The Europe of Power Vacuum has changed considerably. So has the war. The Triarii’s operational constraints have changed with the situation, and Matt and his Grex Luporum team have to adjust and reset to many of the tactics and techniques they had to use Stateside, before the war kicked off in earnest. There’s a lot more gray man stuff in Power Vacuum, so I’m happy to bring a guest post from Steve Tarani about how INFOSEC and physicality are a part of truly going gray.

In today’s world of open-source accessible information, perception is reality. People look at your physical and digital footprint and may think ‘Hey what’s this person all about.’ Whether you are aware of it or not, how you are perceived by potential predators, opportunists, co-workers, family members, passers-by, social media monitors and others, is what contributes to their subjective evaluation. 

Badass or Buffoon?

Steve Tarani

Ranging from the bumper stickers on your pickup truck to what you post throughout all your social media platforms, all kinds of data are readily accessible to the entire planet rendering them plainly observable. To the outside observer, these all paint a picture of who and what you’re all about. You can be physically (verbally, visually) and digitally observed. You have no control of how these perceived, but you certainly have control of what you put out there for the world to see and evaluate.

Placed on a graph as a spectrum ranging from Badass to Buffoon, on one end of that spectrum you have the quintessential gray man. He’s a guy that produces so little verbal, visual or digital output that he’s like Jason Borne.

He has no bumper stickers placed on his home or vehicle(s), if he does have any social media presence it’s at a bare minimum with little or no exploitable information. Looking at it from a defense intelligence community perspective, you might label this end of the spectrum ‘Badass.’

Becoming one with the crowd, having nothing overt, obvious, or obtrusive to stand out...that is on the BADASS end of the spectrum.
Becoming one with the crowd, having nothing overt, obvious, or obtrusive to stand out…that is on the BADASS end of the spectrum.

At the opposite end of that same spectrum, you’ve got a guy with a plethora of verbal, visual and digital footprints such as bumper stickers plastered all over his home and vehicle(s) proclaiming to the world that he’s got plenty of guns at home and/ or stored in his vehicle, how many and who are all his family members, where they live, and where his kids go to school.

Throughout his entire social media platform, he openly posts richly exploitable information such as online video and selfies of his gun safe(s), firearm collection, how much ammo he’s so craftily bought at a discount or reloaded and exactly where it’s all stored replete with geotags (accessible data packs stored within each photo file).

Trying to be the Gray Man? Your digital footprint matters.
This is a very nicely composed and compelling picture. Posting it to a person al Instagram account, however, is antithetical to being the “Gray Man”. Your digital footprint matters.

As proud as he may be of his stellar hardware collection, he has unwittingly notified the known universe that he’s a gun guy with a very large-scale repository of expensive firearms and tens of thousands of rounds of ammo stored at his home where his spouse is usually alone because he’s out either hunting or camping. Additional observable information indicates that they have 3 kids attending the ABC School on 123 Main Street and the family dog is a chihuahua so other than an early-warning sound system, it cannot provide physical or property security protection. Again, looking at it from a defense intelligence community perspective, you might label this end of the spectrum ‘Buffoon.’

Indicators for Targeting

Verbal, Digital, Physical

The predator sees you as either a soft target or a hard target based on observable physical and digital target indicators. Looking at it strictly from the opportunists or predator’s optic, the closer you are to the Badass end of the spectrum, the harder you appear are as a potential target as there’s little or no exploitable information. The closer you are to the Buffoon end of the spectrum, the softer you appear as a potential target.

Predator and opportunists alike (bad guys) seek and reach for the lowest hanging fruit. The greater your number of soft target indicators the higher likelihood of your being targeted. Predators tend to shy away from harder targets and are drawn to softer targets, as they are much easier to victimize. A popular soft target indicator utilized by bad guys (BG) to identify prey, is a breach in information security otherwise known throughout the defense intelligence community as INFOSEC. We as a nation have become desensitized to information sharing – a condition rendering us prone to compromising INFOSEC.

Digital and verbal indicators can be as bad as the physical ones.
Digital and verbal indicators can be as bad or worse than the physical ones. Granted, seemingly simple things can begin hardening you and your domicile as targets – but the physical side of things should be just one part of your transition from buffoon to badass. 

BGs scan their environment and online for soft targets like it’s their job. Because it is.

