Notes for Saturday – April 25, 2015

Today, we present another entry for Round 58 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The $12,000+ worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate, good for any one, two, or three course (a $1,195 value),
  2. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  3. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chromlined barrel and a hard case to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR type rifle to have quick change barrel, which can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools, and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  4. Gun Mag Warehouse is providing 20 Magpul pmags 30rd Magazines (a value of $300) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt. (An equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions.),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  7. A Model 120 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $340 value),
  8. A $300 gift certificate from Freeze Dry Guy,
  9. A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo,
  10. KellyKettleUSA.com is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304,
  11. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $300 gift certificate, and
  12. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A FloJak EarthStraw “Code Red” 100-foot well pump system (a $500 value), courtesy of FloJak.com,
  3. Acorn Supplies is donating a Deluxe Food Storage Survival Kit with a retail value of $350,
  4. The Ark Institute is donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package–enough for two families of four, seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate– a $325 retail value,
  5. A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials,
  6. Twenty Five books, of the winners choice, of any books published by PrepperPress.com (a $270 value),
  7. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $150 gift certificate, and
  8. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. *Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  6. APEX Gun Parts is donating a $250 purchase credit,
  7. Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a Locking Rifle Rack (a $379 value), and
  8. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 58 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

“Internet” Without Infrastructure – Part 5, by R.H.

The Postmaster network

Postmasters, of course, will be able to communicate through this network between themselves and share information. In this way, they will know the health of the network in various areas. They will be the first ones with the most knowledgeable about encryption and programs that are available. At first, many Postmasters may not know much about encryption or how to use the tools, but they can learn about it and even share copies of the software through the network. As soon as most Postmasters have mastered it, they can start providing encryption as a service across the network.

If the network gets overloaded, they can set up subnetworks to take some of the load. They can help set up private networks for groups that need them, using separate pouches if necessary but sharing the same protocols, transfer routes, and personnel. As with almost anything, there is always a danger of politicization, which much be guarded against.

Sabotage

An important duty of all Postmasters, and actually anyone using the network, is to be alert for sabotage and do everything possible to prevent it and minimize any damage.

One simple way for the system to be sabotaged would be for some “Evil Postmaster” to intentionally make some alteration on the contents of all files in his pouch, rendering them useless, and then to transfer the pouch to other Postmasters. Any of the files that had already existed in their unaltered state on other Postmasters’ pouches would be okay, because existing files are not overwritten during the swapping protocol, but any files that were only in the “Evil Postmaster’s” pouch and any that are new to the other Postmasters would be passed on in their corrupted state. This could be detected quickly by other Postmasters, if they were in the habit of sending encrypted messages between themselves, because they would discover the corruption of their messages. Once detected, they could make an effort to quarantine the corrupted files by not passing them on.

In a more advanced scenario, once Postmasters have become more experienced, they would be able to proactively detect corrupted files by using specialized software to compare the contents of messages with the same filename. Unless files have been intentionally corrupted, the contents will be identical except in very unusual cases. In this case, it may be possible to detect that the files have been corrupted but not possible to tell which of the two copies is the “real one”. In this case, both the good one and the bad one can be passed on if the postmaster adds an additional character to the end of the filename. The receiver will then have to determine which one is right. If he has used encryption, this will be easy, because only the real one will decrypt successfully.

In general, Postmasters should have a good understanding of how the network operates and be on the lookout for problems. When a pouch comes in from another community, he should know what to expect in terms of the quantity of new messages. If it’s a lot more than what he expected, he should at least be curious about it and try to understand what’s going on. He might want to ask the other postmaster if he knows why there were so many. This will help him better understand the workings of the network and puts him in a much better position to notice suspicious activity. He needs to be and act much more like a sentry than a post office employee.

Even in the face of some sabotage, however, most messages are likely to get through. This is because of the redundancy of the system. The more postmasters there are in the network, the less damage that a saboteur is likely able to accomplish. If senders send multiple messages, and preferably send them through multiple postmasters, most are likely to get through.

There are other ways that the network can be harmed, such as attempting to flood the system with large numbers of false messages, or sending very large files by breaking them up into many little files. These things can be detected and thwarted using methods such as those described above.

A basic kit of software tools and instructions that any Postmaster may need should be included on each pouch or in a separate pouch. This should include (but not be limited to) the following:

Postmaster Toolkit:

  • This document and text copies of the linked material as well as additional information on encryption and security.
  • PGP tools
  • ZIP tools
  • VeraCrypt (another advanced encryption tool)
  • File shredding tools
  • File search tools
  • File directory comparison tools
  • File management tools
  • Custom Postmaster tools (yet to be developed)
  • All of the above for as many platforms as possible, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, IoS (Apple Mac, iPhone, and iPad).

Note that although a toolkit would be a great boon to the Postmaster network, it also opens us up to one of the most dangerous forms of sabotage that could occur. The tools themselves could be sabotaged or replaced with counterfeits, which would appear to be operating normally while actually leaving “back doors” open. This would not be easily done, but it could be, and I would not be at all surprised to find out that certain government agencies or even some advanced terror networks already have counterfeit versions of these tools at their disposal. Viruses could easily be placed in any of the tools, which could be devastating. There are solutions to all of this, both highly technical and otherwise, but it is something that Postmasters need to be constantly aware of.

