In today’s hyper-connected digital world, where we unlock our phones 80 times a day, living a disconnected life has become a distant dream. Landlines and spare change have been relegated to a simpler, long-forgotten time, when we didn’t live our lives online.
But thanks to the latest series of Channel 4’s Hunted, and following the recent airing of Celebrity Hunted, the challenge and possibility of going off-grid will be on the minds of many. After all, if some of the UK’s most famous faces could disappear for almost two weeks, surely anyone can?
Going on the run isn’t easy, but there are a few things that you can do to successfully evade capture – and returning to this long-forgotten disconnected life plays a large part in this.
Minimise your digital footprint
Social media accounts and search engine history are a rich source of personal data. Planned your escape beforehand? One look at your browser history could reveal all of the possible places that you could be, and will give vital clues about who you know and any places that you are familiar with.
However, it is extremely difficult to get rid of all of your data – even if you deactivate your account, it will disappear from view, but it’s still there.
Wipe and throw away your smartphone
As soon as you go on the run, the first thing that you should do is abandon your smartphone. Even if you think you’ve turned off a GPS signal in your phone settings, often one of your apps will be broadcasting your location and signalling where you are as obviously as a tracking app would. It’s best to wipe it completely first.
You should also be careful not to forget all your backups in the cloud. Having access to a phone backup is almost as good as having the phone itself, as phones and their backups are an immensely rich source of data about you, your contacts, photos, message history and location history.
If you do take your phone with you, even if location services are disabled, any phone with a digital connection, whether it’s 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi, can give away your location. The best thing to do is to get rid of any internet-enabled phone and replace it with an old-school pay as you go phone for emergencies. Such phones can only be used once, and you have to assume that you have given away your location as soon as you use it.
Watch out for CCTV
There are estimated to be around six million CCTV cameras across the UK. The web of cameras, particularly in urban areas, is so extensive that it’s often possible to generate minute-by-minute details of an individual’s movements.
Once your face and name are public, it only takes one camera to be able to track you down. Try to avoid urban areas with plenty of CCTV cameras, and consider a disguise.
Don’t check your email – or any of your online accounts for that matter
Using your email while on the run is a sure-fire way to get caught. If your email account, or any online account, is being monitored, it takes just minutes for specialists to identify where you are by reversing the IP address of the device you’re using. Of course, there are ways to mask this if you know what you are doing, but why run the risk?
The best way to keep out of sight is to avoid contacting your family and friends at all – if they’re being monitored, even a phone call to them can be accessed and traced.
Use cash for travel
Bank accounts can be monitored, and if a transaction or cash withdrawal takes place, information can go to the police almost instantly.
Before you go on the run, gather cash – and don’t forget to budget!
Ultimately, our smartphone addictions combined with our love for documenting our every move and relationship on social media means that it’s easy to track anyone down – and that’s without even mentioning the sophisticated policing technologies that are in force.
Our digital habits mean that going fully off-grid is almost impossible – as you will see in the current series of Channel 4’s Hunted.