OPSEC Tradecraft: Modern Clandestine Groups Face New Challenges


There were no mobile phones or recording devices allowed at this bizarre encounter. The digital era is perceived as posing new threats to the security of terror groups in Ireland in terms of their being tracked and covertly recorded.

 Source: The Guardian

Bottom Line Up Front

  • Compartmentation via unlinking
  • Strict anti forensic practices to mitigate police techniques
  • Metadata analysis evasion by forcing the recipient to make a copy
  • Brief encounters to limit the duration of exposure
  • Your security is your own concern

The Source

This post is based on two separate interactions between journalists for The Guardian and the dissident Irish republican group the Real IRA (RIRA).

In 2010 The Guardian arranged to pass RIRA number of questions. RIRA then setup a secure operation to return the answers. A couple years later, in 2012, The Guardian was contacted to release a statement announcing the formation of the New IRA (NIRA), of which RIRA was a significant founding member.

In both events, the operational security practices on display show some remarkable sophistication and awareness of modern risks.

Operation 20 Questions

In 2010 the Guardian conducted an interview with the Real IRA by delivering a set of questions and collecting a written response at a later date. The security aspects of how the answers document was delivered is quite interesting.

Dead Drops, Not Dead Yet

In our final meeting at a location near the border in northwest Ulster the Guardian was advised to go into a public toilet and search around the back of the bowl for something.

The Real IRA used a dead drop in a restroom to pass a USB thumb drive containing a file with the answers to The Guardian’s questions. It sounds as if the primary RIRA operative was around to meet the journalist and provide directions, while another operative (the courier) was responsible for loading the dead drop. This arrangement would ensure that the “exposed” operative has nothing incriminating on him if he is captured by security forces.

Read the Remainder at Medium

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