The above toolkit, once standardized, should be packaged in an encrypted file (possibly using VeraCrypt) and signed with a known public key to help ensure its authenticity. However, even this could be faked, unless some method of certifying public keys (without the Internet) is used. See the document referenced above on how PGP works for more information on certification. There are certainly challenges ahead, but until the Postmaster network has become knowledgeable enough about encryption and skilled enough to use the tools effectively, we don’t want to make things so complicated that we discourage the growth of the network in the first place. It needs to be simple to begin with.

The level of security discussed here may or may not be something we actually need today, but it may possibly mean the difference between life and death in the future. Especially in a time of war, we will need to stay two steps ahead of our enemy. These are extremely powerful tools and, combined with good operational security, they should be an important part of our arsenal.

The more diligent, innovative, and coordinated the Postmasters are the better the system will work. If the network of Postmasters were to become power hungry or corrupt, they would likely find the current system too “loose and unstructured” for them, or they would start describing it as dangerous. Soon it would start to look like some sort of government bureaucracy. When this happens, it may be better to just start building and using a separate network.

Summary

As I said early on in this article, it is inevitable that people, faced with a collapsed infrastructure, will start transferring messages using SneakerNet. It is also certain that people will collaborate on the transfer of files in some way. Some type of network will come into existence. By using the key points of this article, a much, much simpler and more effective network can exist. One last time, the key points are:

  1. Each message is stored in a separate file.
  2. The filename of each message is the unique identifier for that particular message.
  3. The first part of each filename contains a unique identifier for the recipient of the message or the name of a site or blog, while the remainder of the filename consists of additional characters to ensure that the message filename itself is unique.
  4. Messages, named as described above, can then be combined, recombined, copied, and shared over and over again, without the need for special tools.
  5. Using very small, inexpensive, portable storage devices with very large capacity (stock up now!), these messages are easily spread far and wide.
  6. When the network eventually fills up in any given area, large files are purged first. When there are no more large files, old files are purged. Both of these operations can be performed without special tools.
  7. If problems occur, sub-networks, separate private networks, trusted networks, and whole new networks can be set up almost instantly using these same techniques, allowing the system to be partitioned or “reset” in any way and at any time that people see fit. Nobody owns it.
  8. Encryption of one sort or another is the only way to prevent others from reading your messages, to verify the authenticity of a received message, and to ensure that it has not been altered. Everyone is in charge of their own security; ignore this fact at your peril!

There is much more to be said about how this system can be used, ways it could be sabotaged, and how to prevent that from occurring or fixing it when it does. Additional techniques, methods, and protocols will be developed and improved over time. Software applications and tools could simplify the work of a Postmaster enormously, but this will be easier if they are written and distributed before TEOTWAWKI. With fairly simple, specialized software, pouches could be merged with the click of a button. However, all of the basics of how to handle files have been covered here. Prepare, stock up, spread the word, and practice! If the infrastructure comes down before you are ready, at least keep these principles in mind and start finding a way to create, gather, and transfer files as described.

One more note: If this type of communication ever becomes “illegal”, know that you are already living under martial law, and if you start hearing a lot of talk about how the network is being used by “terrorist groups” (either the ISIS type, or the Constitutionalist type), and so it needs to be “clamped down” or “regulated” or “controlled”, just realize that just means that someone doesn’t like free communication for their own reasons. This is potentially a very powerful medium, and that power could be used for good or evil. Naturally, we will do everything we can to prevent it from being used to forward evil, but that’s the best that can be done. I think we can do a better job of keeping it in the right hands than some faceless government agency would be able to do. We can do it without completely destroying the power and freedom of the medium; I very much doubt that “they” can. Even if they were to try, this medium really can’t be controlled. All you would have to do is start fresh and learn from what happened before.

To free communication!

Two Letters Re: “Internet” Without Infrastructure

HJL,

Almost precisely this concept was described by the New York Times back in 2004, except instead of exchanging files on USB keys, they were exchanged via a small computer on a moped that connected to an access point in each village as the moped drove through. From a technical perspective, the solutions are nearly identical and the two could easily be combined, not to mention combining with amateur radio VHF and/or HF links for high-priority or long distance communications. – J.F.

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Hugh,

The “Internet” Without Infrastructure article by R. H. is very intriguing. It makes sense that part of our preps should be to create part of the system that R.H. proposes, in order to allow that system to be used as quickly as possible after the regular Internet fails.

I believe we should exercise this alternate infrastructure in parallel with the current system. Maybe a web site should be setup where practitioners of the alternate internet could perfect the operating rules and exercise it. Regards – C.R.

Odds ‘n Sods:

Cops Go Car To Car In Traffic Jam, Issue $18,000 in Fines for Cellphone Use at a Near Dead Stop

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Colorado businessman blames ‘stoned’ workers for move to SC

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Is The U.S. Food Supply Cursed? Cursed or is it simply 50 years of bad management. Everything from GMOs to inhumane, crowded conditions and even overuse/preventative use of medications are contributing to a crisis in our food supply.

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Christians Will Soon Be the Pariah to Eradicate. – T.P.

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America’s Soft Police State. – B.B.

Notes for Friday – April 24, 2015

April 24th is the birthday of Carolyn Cole (born 1961), a well-known staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times. For a few years in the late 1960s, the Cole family lived next door to JWR’s parents’ house in Livermore, California. That little girl with whom he played hide-and-seek would grow up to earn a Pulitzer Prize, two World Press Photo awards, and be named Photojournalist Of The Year. Congrats and Happy Birthday, Carolyn!

