A little over a year ago, our fearless and talented illustrator Ted Slampyak sent me an email telling me that he wouldn’t be able to do as many projects for us because he was working on illustrating a book written by a Navy SEAL. It would teach civilians cool, Jason Bourne-esque spy skills like picking locks, using drops, evading pursuers, and even killing people with improvised weapons.
When he told me about the book, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Well, that book is now available, and it is awesome. It’s entitled 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation, and today on the podcast I talk to the book’s author, retired Navy SEAL Clint Emerson, about the deadly skills even civilians should know in order to protect themselves and their loved ones. You won’t want to miss this podcast. Lots of great actionable takeaways from it.
- The EDC every man should have in order to be prepared for any situation
- The Violent Nomad Workout that will keep you in fighting condition
- Why even civilians should know how to make improvised weapons
- The pen Clint recommends carrying because it can be used as a weapon or to break glass if you ever need to escape
- What a Vehicle Bolt Bag is and what you should put in it
- What you should do if you ever find yourself in an active shooter situation
- How to develop your situational awareness
- How to secure your hotel room when you’re traveling
- How to detect if someone has been tampering with your stuff
- And much more!
100 Deadly Skills is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. Sure, I’ll likely never have to make explosive devices or make a gas mask with a milk jug, but I like to know that I could if I had to. It’s a great book to just pick up and thumb through so you can learn or refresh yourself on the seriously cool skills of a secret operative. Also, Ted of course did a bang-up job with the illustrations. If you’re a fan of his work, you’ll want to pick up a copy. What are you waiting for? Go buy a copy today!
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, and welcome to another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast.
A little over a year ago, our illustrator, Ted Slampyak … If you’ve been to the site, you’ve probably seen his illustrations. Really talented guy. He emailed me and he said, “Brett, look, I’m working on this new project, so I’m not going to be able to work on as many projects for you.”
I said, “What’s the project?”
He said, “It’s this book of Navy Seal skills on how to make improvised weapons, how to pick locks, how to evade someone in traffic, how to hide things and even kill people.”
I was like, “This sounds like the coolest thing in the world.”
He was like, “Yeah, it’s really cool. My illustrations have to be approved by the government before we can publish them.”
I was like, “This is awesome. You’ll have to let me know about it when it comes out.”
He did, and the book is out. It’s called 100 Deadly Skills: The Seal Operatives’ Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation, and the author of it is Clint Emerson, and he worked with Ted to come out with this book.
It’s an awesome book. It is a lot of fun. It’s cool Jason Bourne stuff. Even if you don’t have to ever use it, you feel good or feel cool knowing that you know how to do this stuff if you ever had to.
Today on the podcast, Clint and I discuss these 100 Deadly Skills, why civilians should even know how to make an anal concealment. Why is that? Why should we know that? We talk about some other great, cool, Jason Bourne, James Bond, Navy Seal skills. A lot of fun stuff on the podcast, with a lot of useful, practical, takeaway information you can start incorporating in your daily life to have more situational awareness and to protect you and your loved ones.
Without further ado, 100 Deadly Skills with Clint Emerson.
Clint Emerson, welcome to the show.
Clint Emerson: Thanks, Brett. It’s great to meet you. Great site. Love your stuff.
Brett McKay: Thank you so much. Your book is 100 Deadly Skills. It’s illustrated by AoM favorite, Ted Slampyak, but before we get into the details of the book, this is fun. We’re going to talk about some really cool Jason Bourne stuff today. Let’s talk a bit about your background. How did you go from becoming a Navy Seal, transitioning to running a security consulting company?
Clint Emerson: I think becoming a Seal started just like a lot of guys, where as they were a kid, they probably met a Seal, saw something on TV, read a book, something usually that triggers that.
For me, I grew up overseas in Saudi Arabia. I was there from the second grade all the way to high school, and I was traveling through Frankfurt with my family on a vacation back to the states, and at the Frankfurt airport, at the bar, we were waiting on a flight, and I was probably 9, 10 years old, and at the bar, there was a guy with a black polo on, and I could see a tattoo hanging out from his sleeve on his left arm. Being a curious kid, i was like, “What’s that?”
He said, “It’s a trident.”
I said, “What’s a trident?”
He said it represents a seal, blah, blah, blah, and he gave me the breakdown.
Eventually, he was like, “Where are you from, kid?”
