One of the most important things we do in the security industry, is to divide up the playing field. Generally, there are three “types” of security. There’s personal security (or private security), there’s corporate security, and then there’s public security, and by public we mean anything that the government does on our behalf. Or claims to do on our behalf, some might chime in. The three are very different, and many, many times, they are polar opposites and working actively against one another.
So which of the three are most important? Do we put the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few or the one? Do we put the needs of the economy and corporate sustainability ahead of the needs of the government (the many) or the needs of the few or the one? This is a question which goes to the core of security of all kinds, and which might never be resolved to the liking of everyone. But we can dream, right?
Usually, we call that “personal” security, or home security, but building a home today isn’t as different from homesteading. We all want to be self sufficient, and we all want to be safe, and while the risks have changed in today’s society, we all still fear and need protection from common criminals, burglars, robbers, gunmen (and -women) and so on. There are new problems, however, created with and becoming a price of our modern technology and modern methods. Computer crime, online criminals, information and identity theft and fraud, for example. Challenges unlike the ones those who first settled the west were met with, but no less real or looming for that matter.
Then there’s the question of surveillance. Security in the “early” days of both the concept and the profession was limited, law enforcement was sparse and government activity was certainly not geared towards protecting the individual citizen. Today, some might argue that the trend is something similar – everyone is a target, and to the government, everyone is a potential threat until proven otherwise. Strictly speaking, it’s unconstitutional in most democratic countries in the world.
Personal security, the individual securing him or her self, both person and assets, should be the main goal and the primary target for anyone, anywhere. That doesn’t exclude the opportunity nor the possibility of contributing both to corporate and government or public security, but it does mean taking measures to guard oneself against the possible adverse effect the broad and sweeping actions that are being taken against the person, or the homestead, in the name of public, or government, security. Sound complicated? It is and it isn’t. That made things easier, huh? Here’s the deal.
You can act in complete self interest, and still benefit the homeland security schemes, plans and goals. At the bottom, it simply means not breaking laws made to ensure the safety of a country’s inhabitants. Refraining from being a criminal is one of the best actions anyone can take to make sure both personal and public security is upheld. However, there are certain actions everyone should take to make sure that the broader and more undiscriminating “security” tools of the government doesn’t affect the “homestead” in any negative way. So what are those, then?
– Avoid the need for public official interference in your home.
– Discourage or prevent sweeping “public security” surveillance measures in your home.
– Prevent due process from being neglected in your home.
– Depend on your own, legal security measures inside your home.
This whole site is dedicated to most of those bullets, especially no. 2 and 4. Preventing the government from keeping tabs on you and your personal life is not a crime in any democratic country, unless illegal methods are used, of course. So how far should one go?
The NSA (and whatever the name of your country’s counterpart) is monitoring email, online traffic, phone calls, texting (SMS/MMS etc), social media, images and video, Skype and other VOIP services and so on, and so on. There are tools out there that will to a greater or lesser extent limit and/or thwart that kind of surveillance. While you can’t hide your house from satelites, you can hide your email and calls from the government. Hiding them from the government doesn’t have to be the main priority, however.
Identity theft and information theft and fraud is a problem much larger than we would like to think on any given day. Bank account and credit card activity gets stolen, mail and letters disappear, social security numbers and telephone bills are exploited, which is as severe as anytthing homseteaders have encountered. Anyone who have experienced serious consequences from having their identity stolen will agree that the aftermath can be catastrophic.
Securing yourself, your person and your assets – and your family for that matter, should be everyone’s first priority. Then comes the public security, and then, perhaps, comes corporate security.
There’s nothing around that sounds more patriotic and less credible at the same time these days. It’s a cliche, an empty phrase, and ridiculed daily over most of the civilized world, where the USA is struggling to keep its place, unfortunately. But there are real and present dangers out there that a government caring for its citizens must take care of and prevent. While that is clear, we’ll stick to “public security”, lest we water down the “homeland” part even more than the Bush administration managed to do. As if that would be possible.
Anyway. Thouseands upon thousand of individuals contribute to the operations of public security every day, be it as police officers, federal agents of some kind or as spies and secret operators, or indeed as military personell. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, the latest and most modern trend, which we’ve up to the last couple of decades only seen in dictatorships and totalitarian states, is a focus on the individual which is unprecedented. There’s a targeting of the individual which would have been utterly unacceptable to founding fathers everywhere, and with new technology come new ways of keeping citizens under watch.
Bruce Schneier makes a good point about the covering up of surveillance of ordinary citizens and blanket information gathering:
This is new. Police could always tail a suspect, but now they can tail everyone – suspect or not. And once they’re able to do that, they can perform analyses that weren’t otherwise possible. The Washington Post reported two examples. One, you can look for pairs of phones that move toward each other, turn off for an hour or so, and then turn themselves back on while moving away from each other. In other words, you can look for secret meetings. Two, you can locate specific phones of interest and then look for other phones that move geographically in synch with those phones. In other words, you can look for someone physically tailing someone else. I’m sure there are dozens of other clever analyses you can perform with a database like this. We need more researchers thinking about the possibilities. I can assure you that the world’s intelligence agencies are conducting this research.
The gain is clear. If someone does something to jeopardize public security or government security, the government has a good chance of knowing and/or preventing the crime. The price, however, is much too high. In training surveillance on everyone, everyone is a target, a threat and a victim. Would you really accept being victimized in order to secure the government?
Here’s another point from Schneier’s post:
What’s missing from much of the discussion about the NSA’s activities is what they’re doing with all of this surveillance data. The newspapers focus on what’s being collected, not on how it’s being analyzed — with the singular exception of the Washington Post story on cell phone location collection.
The Balancing Act
In real life, the balancing act is headed for a nose dive. While high asset criminals go undetected because they are tech- and security savvy, innocent and reasonably harmless regular citizens are tracked and traced by the government, making just that government a far greater threat to individual security than most other entities out there in “the wild”.
Securing oneself against surveillance isn’t just about making sure criminals get your SSN – today, it has become a struggle to preserve privacy, to preserve the intimate sphere where no one, not even those claiming to be acting in our personal interest, should have any sort of access. The tools, methods and information, however, is out there, and taking the correct precautions against surveillance and for personal security has no downside.
In the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at what tools you can use to safeguard yourself in your daily life, and make it that much harder for both the government and the criminals to breach your personal homestead. Homestead security vs. Homeland Security is a battle that’s just begun – make sure you win it.