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As we accumulate supplies and acquire skills, the issue of security becomes a more important one. While we strive to share our ideas, knowledge and skills with people outside our survival teams and our networking group, some things aren't meant to be shared. What information can be shared and what needs to be kept close to the vest? What do you do when a person in or close to your group becomes a security risk? How do you prevent such a situation from occurring in the first place? How do you continue to relate with outsiders and avoid paranoia?

Not everyone will be involved in a group outside of your family. Keep in mind that, while your neighbors know your name, address, and phone number, there is no need for them to know what supplies you have. People who failed to prepare and have extra food etc. will be at your doorstep if they know that you've put away enough supplies to survive a disaster or emergency of any type. Unless you have enough for the whole neighborhood, keep your preparedness level to yourself!

What constitutes secure information?

  • Real names, addresses and phone numbers

  • You don't have to give out your real name the first time you meet someone, and you should never give your real name to people you've just met on the Internet. Discerning acquaintances will understand your need for privacy and won't push the issue; if they do, turn tail and head in the opposite direction. Online it truly is a case of "loving you for your mind"!

    The same goes double for your phone number and triple for your home address. If you need to play musical mail with outsiders, rent a Post Office box - we do! Until you know people well enough to trust your family members' lives with them, there's no need for them to know where your family is. There is nothing wrong with neutral meeting places, for months if necessary, until you form the basis of a trusting relationship.

  • Extent of food, gear, firearms stockpiles
  • Unless you have a perverse desire to open yourself up to murder, mayhem, and the loss of all your worldly possessions, keep your business to yourself! No one needs to see your food stores, all of your emergency supplies, and your firearm collection regardless of how proud of yourself you might be for having the foresight to accumulate them. Close team members will undoubtedly find out over the course of time that you are well prepared (they're counting on you to be!) but it's not a fact that requires advertising. As long as you show up for target practice with a sufficient amount of ammo for the afternoon, the fact that you have 10 cases of .308's sitting in the garage shouldn't be aired in public.

    It's hard to live without having faith in your fellow man; however, hungry people are dangerous people. Don't place temptation in the path of someone who may show up on your doorstep in the event of a disaster. Poor planning on their part is no excuse - and lack of discretion is no excuse on your part!

  • Emergency communication details including names, pass phrases, radio frequencies and code words
  • This is a top-priority security area! In the event of a communications outage, your group will be using emergency communications you've arranged in advance. You may be using CB's, Ham radios, SW, field phones or smoke signals - but whatever plans you've made, keep the details within the group of people who need to know. Setting up emergency commo is a tedious and often expensive proposition - don't let your investment go down the tubes because you've given an outsider the ability to cut you off from your team members. This includes sharing pass phrases, specific frequencies prearranged for emergency commo, accompanying code words, and any special ID you've established for such commo. Your radio tech should be a person with a great deal of insight into need-to-know issues.

  • ORP's, Escape and Extraction plans
  • Another area that requires a great deal of planning and preparation is the establishment of rally points. These common meeting areas are absolute necessities - and so is their security. It doesn't do any good to have a secure meeting place if a security risk type has the coordinates (that you gave him/her). Again, you may have good reason to be proud of your planning and foresight, but don't negate your genius through lack of common sense. ORP's are established for security reasons during unusual emergency conditions and you don't want to defeat their purpose.

    You may have an extraction plan in place to get team members out of a tight spot - how you plan to do this should be a matter of high security also. There are intricate arrangements involved in this area - and the slightest glitch can mean disaster. Don't risk the lives of your team members.

Security Risks - Preventing/Eliminating

  • Security risks can develop in the best of teams - people change and it's not always for the better. That person you thought you knew so well can turn out to be more than merely annoying - a penchant for digging into personal business can be downright dangerous if the information uncovered is of a sensitive nature. Beware the person who asks questions that tickle your early warning system funny bone - disassociate yourself from a person who even casually looks through your personal effects, be those papers on your desk or your directory structure (if they happen to be using your computer). Time is the key to forming trust - and there is no substitute for time. It's easier to keep people out of the loop than to remove them from that loop.

