Covert Communications | The Survival Summit
*Updated September 2022
In a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep secrets, learning how to communicate covertly is more important than ever. Whether you’re trying to avoid detection by criminals, hackers, or the government, or you’re an abused spouse hiding from an ex, but still want to be able to speak to your family or friend; specific communication methods are more secure and less likely to be intercepted. This blog post will explore some of the most popular covert communication methods and discuss how you can use them yourself. These techniques would also come in handy if the SHTF. Stay safe and concealed!
This blog about covert communications is for everyone who understands that the surveillance state is out of control. Do criminals use these methods? Yes. Does that mean that you can’t use them as law-abiding citizens? Hell no. That’s almost as dumb as the arguments from the anti-gun people. Let’s get right into it!
Since most of us will not be able to utilize encrypted radio over satellite with our own special equipment and satellites, we’re going to talk about lower-tech options. Identifying covert communications using forensic analysis and everyday investigative methods is easier than one might think, so you must be incredibly careful.
There is a lot of misinformation about burner phones and how they can be used. The truth: these devices aren’t as untraceable or easy to use when we think about them in terms of privacy concerns, but here are some key tips to ensure you’re being safe when using one:
- Don’t buy your burner phones online or in a big box-type store. Always pick up your burner phone in a convenience store outside of your hometown.
- Do not buy a “smartphone” as a burner. Stick with a non-smartphone version.
- Never use “burner phone numbers” that you can get through an app on your actual phone.
- Never keep your burner phone and your regular phone together if the burner phone is on. Anyone looking at cell or tower records can get an idea that the same person owns those two phones. Try to never carry the burner when you have your personal phone on, and NEVER turn on the burner at your house or in your neighborhood.
- Change burner phone providers often (if you’re using it a lot) and randomize usage habits, including locations, often.
- Before you sign up for any service, it’s important that the terms and privacy policies are clear. Be sure to review them carefully so there aren’t surprises later on down the road! Obviously, don’t use your real name or info.
- Always pay cash and do not get a receipt. Do not even touch the receipt, have the clerk throw it away.
- Purchase pre-paid only, no plans.
- Activate the phone and SIM a few days after you get it, in a densely populated residential area nowhere near yours, preferably at a large apartment complex. Always leave the default voicemail.
- Never send texts with private info from the burner.
- Never use your burner phone near your neighborhood.
Break Phone Setup
- Purchase 3 burner phones.
- Give one of them to your contact.
- Take the second burner and set up call forwarding to your contact’s phone.
- Save the number to the second phone, and then destroy it completely.
- Call the broken phone to call your contact. This way if your contacts phone becomes compromised, the call will be traced to the broken phone, not to you. If you’re using and randomizing burner phones using the techniques described in the last section, you should be nearly impossible to trace.
- You can use a 4th phone for covert communications in the other direction as well.
- This technique and a couple others about covert communications can be found in our film, Survival Escape and Evasion.
We also highly recommend keeping an Escape and Evasion kit on your person at all times. *TIP: Our kit comes in a survival tin. Do not keep everything in that tin. Spread load the gear in many locations on your person.
What about anonymous apps like Signal?
If you’re well versed on how to safely use a “smartphone” version of a burner, which we still do not recommend, coded conversations using applications like Telegram, Signal, WhatsApp, and other secure messaging apps are the new way to stay in touch with friends. They offer an additional layer of protection for your messages that goes beyond just being able to communicate privately – it’s also anonymous and encrypted. Signal is also recommended by Edward Snowden, who knows a thing or two about communications.
These features make VOIP calling even easier than ever before; you can call anyone who has either app without worrying about whether or not they’ll see what was sent to you next time around (because deleting each conversation from both participants will get rid out any trace)
Texting and calling apps are traceable if you use them incorrectly. So when should we be worried about being traced while using anonymous text messages? If your voice or photographs get added to the message because of features like facial recognition, then that’s one-way data can link back to our real-life identities. Do not leave a trail outside of your app by calling/sending messages through it on a phone line that will link back to YOU, and do not forward calls or send messages from the app to your actual number. Keep your covert communications just that, covert!
What about using email?
If we learned one thing from Hillary Clinton about covert communications, it’s that we need to be really careful what we’re sending out via email. Looking for an uncomplicated way to communicate covertly via email?
- Setup up one random email account
- Share the login with your contact covertly, in person if possible
- Log in and start drafting an email but don’t send it. Save it as a draft
- Have your contact go in and open the draft and respond to you; still never actually send the email
- You’re going to want to use Proton Mail or another service that DOES NOT save draft emails or any emails on their server.
So, whether you’re an undercover agent needing to keep your covert communications confidential, a concerned citizen who does not like the surveillance state, or just want to be able to chat with your friends without Big Brother listening in, these tips will help you stay safe and undetected. Learning how to communicate covertly is vital for anyone who wants to keep their conversations private. With the right tools and knowledge, you can feel confident communicating discreetly no matter the situation.
What’s the #1 way to keep your communications covert? Talk to people in person, away from any/all electronic devices. Old school pre-digital era in-person signaling and drops are still best. However, there are plenty of ways to communicate through the internet, such as using prearranged Google searches using unique phrases, etc., or encoded images on a platform like Twitter, which would be easy to blend in since there are millions of daily tweets. But we digress; these are subjects for another day.