A teachable moment from a personal OPSEC compromise
December 31, 2013
- A personal story about how OPSEC may apply to our families.
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- Army Stand-To: Watervliet Arsenal's 200th anniversary in July 2013
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WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (December 2013) -- My getting away from the office for a few days to receive free training from the New York Army National Guard almost sounded too good to be true. But after three days of Operations Security (OPSEC) Level II training, I wonder if I should have stayed in the warm comfort of the arsenal.
Why? Because I discovered through this training that I had recently committed an OPSEC compromise.
After just the second day of classroom instruction about OPSEC definitions, concepts, processes, and programs my mind began to wander. I thought back to Thanksgiving with my family and to my trip to New York City after the holiday.
I thought about how my daughter sent notices to her friends the day before we left to tell them about our going to New York City on Sunday and returning on Monday.
She was so nice to keep her friends informed.
We arrived at the Rensselaer train station early Sunday morning, but had to find alternate transportation due to a train derailment in New York City. And so, off we went in my SUV.
When I arrived at the hotel, I couldn't find a parking spot and so I broke down and used the hotel valet. The attendant asked me how long I was staying and if I would need the car that day. I told him that I was staying just the night and wouldn't need my vehicle until the next morning.
He was so nice to ask about my plans.
Check in went smooth as the desk person welcomed me for a one-night stay and asked if I wanted to make a reservation at another hotel property for the next night. I said, "No, that I would be going back home the next day."
She was so nice to ask about my travel plans.
After a day of seeing the Christmas displays in some of the larger box stores and doing a little shopping, my wife, daughter, and I decided to go to dinner at a nice German restaurant.
In the restaurant, we were greeted by a waitress whose accent made it seem as if we were in Germany. She was very accommodating, pleasant, and from time to time, she asked about why we were in New York City and how long we were staying.
During the dinner, my daughter took photos of us and was sending those photos to family and friends saying what a great time we were having in New York City. At the end of the dinner, I paid for the dinner with a credit card.
As I walked out, I thought about the waitress and how nice she was to ask about our visit and travel plans.
The next morning we wanted to do more shopping and so we left our baggage with the front desk folks and told them we would be back in about three hours.
They were so nice to accommodate us for another three hours.
After a tiring shopping spree, we decided to go back to the hotel to pick up our SUV and baggage.
The valet took my receipt and about 15 minutes later returned with my vehicle. He asked if I was heading home and I said yes. He wished us a safe trip.
He was so nice to ask about our travel plans.
When I got home, I had to put something in my glove compartment but struggled to find space. I had too many things in the glove box ranging from vehicle registration to insurance papers to vehicle work orders.
Nevertheless, we felt good to be home, all was safe.
The story would have ended there except for my now reflecting back on this trip with an eye toward OPSEC.
Yes, OPSEC processes and concepts may apply to our personal lives. And as I soon discovered, I had committed several compromises to my family's security.
When I reflected back on the trip, there was critical information pertaining to my trip that I should have thought to protect, such as the facts that I was leaving town, when I was leaving, where I was going, and when I would return.
Had I thought about how criminals could have collected this critical personal information and then used the information to select the opportune time to burglarize my house, I would not have been so free with my information to valets, hotel desk persons, and to waitresses. But they were all so nice. Criminals aren't nice, are they?
Had I thought about my family's protection, I would not have allowed any photos or texts announcing our trip, nor would I have provided information about my trip to people who didn't have a need to know.
I simply did not think about the risk. From friendly conversation, I was the number one person responsible for making my family vulnerable.
By the way, did you think about the glove box? How much personal information, such as your name, home address and phone number is available to thieves who may be moonlighting as parking attendants.
Although I passed the OPSEC training, I didn't feel good. I had committed a grave compromise that could have put my family, as well as my home, at risk. I only hope my wife doesn't read this story.
The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned and -operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States having begun operations during the War of 1812. It celebrated its 200th year of continuous service to the nation on July 14, 2013.
Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $90 million.