Tag: The Haystack Principle

The Haystack Principle of Counterintelligence

Hay PileAnyone who knows me or follows me online knows that I’m a pretty open person. I share almost everything I’m up to.  Anyone I know (or any stranger for that matter) can experience with me my lunch, thoughts on a number of odd topics, and even what I’m doing with my dog, Chauncey. In fact, right now you can click any link on the right of this page and learn a plethora of details about my exploits, both past and present.  You may say that this is bad for someone in the investigative profession. You are not alone. Overwhelmingly, security professionals of a certain level preach this concept as gospel. I’m here to tell you that, in the 21st century, “security by obscurity” is the most ludicrous method of keeping secrets.

My father was a private investigator unlike myself.  For the most part, I investigate white collar businessmen.  He took organized crime head on in the tri-state area of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.  When I was an adult, he shared some of those stories with me, including one of a story of a mob enforcer parked in front of our house while we were leaving for school.  His account of how he made the man leave is a story for another day.  It’s worthy of its own post.  My point is that I’ve lived cautiously my entire life more than most.

If we guard our toothbrushes and diamonds with equal zeal, we will lose fewer toothbrushes and more diamonds.” ~ McGeorge Bundy, US National Security Advisor under John F. Kennedy.

I have always subscribed to this concept, even before I was aware of Bundy’s statement.  Before the age of Web 2.0, this was not a major issue for most of us.  We now live in a time when anyone with a computer and a credit card can compile a dossier on anyone as thick as a telephone book in a matter of hours.  Some say that, in twenty years, there will be no more secrets.  If organizations like Wikileaks and Anonymous have their way, it may be the scenario.

Over the years, I have developed what I call ‘The Haystack Principle of Counterintelligence’.  This is how it works in four easy points:

  • Decide what your needles are.  These are the very few things that you truly don’t want anyone to know.
  • Understand that hiding everything is unrealistic and get comfortable with sharing things that are not true secrets (hay).
  • Build your haystack.  Create social media profiles and share details about yourself publicly to your level of comfort.  The more you share, the larger the haystack.  The larger the haystack, the smaller the needles.
  • Keep your needles to yourself.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

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