Operational Security at Home: Think like the wolf

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- It's been said that a person's home is their castle. And just like the castles we visit all over Germany, there was always an adversary that would seek to breach their defenses.

The same can be said of your home. Sometimes, the adversary, which may be a thief, a former spouse, or any other potential threat, may target a particular home or person for a reason, such as knowledge of certain possessions or a personal motive. But most often, the adversary is seeking a target of opportunity -- a "soft" target with little risk and a high potential reward.

'Think like the Wolf in your own Den'

Regardless of the threat or motivations of the adversary, Operations Security, or OPSEC, is one of the many security tools available to increase the level of safety and security within a home or community. Raising the "degree of difficulty" required for an adversary to accomplish their nefarious goals forces them to move on to another, "softer" area or community. This is why certain neighborhoods are considered to be safer than others -- the neighbors apply a basic form of OPSEC, often without realizing that they're doing so.

OPSEC was, at one time, strictly a military methodology in order to identify unclassified or publicly available information that could be used to determine classified missions or critical information. For example, an increase in deliveries and troop training may give advance information as to an upcoming deployment. The same concepts hold true at home or in the community, although the motives and nature of critical information may change.

However, by putting together the "pieces of the puzzle," an adversary may obtain information that one had not intended.

Nearly everything a person does leaves some sort of a trace or is a part of some sort of a pattern. The criminal element is especially skilled at picking up on these patterns that we may not even realize exist. Consider most Spangdahlem Airmen's daily routine:

Wake up at 6 am.
Shower, eat breakfast (maybe!), get your items together and out the door by 7 am.
Take the same route to work in the morning, arriving to the gate between 7:15 and 7:20 am.
Work all day and shut it down around 4:45 pm.
Take the same route home and arrive home around 5 pm.
In bed by 11pm, and rinse and repeat the next day...


That, in and of itself, is a relatively harmless routine. But it's a pattern none the less. And if observed, the time that your house is unattended is known, as is your route to and from work. A thief, if he were to target your home, would know when was an opportune time to break in, and which route to watch for your return.

Could that be avoided? Perhaps not.

Maybe your schedule is tight, and a certain route is by far the most efficient. You may not always be able to alter your routine in order to make detection more difficult, but this simple example demonstrates how easy the determination of potentially critical information may be.

The key to using OPSEC to protect one's home or community is to look at the area in the eyes of an adversary. This is referred to as "thinking like the wolf."

When looking at one's neighborhood, it quickly becomes clear which homes represent a more tempting target, which itself can invite the presence of crime into a community. As temporary visitors to a foreign country, your home can be more inviting for even more reasons.

Here are some tips to strengthen your family's OPSEC practices at home:

- Know your neighborhood. Be aware of things out of the ordinary.
- Alternate your route to work, if possible.
- Remove or limit decals from your vehicle that advertise where you are from or information about your family (i.e. Sport team logos, family stick figures, etc.)
- If you are going on vacation, ask a friend to check in on your house.
- Avoiding "tagging" or "checking in" on social media. Criminals can see Facebook, too!
- Limit your social media pages to "friends" only.
- Invest in a shredder and destroy personally identifiable information at home.

It is a sad but undeniable fact that crimes do occur, and that criminals will use every available tool at their disposal to accomplish their goal.

By taking the first step and considering one's life and surroundings from the eyes of an adversary, a home, and even the surrounding community, will be more like a castle, and less like a criminal's yard sale.

If you would like more information on OPSEC practices for yourself and your family, please see your unit OPSEC coordinator or contact the Wing OPSEC Program Manager, Master Sgt. Terri Trujillo at 452-2484.

Enjoy Europe and THINK OPSEC!

EDITOR'S NOTE: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial -Share alike 3.0 Unported License. The original version can be found at: http://www.opsecprofessionals.org/articles/opsecathome.html