I’m like, “I live in Saudi.” I kept on asking what do the Seals do, and finally, he gave me a little snippet that stuck in my head forever, and that was, “You know we bombed Libya right?” I was like, “Yeah,” because I was living in Saudi, and Vice President George Bush, at the time, came into the country and said we’re going to have C-130s in case they retaliate into Saudi Arabia on the Americans.
Long story short, he gave me a story about how the Seals went in, took out the anti-aircraft guns, so that the B-111s could come in nice and low, drop bombs, and pull out. Made sense to me as a child. Then later, the funny part is, as I get finally through Seal training, and end up at Seal Team 3 which, at the time, focused primarily on the Middle East, and I started looking through the archives, talking to guys who had been around for a while, and asked them about that particular mission. They were like nobody here ever did that.
I was like hmm, maybe it’s out at one of the more discrete commands, like Seal Team 6. Eventually, I end up at Seal Team 6. Then I do the same thing. I start asking around, and no one has any record of any kind of op like that ever taking place, and I guess the point is is yeah, it was sparked by probably a fraudulent operation that never happened, but it stuck in my head forever. That’s where my career began. It’s actually kind of funny.
Brett McKay: It is.
Clint Emerson: Then, while I did my 20 years, towards the end you see a lot of guys start to get out early, and they end up doing contract work in Iraq or Afghanistan, wearing body armor. Some of them get to do some fun stuff, but overall, it’s nothing glamorous. It’s nothing that you really want to be doing, but the money’s great, so a lot of guys fall into doing that type of stuff.
I knew I was a career guy. I was going to do my 20, and then figure it out from there, but I wanted to go into more of the corporate side, dealing higher-level stuff that consists of crisis management policies, workplace violence policies, and then educating workforces.
Basically, now, I’m building this stuff that’s policy-driven, then you take that policy, you turn it into workplace education via e-learning and videos, and you push it out via their … Whatever their platforms are, their servers, or whatever they have in place. Their infrastructure. I could’ve never predicted doing that, but I wanted to do something a little smarter. I really didn’t want o be standing on a wall in Iraq making $500 a day. I really started investing in myself towards the end of my career, and then set everything up so that I could get out and start paying myself the day that I got out. A lot of guys either don’t have a plan, didn’t have time to make a plan, or they get out and they go with whatever their buddies are doing. I forecasted a little bit, and put some things together, so that I could do my own thing. Hence, escape the walls.
Brett McKay: Escape the walls, you guys go into corporations, help them with their digital security, also travel security?
Clint Emerson: Yeah, we’ve put together crisis management plans, and then educated the workforce on what to do during natural disasters, what to do during active shooters, you name it. We also do network analysis, vulnerability assessments, but our unique capability that’s been really attractive to Fortune 500s is our ability to get in clandestinely. Literally breaking in using criminal tactics, and then taking over their networks. If we can get to one computer that’s on their network, then we take it over. Then, at the end, we give a nice, big, thick vulnerability report, and then tell them how to fix those problems.
It emulates bad guys. It emulates a foreign intel service. It also emulates an insider attack, something like Sony. If something can be done at the computer, inside the office, the we will do that. Along with your typical, remote attacks from outside the fence-line trying to get in from the internet. We do it all in one shot, which gives them facility threat assessments, where are all their gaps and loop holes, can I … A lot of times we get in during the day with a coffee in one hand and my cellphone up to my ear, and somebody will hold the door open for me, and I’m in.
We put it all together. Social engineering, facility assessments, cyber, and then give them a big, fat report.
Brett McKay: That’s awesome. Let’s talk about your book, 100 Deadly Skills. Ted Slampyak, he does the illustrations for Art of Manliness, and when he told me about this project, he was like, “Yeah, I’m working on this project with this Navy Seal.” This was about a year ago. He’s like, “100 Navy Seal skills, and it has to be approved by the government.”
I was like wait a minute. What kind of stuff are you putting in a book that needs to be approved by the government first? What kind of stuff … I’m curious. What things in the book needed to get approval from the government before you published it?
Clint Emerson: Really, it’s a much bigger level than that. Ever since No Easy Day came out, by Mark Owen, that book created a firestorm with an approval system that no one knew about prior to Mark releasing his book. Everyone else prior to him had written books, put them out, published them. Nobody had any clue that, wait a minute, I’m supposed to get this stuff reviewed by the Pentagon before I publish?
