Mastering Covert Communications

Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,

Several of the inquiries I received this week have to do with cybersecurity and security of digital communications. I’m glad so many readers are taking this stuff seriously — and taking the necessary steps to protect their information.

So please, keep those questions coming! You can ask me anything. Simply send an email to, so I can address them in a future issue of the Weekly Drop.

Now let’s take a look at the latest batch of reader mail:

Thanks for your timely alert about securing Wi-Fi. An addition to No. 3 that I’d like to suggest would be to stop broadcasting your SSID altogether. Takes a little more effort to set up on each device you want to connect to Wi-Fi but provides a little more peace of mind, since nobody can just stumble over your network.

— J.C.

Absolutely, J.C., that’s another great way to prevent people from using your internet connection. Obviously, you can’t connect to a network you don’t even know is there.

As you mentioned, it does take a little more time to set up your router this way. And it can be a little more difficult to connect each device, since you have to work harder to find the actual network.

If you are dealing with sophisticated hackers, they can still search for and find the name of hidden networks. However, this will probably keep your average neighbor from stealing your Wi-Fi.

I sent you an encrypted email from my ProtonMail account. I was wondering if you’ve heard anything about using ProtonMail.

— Ron P.

I’ve heard of ProtonMail, but I haven’t personally used the service. If you’re not familiar with ProtonMail, basically, it offers end-to-end security encryption for your emails. The only drawback is that the person you are sending an email to also has to be using ProtonMail, or they won’t receive an encrypted email.

If that’s the case and you want your email to remain encrypted, you can send a link to a page where the receiver can view the email through ProtonMail using a secure password.

Another nice thing about this service is that you can set up emails to delete after a certain date. And since this email provider is free, it’s not a bad idea to use it as a way to send encrypted emails.

My granddaughters are traveling with Students International to the Dominican Republic to support a Christian charity helping kids there. Can you recommend an electronic tracker for this situation, or do you have any other recommendations?

— Stephen B.

The thing about electronic trackers, Stephen, is that you have to take into consideration their battery life and the network they operate on. What I mean is if the tracker uses a 3G or 4G wireless connection and the local network isn’t up to speed, the tracker’s battery life will drain even faster while it continuously searches for a connection.

Instead, what I recommend doing is tracking your grandkids with their cellphones. Look for a tracking app that allows you to be aware of where they are at all times. Since most people (especially teenagers) always have their cellphones charged and on their person, this is a good way to track people.

I worry about how to protect the items I have accumulated that are supposed to protect me (e.g., cash, PM coins, junk silver, handguns…). What the hell do I do with them, especially if I travel and don’t own my own home???

— Pam V.

Well, Pam, I recommend getting a large safe — something large enough that criminals won’t be able to carry away. I also suggest looking for a safe that is fireproof, in case something happens while you are gone. If you don’t want a heavy safe in your home because you move a lot, consider renting a storage unit and putting the safe there.

The encrypted email instructions are not correct. That site will not allow you to copy and paste the gibberish into the body of an email. You have to download it. Then, when you send the attachment, it doesn’t give the option of decrypting it. Could you check on this and let me know if there is something missing in the instructions? Thank you.

— Robert B.

You’re right, Robert. You can’t copy and paste the gibberish from the website. Once you hit the “Encrypt” (or “Decrypt”) button, you will need to download the encrypted (or unencrypted) text as a file. You can send the downloaded file or open it and copy and paste from there into the body of an email. Thanks for helping me clarify!

Stay safe,

Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson

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