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SurvivalBlog would like to welcome Pika Energy as a new advertiser. They specialize in innovative off-grid power solutions and have U.S.-made hybrid wind and solar solutions.

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Today, we present another entry for Round 58 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The $12,000+ worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate, good for any one, two, or three course (a $1,195 value),
  2. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  3. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chromlined barrel and a hard case to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR type rifle to have quick change barrel, which can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools, and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  4. Gun Mag Warehouse is providing 20 Magpul pmags 30rd Magazines (a value of $300) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt. (An equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions.),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  7. A Model 120 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $340 value),
  8. A $300 gift certificate from Freeze Dry Guy,
  9. A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo,
  10. KellyKettleUSA.com is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304,
  11. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $300 gift certificate, and
  12. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A FloJak EarthStraw “Code Red” 100-foot well pump system (a $500 value), courtesy of FloJak.com,
  3. Acorn Supplies is donating a Deluxe Food Storage Survival Kit with a retail value of $350,
  4. The Ark Institute is donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package–enough for two families of four, seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate– a $325 retail value,
  5. A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials,
  6. Twenty Five books, of the winners choice, of any books published by PrepperPress.com (a $270 value),
  7. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $150 gift certificate, and
  8. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. *Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  6. APEX Gun Parts is donating a $250 purchase credit,
  7. Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a Locking Rifle Rack (a $379 value), and
  8. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 58 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

“Internet” Without Infrastructure – Part 4, by R.H.

Protocol Refinements

There are many refinements that can be used to improve efficiency and reduce the number of files to be processed, when dealing with local communication. However, these must always remain discretionary, so that they can be dropped at any time if situations change, or they are found to be unworkable.

For example, directories (or folders) can be used to separate messages into different destination areas, organized by State. This reduces anonymity somewhat, but it can help organize messages and keep traffic down within local areas. If you know for certain that the recipient is in California, create a folder called California and put the message in there. If you know the zip code, it can be added within the California folder. Even when there are state and zip code folders, messages will still exist in the main folder, outside of any state folders, and messages will exist within the state folders, outside of any particular zip code folder. Another level can exist within the zip code folder for a well-defined and understood community. Less precise regions, such as counties and cities, could possibly be used, but these are open to ambiguities and are less likely to be known for certain.

When working within a local network, a Postmaster could use both a local pouch and a master pouch. The local pouch would contain all messages from the main directory, state directory, zip code directory, and community directory, but all other directories would be missing. This makes the pouch easier to work with. To send a message within the local community, it is put into the community folder. To send a message outside of the local community but within the state, the message goes in the state folder. New state and zip code folders are added to the local pouch as needed for outgoing messages.

Later, the Postmaster combines the local pouch into the national pouch. The community folder, however, is not transferred to the national pouch; it is retained on the local pouch. The local pouch is temporary and must be recreated whenever updates are received for the national pouch. This is done by saving the community folder, creating a new local pouch from the main, state, and zip code folders from the master pouch, and then adding the community folder back in.

With care, similar protocols could be used and developed at the zip code and state levels, but this also opens the system up to misuse of various sorts. It would be a very bad idea for people to start getting the idea that a state or even a zip code is “under the control of” one particular entity. It would be much better to have several different people independently managing the same regions simultaneously. This network is about freedom and anonymity, not “guarantees” (which somehow never seem to work out very well anyway).

Another use for region descriptions, similar to what is described above, would be for Postmasters, or really anyone for that matter, to include nationwide, state, or regional news and network status in a message that is not to anyone in particular. For example, a message with a filename of “California-94302-2017-06-03-PO45UR” might say “Mostly quiet here this week. There were some large explosions some 50 miles to the north, but we don’t know exactly where. The usual sporadic gunfire, of course. People are catching on to using the Sneakernet and sending out lots of messages, but only a few people have received messages from outside of the community so far. Joe the Postmaster”. This sort of message, or news, is not really a change in the protocol, except for the standardized use of the state, zip code, and date. It follows the general rule that the message starts with a “destination”, but it’s not necessarily a real destination. It’s actually more like a blog entry. Note that the date is in the format YYYY-MM-DD. This is important because it allows the news files for a particular area to be easily sorted by date. Also, dashes are used to make it more readable. This is acceptable, because anonymity is not important in this case. This type of file could serve several purposes:

  • It gives the Postmaster an idea of what geographical areas and time periods are covered by this particular pouch.
  • It gives the Postmaster vital information about the network in general.
  • It provides general news to people who are interested in that particular region, or in general, even if they have not received messages from anyone in particular.
  • It provides people with a way to broadcast news in their area, even if they don’t have anyone in particular to whom they want to report it.
  • It could greatly increase interest in and use of the network, especially initially or before they have received specific messages from friends or family.

