Let me premise this by saying I am no expert in the material I will provide. I, like most everyone on this site, is an avid hobbyist in these matters. For some background on me though, I am a Mathematics and Computer Science Major in my fourth year of college, a phone and computer enthusiast, I enjoy white hat hacking and build computers for fun. Maybe not the average prepper, but I get by.
I am writing this article as I have found almost nothing on modern technology in the several blogs that I visit on a daily basis, even this one, as esteemed as it is. Frankly, this troubled me quite a bit. First off, as many of you know, our great country is delving deeper and deeper into the lives of you and me, citizens in this country, and even people all over the world. The amount of data they receive from seemingly harmless web searches or Facebook posts by you would curdle your blood. I recently read an article that the NSA (National Security Agency) has been gathering data electronically on US citizens for over 10 years now. I’m not trying to scare you, this is a fact. So what I will do in this article is try to educate you on how to better protect yourself from further implicating yourself on any more FBI and NSA lists than you already are, and to guide you on a technologically sound path that will help you post TEOTWAWKI.
First things first: GET OFF OF SOCIAL MEDIA. That may seem drastic, especially in today’s society where it seems that if you aren’t on Facebook or Twitter, you don’t exist. But this is the number one place that the government and other malicious agencies are getting their information on you. And if your OpSec is that terrible that you post about your prepping online, then this may be too late for you. But that’s number one. Live with it. If you feel that this is just impossible, then take as much info about you off. The agencies that run these sites already have this information, but it will limit others from accessing it, especially black hat hackers, who may try to gain access to your accounts to steal your identity. Another point to make, which I hope many of you already know: DO NOT post anything about vacation or your time away from home on the internet. This includes posting pictures of your vacation after you get back. This is an invitation to criminals to see that your home is empty and ripe for the picking.
Number Two: Protect yourself online. This is a very complex issue, as there is a plethora of ways that malicious hackers can get to you, but that’s not what I'm referring to; I’m telling you to try to become as incognito while online as possible. The first thing you can do, if your up to the task of learning a little programming, is to get the Internet browser Tor. If you aren’t into that, then get Iron as a browser. ABSOLUTLEY DO NOT browse the Internet with anything else. Maybe Firefox, but that’s a stretch too. If you are using chrome, IE, Opera, or anything else, STOP NOW. There are so many trackers and hidden packets that track every web site you go to, every keystroke you make, and every opinion you post. In other words, everything you do online is stored somewhere where someone can hack it, or the government can just swoop in under any pretense and take it, for “the betterment of the country”. Fun stuff, right?
After that, I would suggest using Proxy Servers to connect to any web site you may think is incriminating, like this one. No offense JWR, I love your site, but I’m probably on a watch list or two because of my ignorance, so I hope to help all of you. For those of you who do not know what a Proxy Server, or Proxy, is, then here is a great explanation. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proxy_server). In short, it hides all internet traffic on your IP address (your computer’s personal traceable address online), and routs all the data you access through an offsite server, making it seem like you aren’t going to any of the sites, the other server is! You can go to any site you want, and no one will know it is your computer. Obviously there are ways around this, but it’s better than nothing. It will prevent your internet provider from getting a large majority of your internet traffic, which it does at all times, as regulated by the government. This is the number one way that school kids and other people get around firewalls on public computers in schools and libraries, so I would not recommend doing this on a computer you don’t own, as your access may be revoked.
Next up, an Antivirus! I would suggest AVG. Its free, and the free version is GREAT! As always though, if you enjoy the software, support those who make it, and pay the one time fee. Its nominal, but helps programmers like me a lot.
Next up the most important item in your EDC: your SMARTPHONE. Many people think that post TEOTWAWKI, this great culmination of modern technology will be dead and useless. Those who think that, and think that we will go back to hand cranked HAMs are fairly wrong. Yes, the grid may be down, and you won’t have internet or communications on it, but these phones are some of the smallest, most powerful computers in the history of the world. It matters what’s on this device BEFORE the collapse. As many people are preparing, you all most likely have a backup way to generate small amounts of power. Well, good think these phones do not require a lot of power! A hand cranked generator could power these phones easily. So like I said, the important thing is what you have on these phones. This is a pretty laborious topic, so I'm going to split it up.
1) Brand. Get an ANDROID! I cannot stress this enough. There are several reasons why this is imperative.
