Letter Re: Taking Out the Trash: Secure Deletion


Technically, short of physically destroying flash media, there is no way to insure that something is securely erased. This applies to USB drives, SD cards of all sizes, and even SSD disk drives. It applies less so to magnetic hard drives.

Hard drives can drift so there can be a thin shadow of old data, but that is something only someone with very deep pockets can recover, and it would be hit and miss.

With flash drives, data is eventually erased, but what normally happens is the prior place the data was stored is mapped as “obsolete, erase when you need space”, while the new data is written to a new, freshly erased area. It can be a long time until the algorithm (or something like a “trim” or “secure erase” command, though not all devices have that) really erases the old data. Until actually erased, the flash chips … Continue reading

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

Building An 80% Firearm- Part 1, by Tupreco

Learn the Why and How

The election of Donald Trump is beginning to show concrete steps toward dialing back the Obama administration’s numerous efforts to undermine our Second Amendment rights. How that will continue to play out remains to be seen. Surprisingly though, even on Obama’s watch there were several pro-2nd Amendment (2A) court and legislative victories, including expansion of concealed carry in many states.

Another thing that occurred while Obama was in office was an unexpected but welcome surprise from the ATF. Several years ago, a well-known AR-15 parts manufacturer requested and received the ATF’s formal approval to manufacture and sell, without restriction, a partially-finished AR-15 lower receiver. This receiver would only be legal for unrestricted sale if the ATF approved the exact design where several very specific features remained un-machined or marked in a way that would aid in its completion. This partially-complete receiver (now commonly called … Continue reading

Letter Re: License Plate Readers & OPSEC


Two of SurvivalBlog’s recent posts referenced altering or covering license plates to avoid identification by license plate readers. Coincidentally, the last two episodes of the reality show Hunted involved people being tracked by this technology. Altering your plate is clearly illegal. Apparently plastic covers are also illegal, at least in some jurisdictions. Electronic surveillance devices seem to be virtually everywhere these days. Do you have any advice for those of us who still believe in personal privacy but don’t want to break the law? About all I can think of is a good coat of mud or a trailer-hitch receiver cargo rack.

– R. in Maine

JWR Replies: You are correct that this is an emerging threat to our privacy. Sadly, it is just one part of the emerging Surveillance State.

There are a few options that I’ve mentioned to my consulting clients who have raised this issue:

Continue reading

Letter Re: Drones and Airspace


I believe that the article posted on December 22 may present inaccurate guidance to the readers of SurvivalBlog.

In June, 2016 the FAA announced the forthcoming release of Part 107 of their regulations. The likely final regulations are here. The regulations detail the Operating Rules for drone pilots, including things such as See-And-Avoid and Visibility Requirements, Containment and Loss of Positive Control, Careless and Reckless Operation, and more.

For drone pilots, note that the Section on Careless and Reckless Operation is a FAA “catch all” that will be used to legally go after drone pilots who operate in an unsafe manner. Similar Sections exist in other FAA regulations for private and commercial pilots, and this “catch all” has been used to convict pilots who did dangerous things.

More importantly, the FAA and the courts have already demonstrated that the FAA regulates … Continue reading

Attack of the Drones: Defending the Air Above Your Property, by RD, Prepper Law


One night you suddenly see a drone hovering next to a window of your home. Outraged, you shoot it down. Somebody calls the police because they heard a firearm discharged, and ten minutes later you hear a knock on your door. Or, say a military plane swoops across your backyard, barely skimming the tops of your pine trees, and you hear a massive crash. You look out your window and see a fully intact missile stuck head first in the ground. Apparently the military accidentally dropped a bomb on your land. Can you do more than shake your fist?

The question: Who owns the air above your property?

You do, to a limit. The law says, “The entry of an aircraft into the airspace over land belonging to another person is privileged and lawful unless the entry is in such a manner as to interfere … Continue reading

Letter Re: Ammunition Buying OPSEC

Mr. Rawles,

In response to Cliff’s e-mail regarding ammunition OPSEC, I just wanted to write in and express my firm belief that the worst thing one can do, unfortunately, is to conduct e-commerce for bulk ammo via any Internet sites. I have nothing against any of the online vendors, but their records are kept and not immune from subpoenas or government seizures. I have had particular luck with bulk ammo sales on Sunday afternoons at gun shows. The fact of the matter is that no vendor wants to carry that weight of unsold inventory back to their trailer after the show ends. Now, if you think you are walking out with 5000 rounds of 5.56 for 15 cents a round, you’re dreaming. These vendors still need to make a living, but numerous times bulk ammo can be dickered down to at or near online vendor prices if you’re willing to … Continue reading

When and How Do We Fight? That is the Question, by X. Liberal

This message is more on a serious note. Before we get started I want to make an attribution to Lavoy Finicum. My wife and I had the privilege of being present in Utah to pay respects to him and his loved ones as we were driving back from our final Redoubt Property inspection in Montana while traveling home to Nevada. His sacrifice sparks this message:

“THEY” say Lavoy Finicum and his cohorts were illegally occupying the Wildlife Refuge in Burns Oregon. THEY say nothing about the Occupy Wall Street Movement illegally occupying City Squares. THEY say that it was unsanitary to be at the Burns Wildlife Refugee without running water and working toilets. THEY say nothing about Occupy Wall Street protesters using drugs, fornicating, defecating, and urinating on city property. THEY say the Bundys and their cohorts overstayed their welcome when they slept overnight at the Refuge. THEY say nothing … Continue reading

Letter: The Global Cyber War and DDOS Ping Attacks

For some background, I’ve worked as a UNIX systems administrator  for more than 20 years in the financial environment. This background includes working for major bankig and stock mark trading companies. I’m not saying that to impress, I am saying it so you know that I have a good amount of experience in the field.