This also brings up some interesting ethical and moral points. I am personally against censorship by Postmasters. However, what should a Postmaster do if he sees that someone in his area has posted a particularly alarming and blatantly false report? He might choose to delete it to stop it from going further, but this is censorship, plain and simple. Who is the Postmaster to say that the report is false? Maybe it really is true, but he just doesn’t believe it. Also, if the report has already gone to other Postmasters, deleting it may not have any real effect; the message may reappear from another pouch and continue to spread. This network is almost impossible to censor! A more effective choice would be add his own separate message, explaining his opinion or observations on the matter. The filename of his message would be the same as the filename of the original message but with some additional characters added to the end of it. For example:

Kansas-64113-2017-02-03-YRET87f “Hundreds of murders daily! Help! – Bill Smith”

Kansas-64113-2017-02-03-YRET87fXX “Hundreds of murders is an exaggeration. I know of only two last night. – Sam Jones”

Kansas-64113-2017-02-03-YRET87fXYY “I agree with Sam. A couple last night, but none for a week before that – Becky Holt”

Notice that it’s almost like a blog. You can add comments to another’s post by choosing the address carefully. However, it is completely unmoderated, and it’s not really possible to delete an entry once posted, so the reader has to decide for himself. This brings us back to the fact that if you want reliable information, you need an encrypted or “signed” message from a particular person you know and trust.

Emergency Services

Whenever there is a natural disaster or terrorist attack, you see pictures on the news of those bulletin boards and lists that people (or FEMA) set up to help loved ones find each other or discover who has survived, who has not, or who is missing. Add a network like this to the mix, and those systems could be far more effective. In this case, email addresses or even a person’s name and other information could be used (e.g. “SmithJoeRutheford, Address:87PleasantAve,NewOrleans”). Even though the normal use of the “destination address” is the destination of the message, it doesn’t have to be. If an emergency worker finds a body with identification, they could simply post a message with a “destination address” of the person’s name and any known information. Anyone looking for the person would have a chance of discovering them. If the disaster is local to some area such as with a hurricane or large terrorist attack, once the messages make it outside of the affected area the messages can be posted on the Internet or even emailed directly to the destination (if an email address was used). Once the message is on the Internet, or in an unaffected area, it becomes much easier to search for information within the pouches.

Ham radio is already a vital force in situations like these. With the addition of a network that allowed Hams to send and receive information to and from people without radios, or who are out of reach by radio, they could be even more effective. With “Packet radio”, which makes it possible to send digital information directly over Ham radio, it is possible that some messages could be relayed directly. This technology already has the capability of bridging directly into regular email, opening up all sorts of possibilities. In spite of restrictions about sending encrypted communications over Ham radio bands, there is much that could be done. If nothing else, the activities and policies of Postmasters could be coordinated and some important messages could be relayed. Network messages can be sent between radio operators and relayed by voice. Radio “call signs” are unique identifiers for specific operators and are already used in email addresses to supplement radio communication.

Other data transfer methods

Any time another network or method of transferring data is available, it can be used in conjunction with this one. Until TEOTWAWKI, mail pouches could be stored in DropBox or a similar service. As long as some sort of postal service is available, a pouch can simply be mailed from one Postmaster to another.

If the Internet, or some form of it, is available in some area, pouches can be passed through it. Anonymity is still mostly retained, especially for encrypted messages. It is possible that, even with the Internet down, some communities could set up Broadband Hamnet networks, which use regular routers with special antennas to connect computers that can be miles apart. Although these networks will not necessarily be able to connect to the Internet, they could certainly be used to transfer files between Postmasters.

If the Internet outage is just local, it might make sense to automatically forward any messages that are using email addresses directly on to an email server. This could certainly be overdone, resulting in spam, but when a pouch of messages makes its way outside of a disaster area to a place where regular email is available, it would be sensible to take advantage of the opportunity to get messages onto normal channels. Mail pouches could also be posted on a website, where they can be downloaded by people who want to search for missing people, find messages intended for them, or read any news they may find there.

It may sound funny, but carrier pigeons have actually been used to carry electronic devices larger than micro SD cards. Micro SD cards and USB keys are so small and light that they can easily travel (undetected if needed) on all sorts of vehicles, including cars, boats, trains, or balloons. Once the Postmaster system is generally known, any pouch that is found by almost anyone can end up back on the network. When I was a kid, I launched an 8-foot diameter tissue paper hot air balloon with a postcard attached. It came back to me from 40 miles away!

Any group of people who don’t have working computers can still write out their messages on slips of paper with the destination address on top and their message below (including a return address) and just pass them on to a Postmaster willing to enter them. Passwords could even be provided and used by the Postmaster to encrypt the message.

Letter: Cash at KFC

HJL,

My family and I (all seven of us) went to our local KFC in Southern KS this past Wednesday. As it costs a little more for a family of seven to eat out, I tend to carry some extra cash on me. When I pulled out a $100 bill to pay, the cashier took me to the side and requested I print out my name and drivers license number on a pre-printed sheet he had next to the register. He indicated this was corporate policy when dealing with $100 bills.

I’m not sure this is newsworthy, but the more I thought about it the more it bothered me. I do not particularly want my name on a list of persons who pay bills by cash. Although my spending patterns can be tracked just as easily by credit card, I think I would prefer using the old credit card or smaller bills rather than corporations, such as Yum Brands, knowing I may keep larger denominations of cash on hand. – J in KS

HJL Responds: This probably has more to do with the fact that the $100 bill is the most counterfeited bill in the world than any monetary policy on a cashless society. However, keeping your contact information on file is a rather poor administrative policy compared to training personnel to recognize the counterfeit bills in the first place. Where there are very good counterfeits in circulation, they are not common. Most are poor quality, and some are ridiculously poor quality. I tend to believe that this policy says more about the failure of our culture and education than anything else. The thing to watch for is that this is the type of policy that can be used to push for a cashless society. Anytime you use a representation of value as an exchange medium, you face a risk of counterfeiting. TPTB will suggest that you let them take the risk of the counterfeiting by you going cashless. You might also call corporate KFC. I have found it is often only the local office policy that causes concern, but they blame corporate. Shining the light on such poor policies to upper management often has the effect of eradicating them.

