In an apocalyptic scenario, safety becomes the primary concern. Whether we’re talking about a zombie apocalypse, aftermath of nuclear war, or a “left behind after the Rapture” kind of thing, one thing is going to be on your mind – finding shelter and hiding to the best of your ability to keep yourself and your family safe.
For that, you’ll need to get very good at hiding your tracks, and that includes your online presence. You wouldn’t believe how easy it is for someone to figure out your location and track you down via your digital activity, so let’s take a look at how you can eliminate that threat by scrubbing your digital presence.
Delete Your Social Media Accounts
This may be a cop-out, but it needs to be said: one of the easiest and most effective ways of making sure that no one figures out your location or any information about you is to not have a social media account, at all.
It’s not easy to part with it once it’s become a part of your routine, especially if you use it to connect with family or stay on top of news but you social accounts give away a huge amount of information about you. You may also want to keep in mind the fact that Facebook (and other similar platforms) collects a lot of data about you, including possible location data, so that’s another reason to just shut the whole thing down.
However, you need to be aware that even if you deactivate your accounts, chances are they will not be deleted completely. Facebook is notorious for this, so be sure that you’re very thorough in scrubbing the account in question and look for options for deletion, and not deactivation.
You also want to make sure that you delete all of your accounts, not just the ones you use the most. If you delete Twitter, but still have Facebook and Instagram, for example, that’s slightly better, as there are fewer sources that have info on you, but the other two are still a threat.
Scrub Your Post History
What about all the times you’ve posted risky things? Any time you’ve shared your location, or things you posted before you were aware of the risks? Can they be used to harm you? Yes, they can, but you can reduce that risk significantly by going back and scrubbing your post history anywhere you share information on the internet.
Even something as simple as mentioning your neighbor or posting about a coffee shop near your home can help people track you down. You can’t do much about people who’ve already seen those posts, but you can certainly prevent others from having access to that information from now on. That doesn’t only go for the popular social media platforms, but even “anonymous” sites like random online forums. Even though you aren’t posting under your real name, if you post any identifying information, it’s enough to leave a trail for someone to doxx you (find you in real life or otherwise reveal your real identity online). Treat it like the legitimate security threat it is and take care of it as soon as possible.
Strengthen Your Passwords
Don’t forget about the passwords you use! A significant portion of the population uses the same password for everything (or at least for similar accounts, like social media), and that can be a huge problem. Someone has to hack just one password and they gain access to other, more sensitive accounts such as bank accounts, insurance accounts, medical information, etc.
Your passwords should never be a real word or something that be easily guessed. A nonsensical combination of words, lower-case and upper-case letters, and symbols is always best. In addition, the “secret” questions they ask you are never actually that secret. Anyone who knows you would be able to break into your account with your mother’s maiden name or the name of your pet.
When it comes to security questions, give answers that make no logical sense. For example: “What is your mother’s maiden name?” “Purple”. “Where was your first job?” “Notebook”. You can even spell these backwards if you want to make it extra secure; just make sure you remember your fake answers. That way, no one will be able to hack into your accounts to figure out sensitive information about you.
Use Cash, Not Cards
It is not likely that banks would be functioning, should doomsday come, but in the early days it might be tempting to use you cards where you can to preserve cash. Using credit cards is a big no-no, because it’s the easiest way to track your location. The bank has a very clear picture of the exact locations where you use your card, how much you spend, and what you buy, and it’s information that could fall into the wrong hands.
Cash, on the other hand, is much more anonymous to use, and can be used anywhere you need, including on the black market. You never know what you’re going to need. If you happen to be on the run with no cash on hand and need to use an ATM, remember to cover up the camera, and use an ATM in a location far away from where you are hiding. Your presence and activity at the ATM can be tracked, so you don’t want to give anyone any clues.
Prevent Tracking Through Your Devices
Your devices can also be tracked in more ways than you realize – by the government, or just entities who want to find you. Especially with the myriad of ways we’re connected these days, it is, at times, ridiculously easy to track someone. Here are some steps you need to take to prevent tracking:
- Check for a physical tracker
First thing’s first – you may very well have a physical GPS tracker on you. That means that your location and movement would be available to the person tracking you, at all times, and they could very well chase you. If you suspect someone may be tracking you, this is the first thing to look for.
They make these things smaller and smaller, so it’s entirely possible for it to be stuck in your car, in your laptop, etc. without you even noticing.
- Disable/delete location tracking and history
Next up, you need to take all your devices and access their settings. Did you know that a lot of devices have automatic location tracking? That’s right – rather than being turned off for you to enable them, you buy the device with this thing turned on, and Google (or Apple, or whomever) records a history of your whereabouts. Obviously, that’s outrageous.
Thankfully, you can go right in and disable the location tracking and scrub your entire location history. That way, no one can hack into your account and see any patterns of movement or locations where you’ve hidden in the past.
- Use Airplane mode
Even when not in use, your phone can be used to track you, thanks to Wi-Fi and cell towers. In fact, if someone really wants to find you, they can even set up a fake phone tower and your phone will connect to it, thus betraying your location.
That’s why it’s a good idea, when you are not actively using the phone for a call, to make sure to put it on Airplane mode. That disables all wireless functions, so your phone will not connect to Wi-Fi or cellphone towers.
- Use a burner phone and prepaid SIM
A burner phone and prepaid SIM are excellent options to bypass tracking. Neither the phone nor the SIM card are registered anywhere or linked to your name or bank account, so they’re pretty anonymous and harder to trace.
However, keep in mind that in the eventuality that someone is willing to make any effort to find you (such as authorities or someone with access to a government database) and they have a vague idea of where you are, they can ask phone companies to isolate and hand over a list of all the devices that connected to a phone tower at any given time. It would take a while, but they could possibly identify you. A burner isn’t as safe as you think it is.
- Turn the phone off and take the battery out
Because of new and more insidious forms of malware, you may think you’ve turned your phone off when in reality, your phone is just in “sleep” mode, and still recording your conversations. A scary thought, but unfortunately possible.
Ultimately, it may be worth just turning your phone off whenever you’re not using it, and taking the battery out. That way, your device will be completely out of commission, and no one will be able to connect or track you.
What’s the Bottom Line?
With the end of the world looming, we never know what’s going to happen and we can’t control the inevitable outcome, but we can take control of our safety. In a situation where you see yourself forced to run and go into hiding, how do you protect yourself and your family and prevent tracking?
We’re so connected nowadays, that the devices and digital activity that made our lives easier in the past may now become our liabilities. To prevent someone from tracking you via digital means, there are several things you can do, including scrubbing your online presence, strengthening security on digital accounts, and taking safety measures for your devices. You never know who’s out to get you, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
About the author:
Emily is a writer and blogger with a specific interest in technology and gadgets. While nobody knows what the end of the world might look like, she knows it’s always important to be safety conscious when using the internet and technology.