Mark, unfortunately for him, he ended up being the guy that took a barrage of fire, federal investigations, and probably a whole lot of other stuff that we don’t know about, because his information was … It was light. It wasn’t anything that anyone tells you before you get out or you retire, “Hey, make sure you do this.”
First, the book … Every person in the military, it’s highly recommended that, if they’re going to put something on paper or if they’re going to put a PowerPoint brief together to go brief a bunch of people, that it gets reviewed by the Pentagon, and now, I highly recommend it. It’s more about, as a former military guy or retired guy, doing the right thing, making sure that what you put in the book isn’t somehow sensitive, and that’s not up to the individual’s discretion. That’s up to the government’s discretion.
I had to turn all 100 skills in and have them review each and every one, along with the narratives, the illustrations, you name it. Then they actually … From the Pentagon, they send it to every agency you ever stood at. It went to Naval Special Warfare. It went to Seal Team 6. It went to SOCOM. It went to the NSA. Anyplace I ever hung out, it is the Pentagon’s responsibility to disseminate it out to everyone, and then everyone gets to take a look at it, and put their two cents in on whether they think something is sensitive or not.
The review process is there for that reason, to protect information that could possibly be sensitive or classified, that is sometimes, to a former or retired guy, maybe something innocent that maybe he didn’t think that was all that sensitive, but turns out it is. That’s the rules now that … Since No Easy Day.
Brett McKay: Gotcha, that makes sense. In your book, you talk about everything from how to have situational awareness, how to make improvised gas masks. I’m curious why do you think … Why should civilians know this stuff, like how to make improvised weapons, and anal concealments? Whenever we’ve done content about tactile things, like how to pick locks or escape zip ties, you always get a lot of guff from people, like, “Oh, now the bad guys know this,” and law enforcement officers who say, “You’re making our job harder now.” Why do you think civilians should know this sort of thing?
Clint Emerson: First, I think with the increased number of attacks, whether it be loan wolves, inspired terrorism, you name it. Everything that’s been going on lately. Whether you’re on a train in France, or you’re in your office building in DC, there’s always that possibility of a good day going really bad.
Our natural-born instincts are great. Usually you got something in your gut says something’s wrong here, and you hopefully react to that accordingly, but a lot of people don’t, and it’s getting to the point now where bad guys are becoming more and more advanced. Your natural-born instincts are great, but you got to couple them with some good skills as well.
A lot of the skills in the book are presented in an offensive manner, but it’s all about exposing the bad guy offense in order to fortify your personal defense, and even give you some of those offensives skills, so that you can fight violence with violence. As far as people watching movies, reading books, or playing games and then leveraging that as an excuse as why they go and do bad stuff, the reality is if someone’s going to go do something, they’re going to go do it. Most of the time, they might be leveraging some of the information that’s out there, but it’s all over the internet these days. It’s everywhere else, and I like to believe that more good people read books than bad people do.
Brett McKay: Yeah.
Clint Emerson: The more well educated, ready civilians there are out there to take on these encounters with the random bad guy, I think, the better.
Brett McKay: You call a prepared civilian or a prepared person a violent nomad, which I thought was a cool description there. It’s funny. You start off with the Every Day Carry Kit. It’s something we’ve talked about on the site before, but what should be in an EDC for a violent nomad, so that he’s prepared in any sort of situation?
Clint Emerson: These things change day to day. I think a lot of times EDCs go hand in hand with what you’re wearing, what you’re carrying. You have to tailor it each day to whatever it is, the environments, that you might be visiting. Overall, if you’re going to be traveling abroad or you know you might be put in a high-threat situation at some point, you should always have a means of escape. I’m a big proponent of that. If you can hide a key somewhere … Handcuff keys are readily available all over the internet. If you can put a razor blade somewhere, between the two of those, you can get out of just about anything without knowing tricks. If you look all the way back to 1921, Houdini’s manual of escape, he didn’t’ do it because he was obviously great at some kind of all true magic, he was good at escape because he was good at hiding tools everywhere that he could leverage and use without anybody knowing. It’s nothing new or novel, but having some tools on you that give you the upper hand when things go south …
I like the Zebra pens, because they’re 1) They’re cheap, but 2) It’s a steel barrel pen that you can buy at any store, but because of the way it’s designed, you can punch it right through plywood.
