eyes very open to information and opportunity because at some point you may have nothing else, but you might know something that will keep you alive. This is also the time to start practicing situational awareness with  your family, making sure that they understand that  learning  about their environment could be the deciding factor for future survival.

Stay alert preppers!


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