First, they have an external microSD card. For anyone who does not what this is, it’s a tiny tiny flash/jump/thumb/usb drive. Whatever you want to call it. They are getting very inexpensive, and can hold the same amount of info as a flash drive. I currently have a 32gb microSD in my phone, and can only fill half of it. This aspect of the phone is so important as even though you may store all your important files on a usb flash, this means that you will need a power-hungry laptop or desktop to read those files. Why? Get a micro dedicated to your BOB and then you can load it into your small, portable phone, and show anyone on the screen you documents. There are even water/shock proof micro sd cards now. I have an 8gb elements proof dedicated just for my BOB files. Fills less than a 20th of it. The rest is my favorite music and a couple good movies, for the entertainment side of survival.
Secondly, most of these phones have a removable battery. This is especially important, as extra batteries are cheap now, and bleed power pretty slowly. So I keep three extra around so that I not only have extra power now for a long trip or if I forget to plug the phone in, but also as a great BOB item. Remember, these phones can be a force multiplier, so the longer you can go without a crank or solar, the better off you will probably be in the crucial days post collapse.
Lastly for hardware, get an OtterBox. These are fairly expensive cases, but they protect your phone from almost anything! I would splurge on this, and drop around $60-$100 on a good case. They are shock proof, waterproof, everything proof. I assume you all can figure out why this is so crucial.
One more point, as with anything recommended on this site, READ THE MANUAL! Especially with these devices. They are complex pieces of machinery that are fickle beasts at best, and must be dealt with properly. Also, there are ways to turn off the tracking devices if you are worried about that. Read the manual, or go online and read blogs on how to do some easy hacking to prevent anyone from using your phone against you.
Now, enough of hardware, onto the software!
When it comes to these phones, they literally have no software limit. You can game, live video chat across the world, have it sing you to sleep, wake you up, etc. But the important thing of course, is how it helps you in TEOTWAWKI.
There are several apps that deal with survival: the full army survival manual FM-21 76, Coast Guard survival, urban survival, camo tips, gun tips, sniper windage directions, incendiary devices, gardening practices, scuba practices…
If you didn’t get where I was going with that, you can get literally EVERY book on your shelf on that phone. Now I know many people advocate a Kindle, or are completely against this in the case of it breaking, power, EMP, etc, and I'm not advocating replacing your library with this. But this is ideal in a GOOD situation. You cant bring that library on your back, but you may be able to come back to it. This phone could save you in that time. Also, Amazon has made Kindle for Android, so you can access all of your Kindle books on your phone, and the resolution is great. I read books on my phone all the time, as I feel that a Kindle is a wasteful expense.
Not only can it store your survival library, but these devices have a flashlight app that can help if your other flashlights are gone/out, it has video/audio recording which may come in handy if you need to prove self defense to a later start-up government, and maybe more importantly, they have the capacity for sanity items. Like games, cards games, novels for fun, and most importantly, music. I know I will fall into depression pretty quickly if I feel that most of my favorite music, especially brilliant classics like Bach, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, etc are lost to the destruction. That would be a blow I could not bear. So instead, you can help preserve these masterpieces, and a few others for your own entertainment!
Some especially useful apps I would recommend are:
Engineering Unit Converter: this will change every known unit to almost every other known unit. This is essential if your book tells you to take one oz of meds, but you only have a dropper labeled in ml.
Calculator: this is pretty straightforward. We use calculators more than we know, and these can be especially useful, giving you a competitive edge over the pen and paper competition.
Notes/Picture: Notes are great for about everything, but combined with a camera, you can take pictures of the land and note defensive positions, fields of fire, water sources, food sources, the list is endless. So you can send a few men on recon with these, and have better and more accurate knowledge to get a leg up over the enemy/nature.
First Aid: I cant believe I forgot about this one until now, but you may not always have an experienced medic around. And even if you are fairly comfortable with the basics, you have to remember Murphy’s Law: what can go wrong, will. So for those especially strange wounds/infections/symptoms, these apps are a huge wealth of knowledge.
Cargo Decoder: This app has you type in the number on a truck and it tell you what it is hauling and gives you the MSDS info on it. This is a great app if you want to know if you should salvage an abandoned truck or not, how to prepare for the extraction of the material, what to do first aid, etc.
Emergency Alerts: This app makes your phone up no matter what state it is in (unless off) and beeps loudly if there is an emergency or warning in your area. Great app to give you a leg up on those not ready for an incoming disaster.
And some others I like: United States Constitution, The Federalist Papers, The Weather Channel, Knots Tying Guide, SurvivalGuide, Screen filter.
*All of the apps I listed are free, so this won’t hurt the wallet. The list of what these phone can do is endless, but alas, your patience is not. So for a final point, if I haven’t convinced you to do all this now, at least get the phone for fun pre-TEOTWAWKI! Live the good life while we can! And these phones definitely help.