Top 10 Secret Agent Security Tips and Tricks
If you’re a regular Lifehacker reader you know we think security is pretty important, but you might not be aware of how cool it can be. If you’re looking to upgrade to secret agent mode, here are ten great ways to do it.
10. Shop Online with Virtual Credit Card Numbers
Disposable everything is a secret agent’s best friend, and the same goes for disposable credit card numbers. It’s hard to track someone using a different number every time, and it’s even harder to steal their identity. If you’re concerned about the safety of an online retailer but are willing to take the risk, virtual credit card numbers (or single-use numbers, as they’re sometimes called) can help you isolate transactions and easily prevent fraudulent activity. Not every bank/card provider offers this service, but call and see if yours does. It can be really helpful when you need it.
9. Encrypt Your Data
A great spy probably has no personal data to encrypt, because his or her personal data has been sacrificed in the name of pure secrecy. But since you’re just a regular person and don’t have to leave your identity at the door, you probably just need a good encryption tool. Not all data needs to be encrypted, when you have something sensitive you don’t want others to see or anyone to steal, it’s not a bad idea to keep things safe and secure. A little encryption can go a long way.
8. Modify Your Inkjet Printer to Print Invisible Messages
If you simply modify your yellow ink cartridge to use concentrated lemon juice, you can create an invisible message that will only be revealed when exposed to extreme heat (e.g. by pressing it with an iron). To start making your own invisible ink print-outs, follow these details or just watch the video to the left.
7. Lock Down All Your Digital Devices
The devices you use, from your computer to your smartphone, essentially provides a trail of where you’ve been. If you don’t want anyone getting access to that information too easily, and you’re not encrypting your entire disk, you should at least lock everything down. If you’re not sure how, we’ve got security guides for your smartphones, computers (even just like the NSA), and your online presence. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but once you get things nicely secured, it won’t be too much trouble. Besides, adding security is one of those things that only seems like a nuisance until it saves you from the inevitable trouble you’re bound to find in your life as a secret agent.
6. Browse the Web Anonymously and/or Securely
The internet can be a dangerous place to be tracked, and that’s no good for a spy. You can start by browsing anonymously with Tor, but if you’re communicating with your home base you’ll want to encrypt your activity with a VPN service like Hamachi. Both of these measures can help keep your private data private so you don’t have to worry about anyone figuring out where you are, what you’re doing, or listening in (both figuratively and literally) on your private communications.
5. Hide Files in Other Files
Steganography, or the art of hiding something in plain sight, is a very useful spy tactic you can use in your own life. It’s basically security through obscurity, and you can achieve that on your computer by hiding files in other files (like any file in a JPEG image, for example). While it’s possible someone could stumble upon it accidentally if they knew what to do, it’s a good way to hide your secrets without looking like you are. For more ways to hide things in plain sight, be sure to check out the secret hiding places manual.
4. Turn Your Devices Into Alarm Systems
Pretty much every computer and mobile device you own is capable of being its own alarm system. It may not always offer mind-blowing security, but it does provide you with measures of catching any foes you may encounter in your spy trade. For only $1, you can turn your Mac into a sound-sensitive alarm or your iPhone into a security camera. Both your Windows PC and your Mac can become security cameras for free as well. Windows even has a motion-sensing option. If you want to catch someone in the act of…anything, all it really takes is a webcam and some software.
3. Hide Secret Messages and Codes in an Audio File
There are plenty of places to hide your secret messages, but none quite as bizarrely awesome as in an audio file. With a few handy pieces of software, it takes hardly no effort to encode an image of text into an uncompressed WAV. Want to give it a try? Check out this tutorial or just watch the video to the left.
2. Turn a Flash Drive into a Portable Privacy Toolkit
When you’re off on a secret mission, you’ll probably need to search for a few things here and there but you can’t have that information tracked. When you’re on the go, have a privacy kit on a flash drive. This will keep all your web browser, email, passwords, and general internet activity completely private. You’ll travel from coffee shop to internet cafe without a trace.
1. If All Else Fails, Disappear
If all your security efforts go to waste and your identity has been compromised, you can always disappear as a last-ditch effort. To do this, you may have to steal the identity of a dead person, but you have to do what you have to do to survive, right? While we don’t recommending dropping off the grid and robbing the poor deceased of their social security numbers, knowing how easy it is can be a good way to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft. It’s one of those problems that pretty much never goes away, so everything you can do to avoid it is a step worth taking.