Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,
In this week’s mailbag, find out how to stay off the grid without leaving the country, why you can’t trust hotel safes and the best way to maintain your search privacy on the internet with multiple layers of security.
Now let’s dive in.
How can I stay off the grid? Is it possible to essentially “disappear”?
— Veronica M.
Thanks to Hollywood, many people believe they need to leave the U.S. and find some “super secret” overseas destination in order to disappear. This is definitely not the case. For most of the people I consult with, I recommend staying in the U.S.
Ideally, you want to find a town with a population that is about 25,000–50,000. Don’t pick a town that’s too small because you won’t be able to blend in. Look for a town in a conservative state where people respect the privacy of others and don’t ask a lot of questions. Avoid places with a lot of “Big Government” influence.
Part of the reason you want to relocate to a small town in a conservative state is because it will be easier to get a job or rent an apartment without going through a lot of “red tape.” To rent an apartment in a place like New York City, you need 25 forms of ID, a DNA sample and a copy of your family tree to satisfy local government requirements.
However, in smaller towns, you can go to a mom and pop property management company and rent a place without needing to give your Social Security number or showing a bunch of ID — often none at all — as long as you have a cashier’s check for the first and last month’s rent.
Also, if you truly want to disappear, plan on never using the internet again — especially social media.
Is LifeLock a good service?
— Noel R.
I have nothing against LifeLock, but I don’t recommend using an identity theft protection service. I believe you can do the same thing they do without having to pay a cent.
That being said, I absolutely recommend placing a freeze on your credit report with each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. I also advise that you monitor your credit report and review your bank and credit card statements each month.
In addition, adopt good cybersecurity habits to ensure that you don’t make it any easier for thieves to get ahold of your personal information. Create strong, unique passwords for every website you visit and avoid oversharing on social media.
Finally, carry an RFID-blocker in your wallet. This “identity guard” protects your credit card information from being picked up by a portable RFID scanner, which allows thieves to get your name, card number, expiration date — even your security code — in a split second just by walking by you in a crowd.
Could you write something on how easy it is to crack the hotel room safe, and what to do to protect yourself and your belongings, if anything?
— Dave Y.
Hotel room safes are not safe at all. Think about how many people put their belongings in the safe and forget the combination. Hotel management must have a master combination for each safe written down somewhere in the event a guest locks themselves out. Now imagine how many employees have access to this information…
Even worse, most hotel room safes can usually be opened using a pocketknife or even a paper clip. Frankly, the only way to ensure your belongings are 100% safe and that no one has access to them is to take them with you when you leave your room.
I have DuckDuckGo as an alternative web browser. How secure is that one? I think that I also have Tor on here as well, but I like using DuckDuckGo.
— David G.
First, let’s talk about the difference between a web browser and a search engine.
A browser is a program installed locally on your device that allows you to access the internet. A search engine is also a type of program — however, its function is to search documents on the internet for the keywords or phrases you enter in the search bar.
Now, you can use a web browser to get to a search engine. For example, Chrome is a web browser, whereas Google is a search engine. But you can also use Chrome to get to Yahoo.com, which is another search engine.
Back to your question: DuckDuckGo is one of the best search engines you can use. It’s different from other search engines like Google and Yahoo because it doesn’t give personalized search results. It shows all users the exact same results for any given search term.
To ensure maximum privacy, To ensure maximum privacy, I suggest using DuckDuckGo as your default search engine on any one of the recommended browsers (Tor, Brave or Waterfox).
How many different kinds of knives should I have with my emergency gear and in my bug-out bag? Is there a good “one knife fits all” you can recommend?
— Niles J.
I recommend keeping one pocket knife and one fixed-blade knife in your bug-out bag. Don’t go cheap on these knives — the $20 knife you buy at Walmart is not the knife you want to bet your life on in an emergency. There are several companies out there that make quality knives such as Benchmade and Spyderco.
If you are looking for a “one knife fits all,” check out the knife I had custom-made for me and my team. It’s called the NOC Knife and I do have a limited number for sale to the general public. Click here to claim yours.