There’s a myriad of things that I think are common day items that everyone can utilize. You don’t need to go spend $300-400 on all the different items that I see online or different sites. Keeping it simple too, I think, is a priority. There’s a point in which you can be carrying a whole lot of stuff that makes you look suspicious to begin with, and the goal isn’t to look like a bad guy. It’s to have what you need to increase your odds of survivability.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I love … You had a section about the Zebra pen that it could be turned … You could punch it through plywood, which I was impressed with. There’s other uses you could do with that. Improvised weapon in a pinch, correct?
Clint Emerson: For sure. Obviously, if it can go through plywood, then it can go through … I have different points on there that, if you’re going to use a pen, 1) the grip. A lot of people think that you got to have your thumb running parallel to the pen or a knife. The reality is, you want a nice fist grip. It can be overhand, underhand, but then that way, when you do have to use it to stab the bad guy, it doesn’t slip or inevitably end up on the ground. Once you do it, you want to keep going, and the reason I talk about the violent nomad, that’s good people using skills for good not evil, but it’s a point in which in the fight that you have to be just as violent as the person that you’re dealing with or else you’re going to lose. That’s the … It dovetails into everything inside 100 Deadly Skills.
Brett McKay: Yeah. In addition to the EDC, you also recommend creating what you call a Vehicle Bolt Bag, and I think we’ve written about this before, but can you give us the general idea of what a Vehicle Bolt Bag, and what sort of things you might want to keep in it?
Clint Emerson: Sure, a Bolt Bag is really if crisis strikes you while you’re out on the road, you want to have an ability to survive at least for a day. Depending on what you’re doing, you may want to increase that and it doesn’t have to be a big backpack. It’s something small in nature. A messenger bag, if you will, that can hold water, some food, extra batteries, an extra phone. All of the essentials that you might need if your vehicle turns upside down. You want everything for that Bolt Bag compartmentalized into something, so it’s not spread out. You have to assume worst case scenario, that if you get into an accident, stuff’s all over the car, you don’t want to have to be collecting it up. You want to be able to put the bag, also, somewhere that you can get to it. No matter what the configuration of the vehicle is, you want to be able to grab it, and get out of that vehicle as quickly as possible.
The things that you need to have inside could be Warmies, environmental type stuff, it could be survivability, all of your life-sustainment tools: Water, food, warmth, signal. Signal these days is usually cellphones, radios. If you’re out in the middle of nowhere, having a spot or some kind of GPS system on that can be tracked and you can be found. There’s a number of things, but those would be probably the primary.
Brett McKay: Awesome. One thing I’ve noticed in the tactical role that often gets overlooked is fitness. There’s a lot of content about improving your self defense, unarmed defense using weapons, blade or firearms, but we rarely talk about fitness. You have a section in there about the nomad workout. What sort of exercises do you recommend people using to stay fit for fighting conditions?
Clint Emerson: Yeah, I put the Run-Fight-Run philosophy, which is something that I do, literally, every day. It’s not about looking good in a mirror or getting ripped. The secondary results, sure, you probably look good in a t-shirt, and you probably can see your abs, but that’s not the primary reason. Primary reason is to give you functional strength, which works when you’re in the middle of an attack.
Run-Fight-Run, one, in a fight, it’s great to have skills, but if the skills aren’t coupled with cardiovascular endurance, then you’re probably going to run out of gas, and you’re going to inevitably end up either losing or not having enough energy to get away from the problem or the conflict. You want to make sure you have sprints included into your workouts, hence the reason you have the run aspect of Run-Fight-Run.
The fight, I like heavy bags. I like … It doesn’t matter if you’re a boxer or not, you can get on a heavy bag, and go to town on that thing punching it, kicking it, kneeing it, whatever you need to do and over time, you’ll find out your punches, your kicks, and your knees become pretty darn swift. Combining one minute of fighting on a heavy bag with a sprint, and then coming right back to that heavy bag and utilizing it for squats, lunges, if you want to do heavy bag carries, heavy bag on the ground and also strike it from there, and do a sprint, but you want to rotate between sprints and some kind of fighting action on a heavy bag or whatever you can get your hands on back and forth, and then increase your times for both as you move through it each day.
