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#JustSpyThings: 5 Everyday Tricks And Life Hacks Straight Out A Spy Movie

08/10/2015 12:00 EDT | Updated 08/11/2015 12:59 EDT
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Close-up of a confidential envelope

Ever wanted to be a spy? Of course you have. Who wouldn’t want to live a life of intrigue, danger, and drama? The thing is, the spy game isn’t all Mai Tais and Ms. Moneypennys — you could get yourself into hot water really fast without some world-class life hacks in your head and trickery up your sleeve, which is why we’ve got you covered with some of the simplest and best things a burgeoning secret agent might need to know.

NOTE: This is for informational and entertainment purposes only. We don’t suggest or condone employing any of these hacks, especially not for evil, and will disavow any knowledge of having written this article if you ever mention it to us again. We’d say that this message will self-destruct in five minutes, but smartphones are expensive.

1. Breaking out of zip-ties

Zip-ties might be the modern handcuff, but they’re not that tough to defeat. The best two ways are breaking the ties or shimming out of them. Breaking them is as simple as tightening them as far as they will go — which you can do by biting the end of the tie and pulling it tight with your teeth — and then repeatedly doing a gesture similar to how you’d bring a sledgehammer down over your head. When you’re doing it so that your elbows flare out to your sides, you’re putting undue stress on the locking mechanism of the tie, which will eventually break it.

If you want to shimmy out, you need to find a way to touch the locking bar of the tie. As soon as you touch it, the tie will unlock. Obviously while you are wearing ties around your wrists this is harder, but it’s not impossible provided you can get something small in your hand or something pointed in your mouth.

2. Creating a cipher

With all the fancy tools at the modern day spy’s disposal, let's not forget to keep it old school from time to time (or elementary school in this case). To keep your intel out of the wrong hands why not use the same methods you did for passing notes in class using a Keyword Cipher. The way it works is each letter of the alphabet is matched up with your "cipher" alphabet based on a secret password. With the alphabet listed in order A-Z, you use your keyword to generate the corresponding letters. For example, let’s say your Keyword is SPY - "S" will correspond with "A", "P" with "B", "Y" with "C" and then you continue the alphabet as usual A through Z without repeating the letters used in your keyword. (Confused? It's really quite simple) Just share the password with your fellow agents and they can decipher the code.

These methods won't fool modern encryption software or even an evil mastermind, but you've just made your message secure long enough to move on to your next mission. And anyways, who doesn't love a secret password?

3. A well-read hiding spot

2015-08-07-1438976465-9682779-BookSafeGetty.jpg

We’ve got two words for you: BOOK SAFE. As in, a safe made out of an old, large book. Every spy has a moment where they need to rush back to their safe house (or bachelor apartment) to grab an item so vital that it could only be hidden inside of an intimidatingly large book. Creating your own book safe will require a heroic amount of gluing and cutting, but the velvet-lined results are hard to argue with, and when it comes time for you to get The Device from its hiding space, you’ll be glad you went with this instead of a shoebox stuffed inside your underwear drawer. (This is much classier.)

4. The classic dead drop device

You know the scene: One spy needs to leave sensitive information for another, so they create a “dead drop,” an innocuous-looking item that can be opened to retrieve a thumb drive or a scrap of paper. More likely than not, you’ll end up using yours as a needlessly-complex way to store small items around the home, but you never know, right? There’s one small catch: To create this amazingly subtle dead drop out of an everyday bolt, you’ll need accessing to machine tools and the know-how to use them. But you wouldn’t be a spy if you didn’t know how to cleanly and safely cut metal, so we’re sure this won’t be an issue for you.

5. Multiple kinds of invisible ink

This one is delightfully retro, perfect for when you need to go off the grid. Sometimes the old tricks work best. We all probably know one kind of invisible ink, so we’ve brought you five: From baking soda to lemon juice to pressure indentation, these are all equally effective ways to leave a message that can only be seen by those in the know. If you couple this with a cipher, you’ll be a master of mystery in no time. Whether you’re leaving a warning or adding another level of challenge in the notes you leave your roommate, you’ll know how to leave invisible notes in any situation, with any materials. Now all that’s left is for you to vanish, too.

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