How To Create a Data Dead Drop

submitted by Brian

A dead drop is a term used by clandestine operators (spies) that refers to a transfer of information without direct contact.  Infamous examples include the hollow fake rock, an envelope stuck behind a toilet tank, etc. The main advantage of a dead drop is that two operators need not even know who the other might be.  The exchange is completely anonymous. The other advantage is that of time difference. The drop need not be picked up right away, giving a certain amount of added safety in case the sender has been followed.  The disadvantage is that the information kind of just sits there till it’s picked up… which means it *could* be picked up by anyone, and not just the intended recipient.

In talking to a number of people interested in recovery after a societal collapse, and the idea of rebuilding came up.  Several people mentioned the idea of a “Doomsday Library” of shared information. I thought that this could easily be done as a dead drop with a USB drive.  Here’s how to do it:

First, you will need to have a computer, preferably a laptop, and some way to power it after any collapse.  This is important. The simplest way to do this is to get an “A/C Inverter” that you can plug into a car cigarette lighter.  You could also teach yourself how to make all sorts of alternative energy systems, then carefully regulate the output, and then plug your laptop into that.  It’s not a bad idea, either. You’ll learn a lot of useful skills in the process, but here, we’re talking quick and dirty, for the layman. Go out and get an inverter.  You’ll be glad you did. Now you just need a car that has fuel to idle long enough to use your computer. Or any decently regular source of 12v DC to power the inverter.  Many solar and wind power systems output to 12v DC.

OK, so now you’ve got a laptop and power for it after the collapse.  Woot. But before the collapse, you suspect that having certain information on your home computer might be incriminating.  Well, you could encrypt it, but then, the authorities would argue that you’re hiding something and in an unjust society, you’re bagged and buggered.  Besides, *your* computer may not make it. You want to be able to use the information you’ve stashed away on any computer you can get working, right? Right.  And a USB thumb drive is just the thing, with larger and larger ones available every day at lower and lower prices, it just makes sense.

So here’s a simple approach.

First you will need to make the data cache.  Get yourself a USB thumb drive. The brand doesn’t matter much.  Get the largest one you can afford. Plug it in. Delete those crappy applications that came with the drive.  You won’t be needing them. If you’re absolutely SURE you’ll have a Windows computer after the collapse, you can put an installation of “PortableApps” from on the drive.  It won’t hurt, but it does take up some space.  An office suite, image editor, PDF reader, a web browser, and a few utilities should do.  Next is the fun part.

Go find all the useful info you can.  Save it to the thumb drive. DO NOT buy ebooks for this.  Anything with DRM (Digital Rights Management) will survive poorly.  Use unencrypted plain text, PDF, HTML, or Word Doc formats, in that order of preference.  JPG, GIF, or PNG images are good, too. I’ll leave it up to you what to put in there, but I highly recommend’s “Where there is No Doctor” as one essential guide.  Remember, this info is for *rebuilding* more than surviving. If you’re still in the initial survival mode, getting a laptop to work might be a pretty low priority. Then again, you might want to cache documents to organize your regrouping efforts, so it’s really up to you.  

Put all these files in some semblance of order.  You can use something like the Dewey Decimal system or Library of Congress classification system, or you can make up your own.  In any case, try to make the info as easy to find as you can. With 64GB of books, things can get lost easily. Put some order in there.  In the top level directory, you should add at least one plain text file, called a “README” file. Name it something like 00README.txt so it shows up early in a file list and can be identified.  In this file, type out a welcome message to whoever might access the info. It might be you or it might be a friend getting the info for you. You might even be using the thumb drive to pass messages among the survivors you know, kind of like a shared bulletin board.  This should include a welcome and a brief overview of the contents and where to find things (and where to put things!). Do avoid any identifiable information though.

OK, so you’ve made your emergency data cache.  The next step is to squirrel it away in a safe location.  A USB drive is an electronic device, and as such doesn’t take kindly to exposure to the elements.  The first thing you’ll need is a sturdy, waterproof container.  

My preference here is a pill bottle.  We all have them. Usually they get tossed after we use up the contents, but those amber prescription bottles are perfect for this.  Soak the label off. Wash it wall and dry it thoroughly. If you’re really paranoid, wipe the bottle and USB drive with a soft wag moistened with rubbing alcohol to remove any fingerprints.  put the drive in the bottle and secure the cap.  

To make hiding and retrieval easier, tie a length of 550 cord around the bottle near the cap.  I like using a loop and securing it with something like a larks head, cat’s paw, prussic knot, Klemheist knot, etc.  Even a hangmans’ noose will do. Leave at least a couple feet to play with after the knot.  

Now you’ve got your data cache on the end of a piece of cord.  Excellent. The cap is tight and the knot is snug. Shove this in a pocket and go for a walk.

Where exactly to stash it is totally up to you.  You may even want to have a couple placed strategically.  Put them where you can get to them later. Ideal conditions are places you won’t be questioned going and where people are unlikely to look.  I like wilderness areas close to but *just* off the beaten path. Areas near fishing holes are good. Ditto for your favorite hunting spot. (You already know the area and you also know where the food is!)  My favorite of all though is to pick an off-set to a known point. It might be a prominent tree or rock, or a Geocache. Pick an off-set, say, 50-500 feet in some direction. Pace it out. Use a stick or something to make a hole.  Make it as deep as you can but narrow. drop in your pill bottle, leaving the 550 cord sticking out. Fill it in. When you’re done, arrange the leaves to look natural. All that you should see is the paracord. Awesome! It looks like a little bit of (OD green? Black? Tan?) trash that is unlikely to be noticed, let alone picked up.  You might even run it up to a low branch or tie it to a stick to make it easier to find in the leaves.

Here in New England, we have a lot of random rock walls in the middle of nowhere.  Behind a rock in one of these works well. Let the cord dangle a couple inches out so you can find it later.

In a more urban (or urban decay) environment, you might find a pipe or other hidden nook.  Just tie the cord off on something and toss the bottle over the edge. Make sure it’s well hidden though.  You should have to run your hand carefully behind something to get to any part of it.

In order to not arouse suspicion of the overlords, the location should be someplace you visit regularly.  I’ve got a few places I like to hike regularly. Be careful though that you use a place that is not frequented a lot and that won’t be bull-dozed any time soon for the next Walmart.  Also avoid your own home or work. These are more likely to be searched.  

From time to time, return to the spot.  Make sure no one is looking and retrieve your cache and TEST IT.  You’ll want to make sure the contents are OK and that it hasn’t been stolen.  All the more reason to have two or three in different places so you can replace them or find better hiding places if necessary.  

If you want a fun training exercise, have a cache or two available for your entire bugout team.  Make a text file for people to log their checkins and let everyone add info as they find it. This is a fun exercise and good practice.  You can also leave notes (intel!) for each other this way.

Need something quicker and simpler? Put your data on an SD card or micro-SD card.  Pull a little bees wax off a ball of the stuff with a fingernail and ball it up. Press the ball of wax onto the memory card and with some gentle pressure you can stick it anywhere.  Some ideas are under the counter at a coffee joint, behind some decoration, the back of an appliance in a shared cooking facility (break room?)… Anyplace flat smooth and clean will do.  

That’s it.  Happy data caching.

Author: ticom

| March 20th, 2020 | Posted in Uncategorized |

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