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FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Antiterrorism Awareness Month is an opportunity to think about ways to strengthen our AT programs, including the use of Operations Security, or OPSEC — the systematic and proven process for denying adversaries access to information about our capabilities and intentions.

An OPSEC program is codified within the organization and remains ongoing to adequately protect data that can be leveraged by those seeking to harm an organization.

The first step in establishing an OPSEC program is acknowledging adversarial threats to the organization exist. Every organization faces potential adversarial threats, whether they come in the form of crime, foreign espionage, terrorism or subversion. By using OPSEC, we can help mitigate damages from threats, such as ransomware delivered by cybercriminals, sabotage conducted by insiders or attempted theft of intellectual property by agents of a foreign intelligence service.

Once we accept and identify likely adversaries, we can work to limit the exposure of data that would benefit those adversaries. We can also shore up vulnerabilities and develop strategies to mitigate risks.

When adversaries can gather sufficient unprotected information relating to an organization’s operations, capabilities and plans, they can combine that data to create a full picture of their target, identify vulnerabilities and exploit the information to their advantage. Even a small competitive advantage over an organization could potentially result in loss of operational efficiency, adversely impact mission plans or, in a worst-case scenario, pose physical harm to personnel or infrastructure.

OPSEC practices help reduce the availability of data adversaries can collect and use. It is an ongoing process, requiring repeated reassessment of the equities at stake and their vulnerabilities, as well as the countermeasures to be developed and implemented. OPSEC also requires internal coordination among force protection and security elements within an organization, such as antiterrorism, personnel security, physical security, counterintelligence, cybersecurity and information assurance. Other elements, such as human resources, acquisitions and logistics, should be engaged to identify critical information to be protected and vulnerabilities to be addressed.

OPSEC is a holistic effort to thwart adversary attempts to leverage vulnerabilities to their advantage. As a bonus, the same OPSEC processes that protect large organizations can help individuals reduce their vulnerabilities. Research shows organizations with a security culture are less likely to be victimized and suffer losses.

During Antiterrorism Awareness Month, please take the opportunity to understand OPSEC’s role in securing your organization and providing benefits to you personally. For additional information, contact the Fort Leonard Wood OPSEC Office at 573.563.2402.

(Editor’s note: Content for this article was provided by the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.)