Although logs and paths can be modified, a significant amount of scanning and denial attacks on both commercial and personal computer systems really does seem to come from Russia, China, and the Netherlands.

Now a layperson may ask:  “Why does China care about my PC, my Twitter account, or keeping me from accessing PayPal?” The short answer is that they don’t in most cases. I believe these cyberattacks should be seen in layers, however I must also say that what I discus next is my personal opinion and not the opinion … Continue reading

Letter: Ammunition Purchasing OPSEC

Good morning! 
I have a question regarding Operational Security (OPSEC) and buying ammunition.  I’ve tried to do my search due diligence at the SurvivalBlog site, searching multiple term combinations, but I still may have missed an existing article.  What are the most prudent OPSEC considerations for buying ammunition, other than not ‘flapping yer gums’?  Online sellers offer the best prices, but in -tore has benefits as well, though it’s much more expensive.

Thanks for your time.  – Cliff

JWR Replies: In essence, you will need to pay more, if you want to keep your privacy.  My advice is that f you want to maintain a low profile then make your ammo purchases with cash at gun shows. The prices there are generally higher than via mail order, but lower than at storefront gun shops. 

Letter Re: The National Do Not Call List

Yes, the national Do Not Call service will greatly reduce junk phone calls.  I’ve used it for years and have found that once every three or four years I need to reenter my information on the list.  I suppose my number starts floating around out there and gets picked up and the junk calls start again.

As for political calls and political junk mail: When I register to vote I registered as an independent or unaffiliated voter.  I can still vote in the primary, but the best part is I no longer get a bunch of email from a specific party telling me who and why I should vote for my party’s nominee.  I still get local political mail telling me I should vote for a bond issue, or dog catcher.  You can also go to the courthouse a few days after the election and tell them to … Continue reading

A Life Submerged: The Gray Man Existence, by A. Smith

This article explores concealment and the Gray Man mindset and lifestyle in The End of the World as We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) and survival in contemporary society. The tactics, techniques, and procedures I’ll describe are taken from a military point of view.  It is not intended as an end all. It is merely a perspective on some experiences of deployments in 30 years of service to many backwater countries.  Hopefully my shared experiences will help better understand and prepare you in case something really goes wrong with our economy, natural or man-made disaster, etc. 

Letter: Understanding Bank Transaction Reporting in the U.S.

Dear SurvivalBlog Readers:
I have noticed over the last few weeks a couple of articles discussing banking and transaction reporting etc. I would recommend (if one is having trouble sleeping at night) that everyone who is interested read the audit manuals for the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), which includes currency transaction reporting (CTR), suspicious activity reporting (SAR), and monetary instrument logs (MIL). Bank’s are required by law to perform these on all customers based on activity and the bank’s teller system analysis. Most people know about CTRs – deposit or withdraw more than $10,000 in cash – but they do not know about SARs or the monetary instrument tracking. Since I audit banks and consult on internal controls for a living, I thought I would discuss the monitoring and reporting process of each.

Letter: SurvivalBlog’s Dotted Quad Backup Address

Greetings, Mr. Editor:
I just tried to log on to your new “backup” dotted quad address: and my Firefox browser reported: “Your connection is not secure.”  Is it safe for me to ignore this message?  Thanks, Michael S.

JWR Replies: Yes, it is perfectly safe to set a permanent security exception for SurvivalBlog’s main site and for our dotted quad direct server address (  Please be sure to jot down this dotted quad address and carry it in your wallet or bugout bag, but please continue to use “survivalblog.com” URL for your bookmark that you use to check SurvivalBlog daily.  (This will help us keep aggregate visit statistics–and those are important for our advertisers to know what our traffic is and thus justify their continued advertising on SurvivalBlog.)

Letter Re: Comms Using Photos – Would This Work?

Hi Hugh and James,

I just finished reading The Religion War by Scott Adams. It’s a short, very good book about Christianity vs. Islam in the future as both sides prepare for war. In it, he wrote something that made me curious if it would work. In order to defeat the use of computers scanning emails to find key words or phrases, his characters do something I’ve never thought of. “Cruz’s intelligence forces electronically searched every message that crossed the Internet, but their sniffing programs were looking for text, keywords, key phrases, and encrypted files. (His people) thwarted the filters by simply handwriting their messages on photographs of landscapes, scanning in the entire pictures, and sending them as email attachments. A human could easily read the handwritten message on the photo, but a computer wouldn’t find enough regularity or structure to identify where a tree ended and … Continue reading