Economics and Investing:

Sheriff’s Office: Search continues for suspects in $175,000 robbery at coin shop, home. Of the several stores in town in this business, this is the one in the “nice” part of town owned by an older gentleman. They apparently don’t sell; they only buy. – DMC

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11 Signs That We Are Entering The Next Phase Of The Global Economic Crisis

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Items from Mr. Econocobas:

The Death of Cash – Interesting read…

Video: Rick Santelli Echoes Contra Corner: ECB Has Destroyed Price Discovery In Euro Bonds – This is a little hard to follow, but if you can it’s good.

Video: Jim Rickards – “The Time to Accumulate Gold is Now”

Odds ‘n Sods:

Yet another state has had enough of federally-sanctioned theft. Michigan primed to end civil asset forfeiture. – D.S.

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First They Came for the Anti-Vaxxers. – P.L.

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From the official Marines web site: Marines complete riot-control training. – T.P.

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S5 Phone Flaw Allows Hackers To Clone Fingerprints, Claim Researchers. – T.P.

o o o

Here’s How to Download and Delete What Google Search Knows About You. – A.W.

Hugh’s Quote of the Day:

“He found, using fifty stones to keep track, that he could easily remember the names of all fifty states, and he knew the capitols of a lot of them. He knew his times tables all the way up to twelves, and he knew when they’d signed the Declaration of Independence and when John Glenn landed on the moon.

But he was keenly aware that he didn’t know how to tell if nuts were good to eat, or what berries will make you sick, or what mushrooms were poisonous, and he slowly began to wonder why not one person had ever taught him anything useful.” ― Michael Montoure, Slices

Notes for Thursday – April 23, 2015

Today, we present another entry for Round 58 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The $12,000+ worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate, good for any one, two, or three course (a $1,195 value),
  2. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  3. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chromlined barrel and a hard case to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR type rifle to have quick change barrel, which can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools, and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  4. Gun Mag Warehouse is providing 20 Magpul pmags 30rd Magazines (a value of $300) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt. (An equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions.),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  7. A Model 120 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $340 value),
  8. A $300 gift certificate from Freeze Dry Guy,
  9. A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo,
  10. KellyKettleUSA.com is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304,
  11. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $300 gift certificate, and
  12. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A FloJak EarthStraw “Code Red” 100-foot well pump system (a $500 value), courtesy of FloJak.com,
  3. Acorn Supplies is donating a Deluxe Food Storage Survival Kit with a retail value of $350,
  4. The Ark Institute is donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package–enough for two families of four, seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate– a $325 retail value,
  5. A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials,
  6. Twenty Five books, of the winners choice, of any books published by PrepperPress.com (a $270 value),
  7. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $150 gift certificate, and
  8. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. *Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  6. APEX Gun Parts is donating a $250 purchase credit,
  7. Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a Locking Rifle Rack (a $379 value), and
  8. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 58 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

“Internet” Without Infrastructure – Part 3, by R.H.

Basic Techniques and Definition of Terms (continued)

  • Sending a message. Sending a message consists of creating a text file containing the message, naming the file as described above, and getting it into a Postmaster’s pouch or multiple Postmasters’ pouches. If you don’t have a way to create a file yourself, a Postmaster can help you.

    The smaller your message is the better chance it has of getting through. You don’t need to go crazy with this. A message that is only 20 characters in length is not really any better than a 1K file (1024 characters). When writing out large numbers of small files, computers tend to waste a lot of space, because of the way the data is stored. A 20 character file is likely to use up 1K of space anyway. Even if your file is 2K, 3K, or even 10K, it’s still a “small” file. The point is that if a lot of people were to try to send large files of 50K, 100K, or a megabyte or more, a Postmaster somewhere along the line may have to delete them, due to a lack of space, but a small file doesn’t run this risk.

    If you want to attempt to send a larger file, also send a very small message telling the recipient that you are also sending the larger file. That way, if the larger one doesn’t get through, the recipient (and eventually you) will at least know what happened.

    In most cases, you will also want to include a return address in your message, so that the person can get back to you if they don’t know, or have lost, your address.

    Of course the contents of a message itself could give away all sorts of information that you may wish to keep private, which is covered in the next topic.

  • Security and Encryption. Really, the only way to be relatively certain that a communication has not been altered or tampered with is to encrypt it. If an encrypted message is tampered with, it can no longer be decrypted by the recipient, so he will know that sabotage has occurred. There are various options for encrypting a message. The best, by far, is to use a modern encryption program, like PGP, which stands for Pretty Good Privacy, now available as GnuPG and Gpg4win. However, this requires that the sender and recipient (or Postmasters on both ends) have the software and the knowledge of how to use it. It’s not highly technical; you just have to learn a few operations. Encryption in general is a large subject, which is covered elsewhere by others, so I won’t try to explain how it works. This article is really about the medium for sending messages, not the content or how to encrypt, but I’ll provide some tips.

    One huge advantage of using PGP is that it allows one person to send a secure message to another person without those two people having agreed on a password in advance. If a person wants to send an encrypted message to someone, all they need to know is that person’s “public key”, and he can send a message that only the intended recipient (with his secret “private key”) can decrypt.

