Your TV Is Watching You

Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,

Stop everything you’re doing.

Before you read today’s mailbag, I need you to do something for me.

Next Saturday — for one day only — former Navy SEAL sniper Cade Courtley will be taking over the weekly drop. Which means this could be your one opportunity to ask Cade your most pressing questions.

Simply reply to this email or send a message to, so our resident SEAL can respond.

Now let’s move on to this week’s drop. It’s a bit of a mixed bag. I’ll show you an email scam to avoid, address concerns over sentient appliances, clear up some cybersecurity confusion and present a special offer to help you learn lock picking.

Here we go…

Our 20-year-old TV is starting to go. My husband wants a new big-screen TV, but I’m not sure I want one in my house. I’ve read that the government, businesses and crooks can hack your TV and listen to you, watch you, record credit card numbers for Netflix and everything else you buy, download films, use shopping apps, push targeted advertising and who knows what else. That gives me the creeps… I want to be comfortable and secure in my own home and not have to second-guess everything I say and do. If the new TV can spy on us, is there any way to disconnect that ability?

— Nancy C.

Unfortunately, Nancy, most new televisions are “smart TVs,” which means they’re part of the growing “internet of things,” items that connect to the internet for customizable functionality. Televisions these days offer streaming services, app downloads, even a web browser. And anything that connects to the internet carries the risk of being hacked. As smart TVs become more popular, it is likely hackers will begin targeting them more often. I’m glad you’re factoring security into your purchase.

Of course, you can still purchase TVs that don’t have the internet connection capabilities. You may have to forego the latest display technology, which would defeat the purpose of getting a new TV.

If you do purchase a smart TV, I recommend not connecting it to the internet — or any streaming service — to prevent a hacker from accessing your information.

Hi, Jason. I’ve never had firearms training or owned a gun, but I want to start and get my concealed carry license. Can you recommend a credible firearms trainer or class in Las Vegas? Thank you.

— Ron G.

Actually, Ron, there are quite a lot of places you could go in Vegas for firearms training. The key is finding a place where you feel comfortable and that offers quality instruction. Check out a few different gun ranges and see which one you like best.

Ask questions about the training courses, the instructor’s background and whether they’re NRA certified (this is crucial). One place I’d look into is Machine Guns Vegas.

In your Jan. 14 issue of Black Bag Confidential, you wrote, “I don’t use a password vault program” because you said you didn’t want to lose all your passwords at once in case of a hack. In the Dec. 20 issue, you recommended LastPass or Password Chef. I am confused. Which is it?

— Mickey H.

You’re absolutely right, Mickey. I can see why you’re confused. Let me clarify: I personally don’t use a password vault program, but a lot of people do or are at least considering using one.

If I did use a password vault program, the two I would consider are LastPass and Password Chef. So these are programs I recommend to others, because in my estimation, they seem like quality applications that would do the best job of keeping your information secure.

In the video on lock picking in the recent issue of your Spy & Survival Briefing, you mentioned a website to obtain a lock picking set. I have a file cabinet that is locked, and I cannot find the key. I would love to be able to get into it. What is the website where I can get the set demonstrated or one that is appropriate to open a locked file drawer (four-drawer lateral file cabinet)?

— Gloria K.

I can’t tell you how often I receive phone calls from friends or family members who are in similar situations. Picking the lock on a file cabinet is not as difficult as most people think. All it takes is some basic know-how and a few tools, like the ones included in the conveniently compact credit card lock pick set as part of this special offer.

Jason, in response to a reader’s inquiry about AR ammo, IMI (Israeli Military Industries) 5.56 mm is outstanding. I was lucky enough to pick up a couple of cases last year. It is very clean and accurate, and I’ve never had a minor or major malfunction in either of my ARs…

— Tim O.

Tim makes a great point. Israeli Military Industries makes quality ammo that runs through most guns very well. You’ll pay a premium for their 5.56 mm rounds, but they’re worth it if you want to reduce the number of malfunctions.

This reputable company has been awarded several contracts to supply their military-grade 5.56 mm rounds to many different countries, including Spain. So if you are willing to pay a little extra, these are indeed great rounds.

Jason, have you ever seen those flashlights with built-in pepper spray? What are your thoughts?

— Lars T.

I have, Lars, but I don’t like to use pepper spray, because I find it limiting and ineffective. You never want to use pepper spray indoors, and outside it’s hard to control. The wind could easily blow it into your face, making it that much harder to fight off an assailant. Plus, some people aren’t as affected by pepper spray as others. It wouldn’t do you any good if your attacker had a mild reaction.

Do you carry earplugs as part of your EDC gear?

— Sean R.

No, Sean, I don’t include earplugs with my everyday carry items. If I ever encountered a situation where I had to use my firearm, I wouldn’t take the time to put in earplugs. And in a gunfight, most people will experience auditory exclusion, so there’d be little damage to your hearing.

Now, I’d like to share an interesting email I received last week.

Good Morning, i’m writing this with tears in my eyes, my family and I came down here to Marseille on a short trip. Unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed all cash, credit card and mobile phone were stolen off us but luckily we still have our passports with us.

I made contact with my bank but it would take me 5 working days to access funds in my account, the bad news is our flight will be leaving in less than 8-hrs from now but we’re having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let us leave until we settle the bills.

I’ll need your help financially and i promise to make the refund once we get back home, Please let me know if i can count on you and i need you to keep checking your email because it’s the only way i can reach you. I anticipate your response

— John T.

I hope everyone can see that “John’s” message contains several errors and sounds like it was dictated by a robot. Plus, it came from a strange email address, which is a huge red flag. Don’t fall for these scams!

And don’t forget to send any questions you have for Cade Courtley to so he can tackle them in next week’s mailbag.

Until next time…

Stay safe,

Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson

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