You might start out at a minute run and a minute fight, and go back and forth five or six times, and then a month later, you’ll be going multiple minutes, which you want to work up to about a three minute round, which in boxing is the average. Three minutes on a heavy bag, three minutes at a fast paced run, and rotating back and forth between the two, switching up your bag routine to either the hanging bag, the bag on the ground, or using that bag to do different lift. That’s generally the purpose, so that if you do get into a fight, at least cardiovascularly, you can maintain the fight and hopefully have enough gas to run away, not just … You don’t want to stay engaged in it. You want to get away as soon as possible.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I love how simple and functional that is. The other thing I want to talk about … We’ve had a lot of high-profile mass shootings in the US the past few years, and one thing I’ve noticed, I think it’s disheartening, is that whenever the news reports on them, I rarely hear them getting experts on to talk to civilians on what you’re supposed to do, if you find yourself in this sort of situation.
What should you do if you find yourself in an active shooter situation?
Clint Emerson: The philosophy that, even with my company that we’ve pushed corporations, is the Run, Hide, or Fight. It’s a lot like the workout, but the goal is one, to get away, and running, if you hear shots or you smell fire, any kind of crisis, you obviously want to increase distance. That obviously will increase survivability. Running is the first option that should be part of a mental checklist, and the run should be in a zigzag pattern. Anybody who’s been on the battlefield knows that someone running away in a zigzag, left to right, and increasing distance at the same time, is a very hard shot to make. If there’s an active shooter, it’s his first time to go into a building and start killing people, his accuracy is already going to be diminished on nerves alone. When you add in a zigzag pattern, and you’re increasing distance, then you’re probably going to win on that front.
As you run, you want to run from cover to cover, and the way I define cover versus concealment … Concealment is like hiding behind curtains. It’s great, I can’t see you, but the bullet’s going to punch right through it. Whereas cover is more like a planter, an engine block, a concrete wall. I can’t see you, and if I shoot in that general direction, the bullet is not going to be successful. You always want to run from cover to cover. You always want to maintain a zigzag pattern.
Hide. Like the guys on the train, they were in a confined space. In their head, they were like can I run? No. Can I hide? No. That leaves the third option, which is fight. With the hide, you want to make sure that you’re hiding behind cover. You always want to make sure that you can keep your eyes on the bad guy. You never want to lose track of that, because that’s the one advantage that you can maintain is knowing where he is at all times, which also determines your tactical decision making, which is he’s not looking at me or in my general vicinity right now, so now I can move to the next position, and always increasing distance, hiding along the way.
When you’re in a confined space of a room, a train, a plane, then obviously, fight is really the only option. The fight is better done as a team. I always say hey, you have to have team of two or three, and each person is going to have big, macro jobs or positions in the fight. One guy’s going for the weapon. One guy’s going for the legs. One guy’s going for the head. If I can control the head, I can control the body. That’s the general gist of how active shooters should be dealt with from a civilian’s point of view.
Then you have schools and lock down drills, which is an entirely different philosophy that was designed so that SWAT Teams would be successful, because if you have everyone hiding and out of the way, then it gives a SWAT Team a greater chance of winning the fight against that lone wolf standing by himself in a hallway, but not necessarily always great for the people hiding.
Brett McKay: Yeah, has their philosophy changed since the recent shootings where oftentimes the guys are killing themselves very quickly after they finish their job? Are some policies changing where they’re actually encouraging security on campus or teachers to go and try and disarm the guy as fast as possible?
Clint Emerson: Yeah, I think … The environment’s been dictating that a lot for us. If we come in and we custom build something, it’s do you have a campus setting? Multiple buildings on a large estate? That’s one train of best practices. Or are you in a downtown, more of a vertical space?
If you’re a campus, that’s a nightmare situation. If you’re in a vertical space, that’s a little better, but really the environment is going to dictate what the students or what the employee should be doing in order to survive an active shooter. There’s no band-aid to fix it all. It’s environmentally based.
Brett McKay: Sure. You mentioned something interesting. You have to recognize what’s going on around you. You have to recognize fire, you smell something. Like the guys in the train, they recognized the sound of some guy racking a rifle. That leads us to situational awareness.
What can people do to develop that situational awareness? That they can make fast actions, as soon as they know something’s not right?
Clint Emerson: It’s a tough one. You have so many distractions these days, but the best analogy I can compare it to is … Years ago, you would never get into your car and think about safety first. You got in your car and you drove, our parents. Now, you get in your car, and without any thought, you’re putting on a seat belt, and you’re driving, you’re taking it off, and it’s all muscle memory. It’s all part of your daily habits that have been ingrained in us, because there’s always that possibility of consequence. Consequence is a driving force in making something a little bit more habitual. For us, it’s getting a ticket by a cop or possible death in an accident. We go all right. Or it’s an annoying beeping sound that your car makes until you put your seat belt on.