    This same technology also allows messages to be “signed”, which is basically just a special use of encryption. A signed message, though not necessarily secret, can be verified as actually originating from a particular person. If a message has been signed, all you need is the “public key” of the person who purports to have sent it, and you can verify that it really was them. This can be used to solve the problem of verifying blog entries, as mentioned before. If Joe Blogger has a blog at www.JoeBlog.com, he posts a message with a name of, for example, “www.JoeBlog.com 2015-01-15-YREU”, (YREU being random) adding a digital signature at the bottom of the message, which he generates with PGP, using his private key. Anyone interested in the blog can find it in a pouch the same way he would find his your own messages. If it is signed and the “public key” is known, PGP can be used to verify that the message is authentic.

    A public key is quite long and random; it’s definitely not something any normal person is going to be able to remember, but it can be sent in a message, and it can be saved on a USB key or SD card. Each postmaster will eventually have a large “address book” of them. They look something like this:

    mQENBFUMZJoBCACIqaSs9NZegeCYbL7QNQY9hJs3BSy/JcYgf3coy5mXDXDC+L95 x/w4TGBT9jSbwQQD3esYa8eUIAdDAuvHpFipJ+5D4hY0vynkXvWeKzMztMqj3jYR QkcpNOL28M9ezrRMp/X4fN2Yy9k+BkBgmo7M78bYJdH1IsaJ1foOQFqYxC5YSUyY s0bwCKb9tmqEhvpwj2/LnOhlQ/R/H/3th09rc2x6/0tPzYI6j9j9d/X6pzPh1kv6 9cV4yki0/zk5VJtrK5kyasTmjDj7pdc2O9iduJkCxD0f+RKsyziEOaBDOzFSpC99 8kBnr9ccwBMAMiJBy1tUomP+0unkvgdClhenABEBAAG0GXJpY2tAa25vd3dhcmVz b2Z0d2FyZS5jb22JARwEEAECAAYFAlUMZJoACgkQQoRmLC8SB0DaRQf/RwktmFK8 WJSSOj/8h0iouMZj/GACytI/qVZu3pC07av64xjVGREaoBjTQ4AmYTM31ePgHKx7 B6qAGTRVNp/vgsWeu7Nnfu8CEeqgjXvQRKqAcrlH/QmF/0F0vAfYP1YboeVrQCxe trkcSP4XPlRR/Kk3DiwY6nqim4eeEnYTwPKmrMnaMwITt7AzCvvGNYDJyjKvZnDz /BQotUd0ritrJLpMRhFTPd/t/fO+qLBT75WxuarofwHI6ED8Z0jip1hiL/E9f2TO oAbRgo0Dx9KNSCsW7SFExsujN4BPDz+8XM5ctMHSJ4kUl63xAtJAGnBHTjmAMFLe 5wR6KcVIHLNPXQ== =EZ4C

    Another less technical option, other than PGP, is to use the “zip” file format, which can also do encryption. There are free programs, such as 7zip, that will allow you to create an encrypted file that requires a password to open it. It will also shrink a message file in size considerably. This method, though less secure, has the advantage that all you need is a simple, human-readable password to encrypt and decrypt. Large messages or long blog entries can also be “zipped” without a password, just to shrink the file down to a smaller size.

    Yet another option is to use some manual coding method, such as found in children’s code books. However, if you use something as simple as some sort of A-Z substitution, don’t make it too simple and don’t separate words with spaces. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that “J MPWF ZPV” means “I LOVE YOU”. Once he has figured that out, he’s well on his way to decrypting your entire message. Remember the Nazis’ mistake as covered in the movie The Imitation Game (I won’t give it away, in case you haven’t seen it yet.)

    An effective, highly secure, yet low-tech method of encryption is called a book cipher. This requires that the sender and receiver have exact copies of the same book. It must be identical. For maximum security, it should be a book that does not exist in electronic form anywhere, but for practical purposes just about any book will do. An old paperback, a children’s book, a particular printing of the Bible, a textbook, any book will do, as long as both copies are identical, page for page and word for word. Then devise a scheme to build messages by pointing out words in the book, or if the desired word is not found in the book, letter by letter. This will take a prior understanding between the sender and receiver and some practice, but it has the advantage of not requiring special software. For example, “15.2.3,18.12.6,17.3.12” means page 15, row 2, word 3, then page 18, row 12, word 6, then page 17, row 3, word 12. You also may need a way to point out individual letters to spell out a word that you can’t find in the book. (Hopefully, you can do this without making it obvious to a cryptologist that you are doing so.)

    At the very least, or in addition to encryption, use vague terms that you are sure will be understood only by the intended recipient. For example, instead of typing “The gold will be dropped off at 123 Pleasant Street, Boise, Idaho on 14 September 2017”, say “It will be at Ma’s place five months before her 60th birthday.”

    There are endless possibilities, which are beyond the scope of this article. The point is that only an encrypted message is truly secure (and even then you have to be careful). That said, if all you are trying to do is let your sister know that Grandma and Grandpa are okay, a message with no encryption is much better than nothing, and it is likely to get through anyway.

    If you want to send an encrypted message to someone but you have neglected to exchange passwords between you in advance, there are a couple of things you can do. If it’s a family member or close friend, you may be able to send an encrypted message along with a hint as to what the password is; something that only you and they would know. For example, at the top of your message, you could write “Password is Grandma’s first name”, which would let them know that the password is “Samantha”.