  • With that in mind, membership in your group should be granted incrementally. If you're willing to reveal everything in the beginning, you've tipped your hand unnecessarily. Like-minded people understand the need for discretion and will absolutely appreciate a sense of caution on your part. There's a fine line between caution and paranoia which is difficult to quantify in writing; suffice it to say that the more details you keep to yourself the less risk you've exposed your family and other team members to when dealing with newcomers.
  • Should you find that someone on the 'inside' has evolved into a security problem, you have a great deal of backpedaling to do. Your group will need to change code information, radio frequencies, ORP's, cache sites, even your phone numbers if necessary - because you must eliminate security risks. While the best approach is the direct approach most of the time, it's best to make your changes and then begin to slowly fade away if the risk factor has been privy to an abundance of information.
  • If a relatively new and basically uninformed individual appears to be a security problem, the direct approach works best. You can break off this relationship in a number of ways:

  • I prefer to tell the person that it just isn't working out as you thought it would (which is the truth). Personality conflicts are not uncommon in survival groups, or any other kind of group for that matter, and don't necessarily convict the newcomer of any basic flaws; sometimes we can't get along.
  • Alternately, you have the option of faking the slow and painful death of your group in order to encourage this person to go elsewhere. Cancel outings, meetings, and other events (you can still hold them but in an alternate location at an alternate time) to show that your group is in either a state of ennui or turmoil.
  • Failure to return phone calls (a message-screening answering machine can be one of your most valuable tools here) or respond to e-mails inquiring about the next event should discourage this person; if not, go back to the direct approach.
  • A fun way to detach (if you have a sick sense of humor) is to "feed" the questionable character some seemingly important sensitive information that's absolutely false, and see how long it takes for it to come back to you. You can then take the direct approach and tell the person that they're an obvious security risk (bigmouth variety) and therefore totally undesirable in terms of your survival team. Unless the offender is your mother or some other close relative who can't be brushed aside, don't worry about hurt feelings. Better you should hurt their feelings than risk the safety of your team. This technique will work for both insiders and outsiders.
  • Setting your group standards high will allow you to shed unwanted drag. If the newcomer is grossly overweight, pitifully out of shape, obviously unmotivated you can simply tell them to contact you when they've gotten themselves "together" - and then fade away into the sunset. Signs of trouble include:

  • No job or obvious legitimate means of support (and no heroic effort to obtain same)
  • No permanent residence (but they'd like to share yours)
  • System-dependent mentality
  • Excuse-makers
  • Possessing few if any useful skills
  • Poor hygiene
  • Alcoholic/substance abuser
  • Neurotic/psychotic

  • Antagonistic and argumentative

  • There's nothing wrong with expecting your team members to be responsible, productive members of society - after all, you expect them to be responsible, productive group members, a group being simply a subset of society. Keep first and foremost in your mind that all the associations you make on a team level impact the safety and security of your family members and friends. Refusal to compromise their well being is an absolute must!

Caution vs. Paranoia

  • To a degree we're all wary of newcomers to the survivalism world, especially those who have shown up in the past few months desperately trying to attach themselves to established groups. Those of you who worked long and hard to establish a viable group don't want to throw caution to the wind in order to accommodate strangers; good thinking on your part!

  • In order to share information, ideas and skills with 'outsiders' without compromising your own position is possible if you keep security issues in mind:

  • You can attend survival expos, gun shows, and campouts together and not have to give out your name, rank and serial number.
  • Remember to keep your personal information inaccessible at such times by stashing your auto registration, driver's license or other identifiers out of the reach of curious eyes.
  • Don't provide outsiders the opportunity to meander unescorted through your home, vehicle or computer records. Setting up a guest login on your computer can prevent unwanted browsing through your e-mail, ICQ messages, and files relevant to your team information and activities. Password-protect sensitive information - WinZip works great for this! For those of you who use ICQ or other online messaging to talk with other team members, save your message history to a passworded file and delete your online records.
  • It's infinitely easier to protect sensitive information up-front than to delete it from the memory of an overly curious newbie.

If you exercise caution in your dealings with newcomers, you can reduce your paranoia level a hundred-fold. Keep in mind that everyone you meet on the Internet, at a survival expo, or at the local surplus store is a stranger until sufficient time and exposure has granted him/her the privilege of being part of your team. Inclusion should be handled in baby steps until a solid basis for trust has been established. It's not a matter of paranoia - common sense and good planning dictate that you protect the safety and security of your survival team, your family, and your long-time associates!