What they look for are physical and digital soft target indicators, monitor for ripe opportunities and evaluate whether you are a soft or hard target. You don’t want to yell over your neighbor’s fence, “Hey Joe, we’re going on vacation for the next two weeks and there won’t be anyone here at the house at all for the entire time, would you pick up our mail?” (verbal)

Burglars use online real-estate virtual tours to do their casing. Predators also scan the internet for low hanging social media fruit. A classic example of a post on Facebook replete with photos is, “We’re so excited about our brand-new in-home theater oversized flat-screen TV plus state-of-the-art audio, but we’re going to have to leave it for an entire month as we’ll be vacationing in Mexico starting tomorrow!!!!” (digital)

barred window for home security
It makes little sense to try to fortify your home if you are going to broadcast what is in it, how it is laid out, or when it will be (un)occupied. Poor INFOSEC can contribute to the identification or your person or your “location” as a soft target. 

You have full control of all your outgoing information. Use that control with discretion, as there are bad guys out there who’s full-time occupation is to use it against you and your family. Keeping good INFOSEC accounts for only one of many proactive measures you can employ to keep yourself off a predatorial selection listing.

Bottom line about affecting BG target selection is to remain unattractive to the predator. Be like the gray man and blend into the environment. Be the Badass who, by practicing good situational awareness, remains a hard target causing the predator to ask the question, “Are there softer targets?” and provide the answer, “Yes.”

Whether or not you choose to accept it, BGs will observe you both physically and digitally and decide if they are interested in you based on your soft target indicators and their personal perception thereof. If you do everything in your control to avert that interest, then you lean closer to the Badass end of the spectrum.

Posting the likes of “My dog is smarter than your honor roll student” and “Yay! I pooped today!” provide no usable information to either a predator or an opportunist.

window decals as urban camouflage
Window stickers used as urban camouflage? None of these betray actionable intelligence to a bad guy.

If on the other hand you needlessly and carelessly provide them exploitable physical or digital open-source information, then you violate INFOSEC and present soft target indicators placing you closer to the Buffoon end of the spectrum.

We are always free to choose, but we are not free from the consequence of that choice.

Badass or Buffoon, the choice is always yours to make.

The term concealed carry starts with concealed for a reason - almost without exception, the first time someone should have any idea you're carrying a firearm is the moment you are forced by exigent circumstances to deploy it.
The term concealed carry starts with concealed for a reason – almost without exception, the first time someone should have any idea you’re carrying a firearm is the moment you are forced by exigent circumstances to deploy it. Similarly, announcing to the world via social media what weapons you have in the home is contrary to good INFOSEC. 


About the Author: Steve Tarani is a former fulltime CIA protective programs employee, small arms and defensive tactics subject matter expert who served on POTUS 45 pre-election executive protection detail. He is the lead instructor for NRA’s non-ballistic weapons training program offered nationally. Tarani is also a DoD and FLETC-certified federal firearms instructor who has been on staff at Gunsite Academy (AZ) as a Rangemaster for over twenty years. Formerly sworn, he is also a former federal contractor and service provider for the US Defense Intelligence Community, US Naval Special Operations Command and other government agencies. Tarani additionally serves on the National Sheriffs’ Association Committee for School Safety and Security. In addition to his teaching and consultation, he  writes for a number of publications, including The Mag Life, the official online publication of GunMag Warehouse.

Badass or Buffoon? INFOSEC and Going Gray

Peter Nealen

Peter Nealen is a former Reconnaissance Marine and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006, and again in 2007, with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Recon Bn. After two years of schools and workups, including Scout/Sniper Basic and Team Leader's Courses, he deployed to Afghanistan with 4th Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Company, I MEF. Since he got out, he's been writing, authoring many articles and 24 books, mostly Action/Adventure and Military Thrillers, with some excursions into Paranormal Fantasy and Science Fiction.

4 thoughts on “Badass or Buffoon? INFOSEC and Going Gray

  • February 3, 2022 at 1:14 pm

    So much truth here, and so much is ignored… sigh

  • July 3, 2022 at 5:24 pm

    My only suggestion would be to modify the title. It’s a bit problematic in that the majority of Buffoons I’ve encountered would consider themselves Badasses.

  • July 5, 2022 at 4:10 am

    Very useful info thanks Steve, I have an NRA sticker on my truck which I will be removing promptly.

  • July 5, 2022 at 9:37 am

    I guess my “Think it over…” windshield sticker might not reach its intended audience, huh?

    Excellent and elegant article.


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