Letter: Venues for Learning Morse Code

Dear Editors:
There is a good Morse Code practice group in the Pacific Northwest every morning on 3.970 mhz LSB at 8:00 PST.

The guy sends Trivia questions to the others using Morse Code. Each person who checks in gets to take a turn on a rotating list. The code is sent at the speed each person is comfortable with. Once the question is sent and received, that person repeats the question by voice to confirm they copied it correctly. But if they can’t ANSWER the trivia question, anybody can jump in and try to answer it.

This way of learning Morse Code is way more fun than the old code practice tapes. Plus, the trivia is fun and educational.

They are always looking for new “fresh meat” to start learning the Morse Code. They will slow way down for newcomers, and the entire group is very encouraging and … Continue reading

21st Century Tradecraft: Discreet Transport of Documents

I have had many of my consulting clients ask me for advice about how to maintain their privacy. One of their greatest concerns is the interception of e-mails in the now ubiquitous global Surveillance State. The sad truth is there is now no such thing as “secure” e-mail, even when using high level encryption. If a government wants to know what you are communicating and they are willing to invest sufficient time and energy, then they will eventually be able to read your encrypted e-mail. This is known as brute force decryption, wherein massive computing power is dedicated to breaking an encryption scheme. It also goes without saying that telephones, faxes, radio communications, and in fact virtually all other electronic communications systems are vulnerable to interception, decryption, monitoring, and long-term database archiving.

With those capabilities in mind, this leaves us very few options other than traditional face-to-face meetings, mailing … Continue reading

Letter Re: Shielding a Cell Phone

Mr. Latimer:

Simply as a departure point for thought: I placed my wife’s cell phone inside an empty metal coffee can and covered the open top with aluminum foil. I secured that by overlaying the plastic lid. The phone did not ring, nor would it receive a text. Outside of the can, both calls and texts went through. Should you (we) have a cell phone that has a integrated battery, this may make tracking or malicious communications more difficult. – Skyrat

Letter Re: Cell Phone Blocking/Masking

Hi James,

For people with cell phones having non-removable batteries, I have wondered if cell phone tracking could be blocked by removing the sim card. I have such a phone, and although removing the battery is not an option, removing the sim card is pretty straightforward. – B.G.

o o o

Dear Editor,

I work exclusively with cell phone RF protocols (4G/LTE, Bluetooth) and can say this “evidence bag” does the trick. http://a.co/7z56VAh

In a separate item please let SurvivalBlog readers know that Polar Pure is back on the shelves in the USA after resolving its conflict with the geniuses at the DEA. This is year-old news, but somehow I missed it. – D2 in AZ

HJL’s Comment: Just make sure you’re turning your cell phone off when you place it in an RF shield. Without that, the phone will continue to search for service, shortening your battery life.

Letter Re: Cell Phone Masking and Denial of Geolocation Data

Hello James,

I was stunned when out of the blue Google Maps sent me an e-mail detailing several hundred locations I have been to over the past several months. I immediately attempted to change settings to prevent this, but I feel Internet/cell phone data is an insidious invasion of privacy with the next logical step for government to bypass the usual requirements to access locations, phone numbers, data, et cetera, the 4th Amendment be damned. There are various RFID-blocking cell phone wallets/sleeves for sale online with varying degree of price and effectiveness as per reviews. Can you recommend a product to shield cell phones from transmitting data? – D.W.

JWR’s Comment: Yes. Simply buy an older-style cell phone from which you can quickly and easily remove the battery. (Most of the newer smart phones have integral batteries that require complicated disassembly of the case.) A TracFone flip phone is what … Continue reading

Letter Re: IP Addresses in an Internet Blackout

If the powerful few decide to shut down independent news sites, more than likely they will shut down the DNS servers and leave the rest of the Internet up. The DNS servers (Domain Name System) is liken to a telephone book. You look up the name (Domain name) and it gives you the telephone number, in our case, the IP Number (Internet Protocol Number). They can accomplish this by shutting down the entire DNS systems or just selectively remove certain domain addresses from the book, leaving the rest of the book operational. Note that either way, the news sites are still there and operating.

The cure for this, if it should happen, is to know the phone number (IP address) beforehand. Then you don’t need the telephone book. It’s that simple. Below is a list of some of my favorite sites, including this site. Copy and save those numbers. If … Continue reading

Five Things Women Need, by J.W.

My wife has a love-hate relationship with all this personal defense stuff.  She hates the idea of needing to be prepared and can’t stand that her day-to-day life is affected by potential or perceived and often unseen threats of violence, bUT she loves me.  So that means she agrees to all my training, prepping, security protocols, and most of my gear purchases.  Most? Okay, many of them. Many? Okay, fine. I just buy what I want. She gets mad for awhile and then eventually forgives me!

The point of this article is to give you five things that we think a woman needs for personal and family security when kids are involved and she finds herself in a dangerous or disastrous situation. These are a 24-hour get home bag, an exfiltration plan, communication resources, personal defense tools, and a proper mindset.

Twenty-four Hour Get Home Pack

My wife’s 24-hour pack … Continue reading

Letter: Using Military Ammo Cans for Faraday Shielding

Dear JWR:
The use of military surplus ammo boxes as Faraday shields was recently mentioned again in SurvivalBlog.  But readers should be reminded that these cans will not work in the configuration where they are normally purchased.  This is because the boxes have a rubber gasket to seal the lid from water and that makes the lid not in [electrical] contact with the body of the can, thereby losing the [EMP] shield effect.  Regards, – Dave X.

