Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,
Time for another edition of the Weekly Drop! I certainly hope this has been a useful tool to effectively answer your most pressing safety and survival questions. But if you’re a more hands-on learner, boy, do I have an opportunity for you.
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Now let’s get to the mailbag.
What is the best defense for malware, computer viruses and the like? I have tried big name-brand companies, but all but one time, I had a problem and they slowed my machine to a crawl. It’s worth it if that is the best option, but can you recommend anything?
— Lloyd K.
The best defense against malware and viruses is to take multiple steps that reduce the chances of your computer being infected.
First, I do recommend getting some type of antivirus software such as McAfee. Now, when a new virus is discovered, software companies typically update their security. So always check to make sure your computer has the latest software updates installed.
Second, although this should be pretty obvious, never download a file or attachment from an unknown source. Many hackers use email attachments and other scams to trick you into downloading something that will infect your computer. Always verify the sender before you click on or download anything.
Lastly, I also recommend using a virtual private network (VPN) such as TunnelBear. A VPN allows you to connect to the internet via a server run by a VPN provider. It securely encrypts your data and obfuscates your physical location by replacing your IP address with one from the provider. This makes it more difficult for hackers to infect your computer if you are using public Wi-Fi.
What about batteries? Is there a specific type or brand of battery you recommend? What sizes should I stock up on?
— Chuck B.
I use Panasonic eneloop rechargeable batteries. These batteries come pre-charged from the factory so you can immediately put them to use, which is an added bonus. Also, they can be recharged up to 2,100 times, which is huge money saver since you won’t be constantly buying new batteries for your electronics.
Another good thing about these batteries is that they maintain their charge when not in use (really). Personally, I have never left these batteries charged for years on end, but according to the company, they can maintain up to 70% of their charge after five years.
As for which size to stock up on, it just depends on what your survival gear uses. If you have a battery-operated survival radio or lantern, stock up on the size these gadgets require.
Batteries are also a great tradeable item. Consider stocking up on a few sizes you may not need to use for barter.
Are the WaterBricks totally BPA- and BPS-free?
— George L.
Good news, George. According to the manufacturer, the container, lid and gasket are all BPA- and BPS-free and made with FDA-compliant materials suitable for storing water and food.
The container is made out of HDPE (high-density polyethylene) resin. The lid is made out of high-density polypropylene. The gasket is made out of Dynaflex TPE (thermoplastic elastomer).
I just stumbled upon an article…and remembered that I had already seen something about bulletproof foam sometime last year. Since this clearly falls into your area of expertise, I would appreciate it if you discussed it in one of your future newsletters…
— Andrew H.
Actually, Andrew, I’ve recently read about some of the tests being conducted on this bulletproof foam. If you haven’t heard of it, basically, it’s a type of foam made from metal that turns bullets into a dust upon contact.
It’s in the very early stages of development, and I think it would need to go through rigorous application testing before we see it being used by law enforcement and the military. But if the foam material is proven to work, it would be great for those who wear body armor every day, since most body armor is hot, heavy and uncomfortable.
Because we are dealing with a product designed to protect lives, I’m sure it will take a while — and a lot more tests — before we see bulletproof foam in use.
Do you have any security tips for apartments? I’m not on the ground floor, and my building does have a secure entrance, but I’m sure there is more I could do to stay safe.
— Victoria M.
One of the first things I recommend you do is ask your landlord if you can change the locks on your door. I’m sure they would want a copy of the key, which is reasonable, but the truth is you never know how many previous tenants still have a key and if the landlord has ever changed the locks. If they allow you to put new locks on, I suggest using Schlage or Medeco locks.
Another common way criminals break in to apartments is through a sliding door or a window off a fire escape. If you have either, make sure it’s always locked. You should also put a wooden dowel or something in the track so the door or window can’t be opened from the outside.
Finally, since it’s difficult to have a security system in an apartment, I recommend purchasing a doorstop alarm. These devices look like typical doorstops, but when the door is opened, the pressure triggers a loud alarm that will hopefully scare away an intruder.