What is OPSEC?
Professionals in the military and intelligence are practitioners of OPSEC, but what does it mean? OPSEC stands for operations security. It is a process that helps identify critical information and analyze friendly actions relative to potential adversaries.
In other words, it helps you figure out what the enemy could learn about your plans and operations, and then take steps to protect that information.
OPSEC is the process of protecting sensitive information from being intercepted by unauthorized parties. Beyond the military and intelligence agencies, it’s a preventative measure that everyday individuals and businesses of all sizes need to take to safeguard themselves, their data and property.
The Need for OPSEC
OPSEC has been a part of military and intelligence operations for many years, but its importance has grown in recent years as our adversaries have become more sophisticated. The global nature of our economy and the reliance on technology have also played a role in the need for OPSEC. Our forces must be able to operate freely without fear that their plans and operations will be compromised.
In the business world, information is everything. Your competitor’s strategies, your client’s project scope, and your employee contact lists are all critical pieces of information that, if leaked, could give your rivals an edge, cost you a contract, or damage your reputation. That’s where operations security (OPSEC) comes in.
How Does OPSEC Work?
OPSEC is an ongoing process that begins with identifying critical information. Once you have identified what information could be valuable to an adversary, you must then figure out how an adversary could acquire that information.
This can be done through surveillance, eavesdropping, or even open-source intelligence gathering (OSINT). Once you have determined how an adversary could acquire your critical information, you can then take steps to protect it. Common methods used to protect critical information include encryption, destroying documents, or using code names.
Another key element of effective OPSEC is maintaining “need to know” access for sensitive information. This means only sharing information with people on a need-to-know basis and ensuring that they understand the importance of keeping that information confidential. In other words, if someone doesn’t need to know something in order to do their job, don’t tell them.
Applying OPSEC in Your Everyday Life
In today’s digital world, it’s more important than ever to have solid OPSEC measures in place. That’s because sensitive information is now often transmitted electronically, making it more vulnerable to interception by hackers or other unauthorized parties. A good OPSEC program will take this into account and include measures like encrypting vital data and using secure networks whenever possible.
You don’t have to be in the military or the CIA to benefit from OPSEC. The same principles can be applied in your personal and professional life.
For example, to guard against identity theft, you can use OPSEC principles to help protect your personal information. This might include shredding personal documents that you no longer need, using strong passwords for your online accounts, and being careful about what information you share on social media.
OPSEC is a vital part of military or intelligence operations, but its principles can also be applied to your everyday life. By taking steps to protect your critical information, you can help keep yourself safe from identity theft, fraud, and other threats.