OPSEC for Kids

I grew up in a paranoid family.

My mom hides in the closet anytime someone knocks on our front door.

Granted, one of my earliest memories was of me almost getting kidnapped when we lived in the Philippines so I kinda get it.

I’ve heard a saying that goes “Only the paranoid survive”.

(Okay, I’ve heard it once. From a video about Jeff Bezos’s bodyguard.)

Now, I’m no security expert (though I’m sure hoping to be!) but I like to think that I’m a little bit more careful than most people about PII.

We had OPSEC and PERSEC training all throughout my time in the Navy.

I’ve watched my shipmates (the ones who weren’t sleeping through it) be amazed and horrified at how easily an adversary can obtain their personal information either with enough Googling or by paying the low, low price of $1.99 from White Pages.

I was confused. How did they NOT already know this?

I guess the answer lies in my paranoid upbringing. As a kid of the 90’s and Early Aughts who wasn’t allowed to play outside, I naturally gravitated towards talking to strangers on the internet. Specifically Yahoo games and chatrooms.

It was just a thing.

My parents weren’t tech savy so they didn’t know how to block that stuff. All they knew was that I was physically at home and safe.

So how was I able to avoid getting lured into a dangerous situations by some sick stranger without parental controls and constant lectures about the dangers of the internet?

Maybe it was luck but I like to think it’s because of the story about Shanon and her Online Pal.

I stumbled upon it randomly during one of my daily several-hour-long internet surfing sessions.

I’m not sure weather the story is made-up or not but it was real enough to me that it’s seared in my brain.

The Shanon story showed me how easily it was to connect the dots of someone’s identity from seemingly innocuous information.

It’s because of this story that I know not to post sensitive information like my daughter’s school name or her Girl Scout troop number.

I’m careful about my own information or sometimes give quirky obviously false answers like my occupation on Facebook is listed as “Professional Meme Poster”.

As I dig myself further and further into the security field, I’ve found that what’s expected in this line of work is actually the stuff I grew up doing (or not doing) every day.

When all is said and done, I feel pretty good that this is where my paranoid and anxious childhood has led me.

NOTE: I do not own the Shanon/OLPAL story. I had to do some specific Googling to even find it. The site I found it on is here:


Emily Johnson states that she found the original story on the New York State Police website but I haven’t been able to find it there.

I am hosting the story on my website because it was so important in my life and I’d like to help others find it.

If I am infringing on copyright in any way, please contact me at beata [at] togoashore.com

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