    Another way is to split a message into two parts, both of which are required for full understanding. One of the messages could be encrypted, while the other one could contain the password. Or you could just write the two parts of the message in some way that required both parts to understand. This is one reason that you should provide multiple addresses to your contacts. If the addresses are completely different, it’s less likely that anyone will be able to match up the password with the message.

    To exchange addresses with a group of people, create a master page of all of your addresses, print out two copies, and cut one of them up to give out to your contacts. If your name is William Smith and you have three contacts named Joe, Sam, and Bill, the master page looks like this:

    ——–

    Joe:
    William Smith
    Primary Address: YRETYTG
    Secondary Address: JH3E656
    Password: UFFYDYERTE

    ———

    Sam:
    William Smith
    Primary Address: YRETHGH
    Secondary Address: JH3EYTY
    Password: YERTWU

    ———

    Bill:
    William Smith
    Primary Address: YRETTRM
    Secondary Address: JH3EHGR
    Password: HERTWR

    ———

    Once everybody else in the group does the same, you’ve got your own network.

    Given a list of names for any group of people, one person can make up random addresses for everyone in the group, print them, and pass them out. For a small group, this is simple enough that it doesn’t really require software, but a website or small application would be helpful for doing the same for large groups. I am not aware of any at this time, but it would not be a difficult task to create one.

    If you are using PGP, you will also need to store public and private keys in addition to addresses, and storing them on paper will not be practical. Use a USB key or SD card for storing all of your keys, passwords, and addresses, and keep a backup. There is software available to help with this, often packaged with PGP, but it is beyond the scope of this article, as it has more to do with the content of messages than the medium itself.

    All of this could be done after TEOTWAWKI, by postmasters establishing contacts using pre TEOTWAWKI email addresses, building up encryption networks and then helping others do the same by passing the addresses and keys back and forth in encrypted messages, but it would be a slow and laborious process. Anyone who has previously exchanged some basic information with his contacts will have the highest level of anonymity and security and will be able to start communicating immediately. It’s much better to do it now, while it’s easy.

    Basically, if you want security (which you do), you need to take full responsibility for it yourself, which is as it should be. This is really a “wild frontier” sort of network, so it’s best not to just assume that everyone else will look out for your best interests and be nice. What this network does is to give you the possibility of getting a packet of information across vast distances to your intended recipient. The rest is up to you. If you are working in a group, assign a designated Postmaster who can help get the rest of the group set up.

Postmaster Protocols

As mentioned before, a Postmaster is anyone with a computer and a willingness to help. Ideally, they should understand the protocols and frailties of the network, so they can help maintain its integrity and protect it from sabotage or misuse. They should also understand security and encryption and have the tools they need.

At the time of this writing, an 8GB USB key (or Flash drive) or SD card can be had for a few dollars on Amazon or eBay. Larger sizes (up to a terabyte) are also available for more money. Let’s just use 8GB as a base, which is roughly 8 billion characters of information. A short message can be written in 1KB, roughly 1,024 characters of information, allowing millions of messages to be stored in a single “pouch”! On the other hand, there is no need to completely prohibit the sending of slightly larger, or much larger messages, or even a small picture or a short, low-resolution video, as long as there is room for it. One of the important protocols the Postmaster must know is how to deal with overflows of data when swapping files with another Postmaster. The basic rule is that large files get eliminated first. People using the network will quickly understand that the best way to increase the chances that their message will get through is to send the smallest possible file. If a message is limited to a few thousand characters, it is most likely not going to be dropped because of its size. If someone wants to send a photo, the best way to increase their chances is to shrink them down as much as they can. An 8GB flash drive can hold 4,000 200K images, so early on after some TEOTWAWKI event, it is likely that many of these large images would get through. By reducing an image message to 50K or 20K, a sender can increase his chances of getting through considerably. In fact, he can always send a 1K message stating that he is sending an image, followed by separately sending a 20K version of the image, a 50K version, and a 200K version. If there is enough room or capacity, all messages will go through. If there is not enough room the larger ones will be dropped first.

Long before this happens, however, there is another difficulty that is likely to come up. It turns out that computers and these storage devices are usually optimized for a smaller number of relatively large files, rather than very large numbers of very small files. This can cause it to take a very long time, maybe even hours in some cases, to copy even tens of thousands of files from one storage device to another, let alone millions. In a situation where you are trying to conserve battery power, this could be a serious issue. This problem can be greatly alleviated by formatting the USB key or SD card in a particular way. On Windows, you find the device in Windows Explorer; right click on it, and select Format. On a Mac, you go to the Disk Utility application, click on the device, and select Erase. Either way, you will then find some options for how to format it. We want a format that can efficiently deal with lots of small files and one that is compatible with both Windows and Mac, so we choose the “exFat” format and the smallest available “allocation size”, which is 512 bytes. The “allocation size” is the minimum amount of space that a file will take up on that device while formatted in that way, so even a 10 or 20 character message will take up 512 bytes. Also, as soon as a file goes over 512 bytes, even by one character, the file size will jump to 1,024 bytes.

Reformatting in this way will help, but depending on the speed of your computer and other factors, when the number of files reaches a certain point, it may start taking too long to copy the files. This is another place where a tool like 7zip can be extremely helpful. If you have a folder containing hundreds of thousands of messages using up a gigabyte of storage, you may be able to shrink it down to half that size in a matter of minutes. Then you can copy the whole file to a pouch in another couple of minutes. On my computer, I find that the 7zip file manager is much less “laggy” than using Windows directly, especially when dealing with large numbers of files. Your mileage may vary, so this is something that each Postmaster will need to practice with and find the methods that work for him.