JWR Replies:  You are correct.  As mentioned previously in SurvivalBlog, the best approach is to remove the rubber gasket,  rough up the metal on both the top edge of the can lip and in the gasket groove (with sandpaper, a wire brush wheel, or a Dremel tool rotary stone) and replace the thickness of the gasket with stainless steel wool which is tacked in place with small globs of epoxy … Continue reading

Letter: Circling Back on My Preps

Dear Editor,
My preps are in five areas, per the “group think” of SurvivalBlog. I have worked from area to area starting with what is easiest and cheapest up the ladder in each area. As I circle back I am working my way up but also looking back and questioning myself: Where did I store the extra ammo? Exactly what is in that unmarked box on my closet shelf and how might I better package to grab and go should we have to hastily migrate?

Electrical items are on the agenda today. It started up with recharging the AAA-size batteries for some of my flashlights. I noticed that many of my stock of batteries have been raided by my children seeking to power different toys. Next, I checked my inventory of batteries and chargers. I learned: “So that is what the stray seemingly orphaned wall wart goes to!” … Continue reading

Quick Reference Manual Regarding Disaster Survival and Recovery on the Road- Part 2, by J.P.R.


Identify Level of Failure

  • The power grid is down
  • Your cell phone is dead
  • Your land line may not work
  • Most electronic devices do not work or are impaired
  • Your car will not start or stopped running
  • Airplanes are falling from the sky
  • Small fires or explosions may be observed

This is a different event than a regular power failure. In this case, the power grid and many electronic devices have been permanently damaged. This is more serious than a power grid failure, depending on whether it is in a small or large area. If this is in a large region, say a prayer and know that your way of life is going to change for a very long time to come. You need to begin thinking in terms of surviving in a world of extremely limited resources, #1 of … Continue reading

Guest Article: SHTF Intelligence – Getting Started- Part Three, by Samuel Culper

Electronic Security

This is the third article in a series about using intelligence for preparedness. I’m starting from square zero in order to introduce a new crop of Americans to the concept of using intelligence, to prove that there’s a need for intelligence and to get readers quickly up to speed on how to incorporate it into their security planning. For a better foundation, be sure to read Part One and Part Two and check out the Ultimate ACE Startup Guide, too.

Brief Recap

In the first article, we established that prepared communities need intelligence because they’re going to have blind spots during an emergency or disaster. I recommended writing out a list called Intelligence Requirements. Before we build a house, we need to be organized with the right tools and materials. The same is true of intelligence, and our requirements prepare for … Continue reading

Guest Article: SHTF Intelligence – Getting Started- Part 2, by Samuel Culper

This is the second article in a series about using intelligence for preparedness. I’m starting from square zero, in order to introduce a new crop of Americans to the concept of using intelligence, to prove that there’s a need for intelligence, and to get readers quickly up to speed on how to incorporate it into their security planning. After getting caught up to speed, if you’d like to gain a deeper knowledge and put theory into practice, a book entitled *SHTF Intelligence will show you the way forward. You can find a small homework exercise here.

In the first article, we covered why we need intelligence and an introduction to the Intelligence Cycle. We use this cycle in order to produce early warning intelligence and threat intelligence; those are the top two priorities for the Analysis & Control Element (ACE) in a SHTF situation. … Continue reading

Letter Re: Wifi At a Discrete Distance

It’s better to find an adapter with antenna port. This is a high-powered single-band adapter or a dual band (I’d recommend the 5Ghz band if possible, but it is still a bit rare) with RP-SMA connection. Then add a good antenna; the omni is probably equal to the Yagi. If there isn’t interference and is dual band but this Yagi will pull in from a longer distance. If you can get two and get a connector, you can put it “in the middle” like in a tree and point one at the source and one where you are using it, and it will be a very narrow beam. And, yes, I’ve used such. There are other adapters, antennas, and amplifiers (which I won’t go into) when I didn’t want to go through the problem of installing cable for … Continue reading

Mesh Networks, Digital Radio, EMP, and Metal Buildings, Oh My!, by R.V.

We are working on a grass roots Internet style network at my radio club. As I am a very curious fellow, I am currently reading Wireless Networking in the Developing World, which is a free ebook. This book, of which I am 1/3 of the way through reading, seems to exercise every possibility in connecting these wireless routers. The pros and cons of various management strategies and switching tactics are exhaustively discussed. Sources and software are named, making it a great reference. What got me started is the Ham Radio version of this, which is described online, which is a project of my ARRL club. My interest was aroused by a presentation on digital radio at a club meeting.

Interestingly enough government emergency management money is being allocated to replace repeaters in Georgia with DSTAR units, which are the ICOM … Continue reading

Letter Re: Heathkit Radios


I disagree with the letter regarding the unsuitability of Heathkit (vacuum) tube radios for EMP protection. Let me elaborate:

  • Lethal voltages: While you really don’t want to tangle with +700 VDC, the most lethal voltage in any radio is that which comes from the wall outlet: 120 VAC. AC fibrillates hearts (we use it for that purpose in cardiac surgery); DC defibrillates hearts (done that many times).
  • Requires 120 Volts AC: Unless you get the 12 volt power supply (I have two). Or solar power / inverters.…right?
  • No cooling fan: Well, they rarely need it! My primary rig is more than 40 years old and going strong! Digital modes do indeed have high duty cycle (though actually not 100%), so turn down that mic gain appropriately. Watch the specs on solid state rigs also; they may not be spec’d for high duty cycle either! Tubes show … Continue reading