What is a dead drop? It is methods that spies use or have used to communicate with associates who have information for them. The dead drop allows them to exchange information without having actual physical contact with each other. The person leaving the information can leave it under a rock or a can or bush. A special type of empty spikes that can be dropped into holes has also been used drop information. The person leaving the information also leaves some kind of signal the drop was made. The signal could be a chalk marks on a tree or pavement. Someone views the signal and retrieves information.

Some more unusual dead drops have used dead animals like rabbits, rats and large birds to hide the information. These have been used by both the CIA and KGB. The one problem with this type of dead drop is that other scavengers tend to mess with dead animals. The CIA and KGB found an easy solution to that; they poured liberal doses of hot sauce on the dead animals and scavenges became disinterested in them. Another type of unusual dead drop location is using a portable toilet, or Porta Potty. The commodes could hold a lot of information; however, Porter Potties are regularly vacuumed out so one would need to be careful about leaving information there. On one time that a Porta Potty was used, the information bag got stuck in the vacuum hose.

More high tech drops have involved dropping a USB device in the woods, on a restaurant floor, underneath a table, or in a hole or crevice in a wall. A USB can contain gigabyte of data. One problem with dead drops is the face that the sending and receiving parties both have to be in the same geographic area.

Another dead drop technique that the FBI didn’t come up with but they found out about was using Wi-Fi peer-to-peer networking. You go to any cyber café, type on your laptop and instead of using the café Wi-Fi you use peer-to-peer networking. The person receiving the information only has to be in a car passing by the café.

The FBI spy Robert Hansen and the CIA spy Aldrich Ames readily used dead drops in the Washington DC area. From Wikipedia, “Aldrich Ames left chalk marks on a mail box located at 37th and R Streets NW in Washington, D.C. to signal his Russian handlers that he had made a dead drop. The number of marks on the box prompted some local residents to speculate, somewhat jokingly, that it was used by spies.”

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