Fortunately, these problems are not likely to develop overnight. Initially there will be a much smaller number of files to deal with. By the time the numbers of files get into the thousands or tens of thousands and eventually to hundreds of thousands or millions, Postmasters will have more experience and will have developed techniques to deal with it. At some point, it makes sense to store all of those thousands of little messages in one large zip file and include a copy of 7zip on the pouch as well, in case the next Postmaster doesn’t already have it. When a pouch is being used to store a small number of large files, instead of huge numbers of small ones, then it will perform better if it is reformatted to a larger allocation size.

Eventually, the Postmasters’ disks could become filled to capacity, causing the system to get clogged. By this time, however, there will be more information available to Postmasters about how long it generally takes for files to make it to their destination. Old files can then be deleted or archived to other storage. Similar to the procedure for deleting large files, the Postmaster would simply sort by the date on the file, with oldest first, and delete as many as is necessary to unclog his system. This is the mechanism that prevents files from staying around forever, long after they are useful to anyone. Files will stay in the system as long as possible but only until the capacity of the system cannot handle it. People will come to understand that their files will persist on the network for a finite period of time, which will depend on the amount of traffic and the capacity of the system.

Related to the deletion of old files, the Postmaster would always delete any files he finds that have dates in the future. This is necessary because it’s possible for someone to set a file date to a future date, and this could be used by people in an attempt to make their files persist longer. By the Postmaster deleting any files with dates later than today, this misuse of the system is averted, and he will have more truthful information to work with regarding the age of files.

By definition, each Postmaster has a computer. Ideally, he would have more available storage than any of the portable storage devices being used, preferably several times the size. If he has a smaller capacity, he can find a way to work with that.

In addition to any pouches being used to transfer data, the Postmaster would have a “Master pouch” that he works from.

In summary, the basic process for the Postmaster is as follows:

  1. When a new pouch is received for merging, he copies it onto his own master pouch, opting to skip any files with duplicate names.
  2. He immediately deletes any messages that have dates later than today’s date. (As mentioned before, this prevents people from falsifying the dates on their files for their own benefit.)
  3. The Postmaster now has a complete set of valid messages in his pouch.
  4. If the Postmaster’s Master pouch is too full to accommodate more data, he may need to delete large files from his own disk and/or from the new disk coming in. In most cases, deleting a few very large files will probably free up plenty of space. Large files are expendable and must give way for the large volume of smaller files.
  5. He then determines whether there is enough room on the pouch he just received for the complete set of valid messages. If so, he can simply copy his master pouch back to the other pouch, again opting to skip any duplicates.
  6. If there is not enough room, then he must first delete all files on the new pouch and then copy the files from his Master pouch to the new pouch by file size, smallest files first. In the absence of better tools, he can do this by copying a large chunk of small files, then a chunk of slightly larger files, and so on, until the portable device is full.

Note that none of this requires any special software. It is done “manually”, using the basic commands of whatever computer is being used. This is not to say that better tools could not be used or developed specifically to help in these tasks, but in the absence of special tools the work can be done manually. This is important, as it helps keep the system from being owned by anyone or controlled in some undesirable way. If the network ever becomes compromised in some way, or is suspected of being compromised, it is always possible to start another network in parallel.

Also keep in mind that this network is a redundant system. There can and should be duplication of files and Postmasters at all times. If one Postmaster only has a small data capacity, he might need to skip a large number of files to update his pouch, but those files that were skipped in his pouch continue to exist on several other devices and may find their way to another Postmaster through some other route. On the other hand, the Postmaster with the small data capacity might happen to pass his files to a traveler who carries his somewhat limited set of files off to the next community or to a larger city, where they end up being forwarded much farther than they would have otherwise. So while large data capacity is preferable, it does not mean that a Postmaster with a smaller data capacity is without value. The ability to seek out or recruit other Postmasters and pass on data is probably much more important. If hundreds of thousands of small messages get through, what’s a few thousand large ones? In addition, if one Postmaster’s computer dies or if a portable device is lost or destroyed or even if the Postmaster himself dies, the network lives on and very little information is actually lost.

Letter Re: Dogs Tracking Someone

JWR, HJL, SurvivalBlog Readers:

I have a few thoughts about tracking dogs. My wife does canine search and rescue for the local CERT team in our rural county. There are two main types of search dogs– area and trailing. A trailing dog will follow a scent from weakest to strongest along a track. They may cut, circle back trails, and follow the strongest scent trail. Area dogs look for the strongest scent, not worrying too much about a specific trail but concentrating on an area. Over many years (doing training) the dogs have always found me. The team dogs have done very well locating actual lost persons. The most difficulty has occurred when the track was laid in high winds and/or areas the wind swirls around and disperses. Dogs track well in the snow, over creeks, and best in the woods or scrub. Winds in open fields tend to send the scent all over.

Our dogs have trained to track persons in vehicles and done well for several miles on dirt and paved roads. Most civilian rescue teams may have a mix of area and trailing dogs, trained to find missing people. Our state police use area dogs only that are multi-trained for several duties.

Please be good to our civilian rescue units; we are here to help find the lost. Most team members are (me included) big followers of this blog. Keep up the good work. Thanks! -Hanging out in the great white north.