Emergency preparedness from a Counterintelligence Agent

OPSEC and your actions


How bad OPSEC gives away details in your Pattern of Life

OPSEC is about protecting information. What can someone gather from watching you from down the street from your house? The obvious answer is that they would know, for example, what time you leave your house and what time you return. They could find out what way you drive to work and who you drive with. They can see the obvious. What else can they tell from that pattern? This pattern that they see is your Pattern of Life. Because good surveillance gear is easy to find, you always have to be cognizant of the fact that someone could be watching you. This is an important part of keeping your home safe or protecting your bug out location.

Let’s say that most days, you go to work dressed very casually and just get into the car and drive off. Because you work part time at a place nearby, on those days, you usually return in about four hours. Occasionally, however, you dress up nicely and are on the phone as you get into your car. On those days, you don’t return until late at night. If they wanted to know when you’d be away from the house for an extended period, all they’d have to do is wait until they see you dressed up and on the phone as you drive away. Your change in your pattern of life became an indicator.

The key here is to give away as little useful information as possible. You probably can’t block someone from seeing the front of your house very easily but you can change some things.

If you had your lights on a random timer, they wouldn’t know necessarily that you were still sound asleep as the light in the bathroom kicked on an hour before you got up occasionally.

If you came home early on occasion as a matter of course, they wouldn’t know just how long you’d be out. If you either wore different clothes frequently or always wore casual clothes but changed at some point later in the day, they’d have a much harder time making the connection between the indicator and the action. The Gray Man protects his Critical Information.

Pattern of Life

To be on guard about your OPSEC, you have to pretend (or assume) that you’re under surveillance. A great deal of surveillance is about watching what people do. What you have to do first though¬†is plan. Planning is the key to OPSEC and OPSEC is key to survival.

If someone were to sit outside your house, what could they find out based on just what you do? What time did you turn on the lights this morning? What time did you leave the house? Did you look around for people as you walked out the door? Were you on your cell phone as you got into the car? What pocket did you pull your keys out of? What route did you take to work? If someone were to watch you for several days, they would start to see a pattern.

This pattern is called your Pattern of Life. The Gray Man’s pattern of life is nondescript and one of the keys to his survival.

The Gray Man can manipulate his adversary to ensure survival

Once you understand your pattern of life, your pieces of critical information, your indicators and what your adversary will see and think about what he sees, you can even start manipulating your enemy. Just establish a pattern of indicators and relate them to an action that you want and then whenever you want them to think you’re doing it, just follow the pattern. This is one of the keys to deception, which we’ll talk about in future post.

How do you plan for better OPSEC?

Look at all the things you do that you wouldn’t want anyone to know about. In the military, when a group is going to go out on a mission, it’s important that the enemy doesn’t know it’s coming up until the last possible minute.

Before a mission, there’s usually a mission brief and all the vehicles need to be fueled up. Assuming that one piece of critical information that needs to be protected in this case is that a mission is imminent, the team should go through all the steps they take that lead up to the mission and change things up so they are no longer indicators.

There still has to be a brief but it could be behind closed doors or at varying times before the mission. Vehicles could be fueled up at random times as a matter of course instead of lining them up at the tank just before they head out.

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Look at your critical information and your indicators and figure out what actions you have to do, what actions can be seen, and what your adversary can figure out about those actions that they see. Then come up with a plan to not only hide what you do, vary what you do. Change things up on a regular basis and everything becomes noise. Patterns become more difficult to figure out and to take advantage of. You become a harder target. To do this thoroughly, you need an OPSEC Plan.

If you watch what you’re doing, you can start to see what you’re doing that gives away what you’re trying to protect. Looking at others is a great way to get insights in this. Start looking at what other people are doing and what you can learn from them. You’ll be amazed at how little information it takes to piece together what’s going on. Remember that as you go about your day and you’ll be much better off when disaster strikes or SHTF.

About graywolfsurvival.com

I am a former federal agent and military veteran who has deployed to combat theaters in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan and have almost three decades of military and military contracting experience.

My goal is to help families to understand how to intelligently protect their family and their way of life against real threats, without all the end-of-the-world doomsday crap.


  1. GoneWithTheWind says

    I worked for a F-105 pilot who flew missions in Vietnam. Their mission was to get Migs flown by Russians. Every morning for months an F4 unit had sent up a flight of F4’s at exactly 0600 to bomb the North. The North Vietnamese and Russians expected them. The F-105 unit flew the mission instead flying and squawking like F4’s. Up came the migs and six Migs were shot out of the sky that morning. Poor OPSEC had caused F4 losses and an OPSEC trick turned the tables. Another minor trick that was learned was to stop sending up missions at 0600 or 0530 etc. Send them at 0617 or 0519 etc. The whole “clock” thing can work against you. Most people think in terms of even hours or quarter hours. I used to live in a subdivision with one exit/entrance. Making a left out of there at 7:30 in the morning was a bitch. But at 7:25 it was a piece of cake. Everyone left for work at the same time. My theory is “think outside the clock”.

  2. graywolfsurvival says

    Excellent example of using information operations Intelligence to shape the battlefield, GWTW. If you create a thorough OPSEC plan and involve your operations, you can guide the enemy to do what you want them to do.

  3. The link to the army publication is broken.
    Here is a current link:

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