Consequence is a driver. If I take that analogy and I apply it to situational awareness, what is the consequence of me sitting in this restaurant? What is the consequence of me being on a train? Then working backwards from that. Inevitably, what happens is all of a sudden, you start paying attention to things a little bit better by what if-ing, and you hear it all the time. How do you get good at situational awareness? Everywhere you go, you what-if it. It’s not so much about having this mental checklist or colors that represent different states that I’m supposed to be in. It’s about being a little more alert, getting your head out of the cellphone from time to time, and taking the opportunity to go what’s the consequence of me sitting where I’m sitting right now or me walking where I’m walking or driving where I’m driving? You’ll find yourself coming up with things that you would do if that consequence actually became reality.
That’s the quick analogy that I can give. There’s a mental checklist, obviously, but the things tend to work when you’re doing it, but don’t become a habit, unless you’re thinking about consequence.
Brett McKay: Gotcha. We could get into some other, more very violent, tactical things. There’s a lot of great stuff in there, like what to do if someone pulls a gun on you from the front, from the back, how to make various improvised weapons. The gas mask thing was awesome. A weapon you can make … Or a flash bang you can make with a lighter. That’s in there.
It’s fun stuff, but I want to talk about some stuff that I think would be really useful for folks who might not find themselves having to use this stuff, the more violent stuff. You have a lot of things in there about security travel, like what should you do to keep yourself safe when you travel.
Our readers who travel a lot, what can they do? I’m always worried about this. I freak out about this whenever I stay in a hotel room, but what can you do to maintain security in your hotel room, and that your stuff doesn’t get stolen?
Clint Emerson: There’s a first. You got to start … Once again, I like starting macro. I like starting with the country I’m going to. I can pick a Marriott, I can pick a Hilton. What most people don’t know is that Marriott’s, Hilton’s, a lot of your big, western hotel chains are not owned by Marriott. It’s a licence, they’re leveraging. It’s usually held by a larger holding company, or you have 27 hotels, let’s say in China, that all say Marriott, but they’re owned by an investment portfolio.
Marriott headquarters then roams the planet, making sure that everyone is following all of the best practices that they’ve put into the manual that all of these holding companies are supposed to be following, hence the reason why, when you walk into every Marriott on the planet, they all feel exactly the same. The reality is, they’re all owned by different people. That’s the first thing you got to know. Just because you’re staying in a Marriott, doesn’t mean it’s a US owned Marriott.
Second, it could be owned by a hostile country, and when I say hostile, I mean countries that are doing cyber attacks against us everyday. Your BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China. All the countries that are trying to become economic superpowers, and want to match America financially, they will do anything if they can to get ahead, which means if you stay in a hotel that’s owned by a Chinese holding company, but it says Marriott, then everything in your room is subject to search, overtly or covertly.
As we’ve found with the Olympics in Russia, they built a whole ton of stuff, hotels and buildings and everything, but when they built it, they went ahead and loaded it with audio and video in every room. This is nothing new. It’s been going on since the invention of the microphone. You have to know, one … You have to basically assume that you’re always being watched, that you’re always being listened to.
Your hotel room tends to become a sanctuary for a lot of people, and they feel at ease and relaxed, but really, it’s probably where you should have your guard up the most. Your valuables, don’t leave anything behind, especially digital stuff. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got passwords. There’s ways around most of it, especially when you’re talking about foreign intel services. Sophisticated foreign intel guys are going to come into that room and they’re going to take whatever they want off of any device you leave behind, and you’re never going to know it. That’s why it’s the government operating … Why would the government operate against you? You’re just a civilian on vacation, but the reality is China, in particular, is doing shotgun blast, sponge-like absorption of everything they can that they will figure out later how to use against us, and it’s becoming a trend. If they can do it through hacks, then they’ll also do it physically, if they can get ahold of a laptop.
I just had a friend come back from China, and he stayed in his hotel room. It was approximately two weeks there, and everyday he’d come in, the room smelt like smoke. He’d go to the front desk, say my room smells like smoke. They’d say that’s just the security forces checking your stuff. They like to smoke. He’d be like, “Okay, can I change rooms?” Okay, change rooms.
He changes rooms, and every day it smelt like smoke, because they’re smoking while they’re searching his room and going through his stuff. This is the point where China’s become very bold. They don’t even care about consequence, because there isn’t any, and they continue to do whatever they are to us westerners, because they can.
