Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,
Protecting my personal information was one of the most important security measures I implemented when I joined the CIA. As a CIA officer, I knew I would be a target of foreign governments, so I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure no one could find out my home address.
In truth, the northern Virginia area where I lived at that time was crawling with foreign operatives who would have liked nothing more than to get a CIA officer on their side by any means necessary. And if they have someone’s home address, that makes their job even easier.
So I opened a PO box and changed all of my recorded information, such as my driver’s license and vehicle registration, to my “new” address. Even now that I am no longer in the CIA — and live in a different state — nothing is attached to my home address. I don’t even own my home under my true name.
But please don’t think the only people who need to protect their physical addresses are ex-intelligence officers. I’m a firm believer that everyone should open a PO box or get a UPS Store address to protect themselves. If you’re skeptical, the following story proves my point.
A recent security breach in California compromised the personal information of several certified firearms instructors. The California Department of Justice inadvertently released the names, dates of birth and driver’s license numbers of every single DOJ-certified firearms instructor — and they released them to an unknown person or persons.
Put plainly, the California DOJ has no idea who collected this information and what they plan on doing with it. It’s a distinct possibility that anti-gun protesters could use this database to target firearms instructors in their homes. What’s even more troubling, the state learned of the leak in October, but it took two months for them to send letters notifying the people whose information was compromised.
As if this incident weren’t bad enough, the California DOJ recently submitted proposed regulations regarding an assault weapons registry. Basically, these new laws stipulate that if someone registers their weapon with the state, they cannot hold the DOJ responsible for any liability issues related to the registration in the event that person’s contact information gets released to the public.
Clearly, the California DOJ has some major security flaws, evidenced by the fact that they just compromised the personal information of many instructors. So why in the world would anyone register their weapon if they can’t depend on the DOJ to protect them?
Time and time again, we see examples of government data being hacked or stolen, so it’s up to you to take the necessary steps to protect yourself.
Make sure that if information about you gets out, it won’t reveal your home address. I recommend setting up a personal mailbox at The UPS Store or somewhere similar and having all of your mail and correspondence sent there. Any online accounts should use your UPS Store address, especially when shipping packages.
Using a PO box is another option, but you should know that “PO Box 101” won’t count as a physical address if you’re required to use one. However, your UPS mailbox would qualify because it would read something like “343 N. Main St., #432,” which would be considered a physical address.
So contact your local UPS Store and set up an address ASAP — because I’m sure it won’t be long before the next big breach.