Bottom line, with hotels, don’t leave anything behind. Take your valuables with you, especially if it’s digital. If you’re working for a big company, don’t hold any sensitive conversations in those rooms. Leave that for outside. If you got to talk about something sensitive, go outside to talk about it. Those are probably my bigger recommendations and hopefully something new for those listening.
Brett McKay: That’s counter-intuitive, because you would think I’m going to go to a room where there’s privacy, not to some public place to talk about discrete things.
Clint Emerson: Yeah, you’re right. It’s get outside. It’s much different for people to collect your conversation when you’re out in the open than it is if you’re confined in a room. Especially if there’s microphones and cameras sitting there.
Brett McKay: Go ahead.
Clint Emerson: No, the only other piece I would add to this is you don’t want to be the guy that gets thrown in jail because people think you’re a spy. You don’t want to actively come into a hotel room and start searching the place for these types of things. It’s something you need to know that could possibly exist and remain normal.
Remember, if they are watching you and you start acting a little strange, it might give them a reason to arrest you for espionage or something and you don’t want that happening, just because you’re looking out for your own safety. It’s better to assume you’re being watched, assume you’re being listened to, and hold those conversations for a later date.
Brett McKay: Awesome. You had some James Bond-esque tactics on how to detect if someone has been tampering with your stuff. I guess for your buddy, it was pretty easy because it smelled like smoke, but what are some little subtle things you can do so you know when you come back to your room someone’s been messing with my stuff?
Clint Emerson: The first thing that I’d always push is technology. There’s an app out there called Phototrap. That thing, you take a picture of your room before you leave, you take a picture when you come back, and it animates anything that’s been moved. If a drawer is left slightly open, you’ll see that drawer open and close, open and close. If a book or your laptop or anything that you’ve left behind has been shifted at all, you’re going to see it shift. You’re going to see that something has been disturbed.
If you’re not using technology, then there’s some physical things you can do. One, you want to set up eccentric rings that signal you that something has been displaced. First, starting with your door. One, put the tag on the door that says Do Not Disturb. You cannot assume that that does not mean people aren’t going to go in and out while you’re gone. They will go in if they want, but what you can do is set that Do Not Disturb up to where it closes between the door and the door frame. If the door is opened, then it’ll hang freely, and when you come back to your door, you’ll see that free-hanging Do Not Disturb sign, and that’s your first signal that, all right, somebody may have gone into my room or somebody came by your door and pulled it out from between the door and the door frame, while hanging on the knob, but at least it’s a signal to start paying attention when you enter your room.
Things you can do inside your room is one, keep it simple, keep it discrete, keep it common to the environment that you’re in. You don’t want to put the old school stuff of tape across the door or something stupid like that, because that looks like espionage and you could get arrested or whatever they want to do to you. You got to remember you’re in someone else’s country, in someone else’s domain. They can do whatever they want to you. Keep it natural to the environment. Keep it simple, so that you can remember it.
I like cardinal bearings. Cardinal bearings is north, south, east, west. I can take a coffee cup, I can put the handle cardinal bearing north, and put it right next to the USB ports near my laptop, because I have to leave it behind, because I don’t want to carry it all day while I’m doing tourist stuff. You’re putting it by the USB ports, because that’s going to be the point of attack, and then you’re putting the coffee cup there with the handle pointed north.
When you come back, you’ll know if that’s even slightly off, you’ll know it. Or you can use … I like to use my thumb as a guiding measurement. I know I’ve got my laptop is one thumb-length away from the desk edge. I know that the coffee cup is one thumb away from my laptop. It’s your thumb, it’s your measurement. No one can change that. When you come back, you put your thumb back down. Yep, the tip of my thumb is barely touching my laptop. I know it hasn’t been shifted. The coffee cup, the water bottle, all of these things you can do around the room. You’re keeping it natural to the environment. You’re keeping it simple, so you can remember it.
If you set things up in weird ways, the odds are you won’t remember exactly how it was set up. It’s not until you get back, you go wait a minute, was that … Was that tag actually hanging to the left or to the right? Those are some simple things, but the book definitely covers more.
Brett McKay: Yeah. Speaking of … You mentioned that app or digital security in general. You mentioned that the USB port’s the point of attack. What can you do … Are there some simple things people can do to keep their phones and computers safe from hackers?
Clint Emerson: Yeah. Password, password, password. We hear it all the time, but the philosophy that we push, and no one likes to hear it, but the longer the password, the better, and longer passwords have been very effective against the different attacks out there. We all think that there’s a hacker sitting in the shadows of his basement, and he’s going to town with his keyboard trying to get into things, but they actually have evolved. They’re creating programs or viruses that do a lot of work for them, and then they run these programs or viruses against hundreds of usernames and passwords at the same times.
Some of these programs they create can actually run 500 characters per second against a password. If you look at it like a dial on a safe, if I’m running the dial 500 different of the possibilities on there per second, and there’s only three combinations, I’m probably going to get in pretty quick. If you only have three digits in your password, then they’re probably going to get in pretty quick. The idea is, the longer the password, the longer it takes for someone to get in, especially these bots. You hear them called Bot Attacks, and these bots go out and they run against a username and they run against a password, simultaneously, hundreds of characters per second, and try to figure it out. A lot of times, they’re programmed to only stay on target for 15 minutes, give or take. If you create a password that is 22 characters or more, you’re going to … It would take a bot attack approximately, if you do the math calculation on a 22 character password, somewhere around 15 to 20 years that you’ve increased time on target for a bot attack.
That takes many usernames. Your username sometimes we feel like it has to be your email address. Not always. You should treat your username like a second password. If you have the ability to put in whatever username you want, don’t use your email address, don’t use things that are common to you, because that’s the easiest thing to figure out, and that’s the first step in cracking the code. Your username needs to be looked at as a password. Make it something, not necessarily complicated, but make it long. Peasandcarrots can be a username, and then a 22-character password doesn’t have to be crazy symbols and all this and that, because if a bot attack is running all the characters, it doesn’t matter what symbol you use on the keyboard. It’s going to run through it anyway. You just want to make it long, and you don’t want your username or your password to be associated to your personal life or things that most smarter systems are going to leverage first. Birth dates, we’ve already heard all that stuff. That’s the general philosophy.
Brett McKay: Yeah. I guess you want to keep away the personal stuff too, because people could use social engineering to figure out your password or your username. I guess people have done that where they’ll call customer service, and say I don’t know my … I forgot my password, but here’s my birthday, because you put your birthday out there somewhere.
Clint Emerson: Exactly. Birthdays, social security numbers, you name it. These days, social engineering has gone more from the phone call to spear phishing or phishing attacks. Now you’ve got them sending out emails that look like they’re from the company they work for. Let’s say it’s a big box retailer, and their logo happens to look like a target. They send out mass emails to every employee, it looks official, and it has a little spot on there for username and password. If you can get 25% of the company to click on that email and then another 25% to put in their username and password, then you inevitably end up owning that company, if you know what you’re doing.
You never want to fall for that kind of stuff. You never want to give up … If you’re getting stuff via email that is asking for usernames and passwords, pick up the phone, call and verify that it’s real or not, but more than likely, reputable companies are not going to be sending out that kind of … Those kinds of emails to get you to do stuff like that. They just don’t. Don’t click on anything that you don’t recognize, and sure as hell don’t put a username and password into anything that you shouldn’t.
Brett McKay: Awesome. Clint, this has been a great conversation. We’ve just given people a taste of what you’ll find in 100 Deadly Skills. We didn’t talk about what you do if you ever get kidnapped and how to escape. There’s information in there about escape and evade, how to track someone, lot of great, cool, Jason Bourne stuff, but where can people find out more about the book and about your work?
Clint Emerson: You can go to 100dailyskills.com. That’ll guide you to all of our social media, and there’s a place to sign up for our newsletter, because we’ll be doing updates on potential digital series of each skill, so that people can watch how to do this type of stuff versus just read about it. 100dailyskills.com will get them to everything else.
Brett McKay: Clint Emerson, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Clint Emerson: Thanks, Brett, and keep up the good work.
Brett McKay: Thank you.
Our guest today was Clint Emerson. He’s the author of the book 100 Deadly Skills: The Seal Operatives’ Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation. It’s available on amazon.com. Go out there and get it. You’re going to have a lot of fun with this book. You can also find out more information about the book at 100deadlyskills.com.
That wraps up another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at artofmanliness.com and if you enjoy this podcast, I’d really appreciate it if you’d give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher, whatever it is you used to listen to the podcast, really help us out a lot by getting the word out about the podcast, as well as giving us feedback on how we can improve the show.
Thank you so much for your support. Until next time, this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.