TLDR: Where to hide small object (1 cm by 1.5 cm by 1 mm) in public places?

My setting:

  • outskirts of a small city
  • single main road from city (4 lanes, 2 each way)
  • off the main road is a suburb on each side, roads and houses, etc.
  • the houses have small yards
  • about 5 km away in 1 direction is the city
  • about 1 km away in opposite direction is kind of rural, larger yards off a single main road with 2 lanes.
  • closer to the city there is CCTV coverage, but further out is not covered

My plot

  • the main character is a hacker who downloaded secrets from a secret government site
  • my hacker lives in one of the houses with a small yard
  • he stores the data he stole on a bunch of tiny storage devices (1cm * 1.5cm * 1mm - a bit larger than a MicroSD card)
  • he knows that law enforcement are filing for a search warrant for his entire street (unrealistic IRL, but the government is different in this world)
  • he needs to hide the data storage devices mentioned above around his area (anywhere from the city to the rural area)
  • he would prefer to avoid private property and CCTV, but he's willing to break these rules if needed

Ideas so far

  • inside drains
  • buried in dirt next to the path
  • behind street signs
  • a few others I didn't like (glued under bins, stuck to cars) - it needs to still be there when he comes to collect them

He had about 15-25 of these storage devices that he needed to hide, and has already physically destroyed his computer. He doesn't want to hide them inside his house / yard.

Edits to answer questions:

  • Did he have complice, or guys who will accept to hide it in their yard ? or should it be only in public areas ? (@Kepotx)

    No, he is on his own, He cares too much to put anyone else at risk

  • Does the character have any specific amount of preparation time? (@MissingPear)

    He knows he has at least 12 hours, but it could be up to 18 hours before the police show up.

  • What is the purpose of hiding? (@Haha TTpro)

    He is hiding them #1 to stop the government proving that he has the data, and #2 to stop the government destroying the data

  • $\begingroup$ Did he have complice, or guys who will accept to hide it in their yard ? or should it be only in public areas ? $\endgroup$
    – Kepotx
    Aug 12 '17 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, i don't know if the storage device is compatible with this, but maybe you should do some research about dead drops. $\endgroup$
    – Kepotx
    Aug 12 '17 at 11:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Does the character have any specific amount of preparation time? $\endgroup$ Aug 12 '17 at 12:43
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ How desperate is your character? How important is it that all are recovered? How much risk of discovery is acceptable? $\endgroup$
    – Spencer
    Aug 12 '17 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ How much advance notice does he have that he is going to need to do this? If he can plan ahead, his options will be quite different from if he suddenly has to hide these in a hurry. Also, how many of the devices need to be recovered? Just one? All of them? (If he's smart, he'll try to avoid needing to recover all of a large number!) $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Apr 21 '20 at 19:30

Have you heard of geocaching? 99% chance there is a small object hidden in public within a kilometre or two of you. It'll contain a notebook and pencil for you to write your name and the date in. Where are they? There are several geocaching websites that store the GPS co-ordinates of them. Some with clues to help you find them. I suggest you have a go.

Geocaching is hard unless you've been to that cache before. No-one notices the little white PVC box magnetically stuck on the side of a galvanised iron lamp-post. No-one suspects a pegged down upside-down black ice-cream container in a park's garden near a fence. Or a mint tin hidden in the fork of a tree. These things sit there for months or years without being removed (by 'muggles' as the geocaches call normal people). Hiding things in a city is a trivial task.

I'd go for the magnetic container. You can buy these as spare key storage from a hardware store. You walk past a lamp post or bridge with a hand rail, and attach it without even stopping walking (so the cctv won't catch you doing something suspicious). It'll probably stay there for at least several months. An example of this product is the MASTER LOCK 207D

Yes, there is a geocache that used this method (stuck to a bridge hand rail). It took me and a friend a good half hour to find it - even knowing where it was down to a few meters radius.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The cool thing is, you can geocache by date and time. You can record where you hid the things by using your diary / date-book. Pick and entry that already exists, run it through a simple, easy to remember algorithm, and then locate those coordinates. Eg, "March 20th, 2013 8:57 am" -> lat: X degrees, 20" 13' long Y degrees, 8" 57'(X and Y being your local location: degrees are too big to bother changing). $\endgroup$ Aug 12 '17 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Draco18s Reminds me of geohashing: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geohashing and xkcd.com/426 $\endgroup$
    – sdfgeoff
    Aug 12 '17 at 23:15
  • $\begingroup$ Yep, pretty much. $\endgroup$ Aug 12 '17 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ Would a magnetic container damage the electronic storage device ? $\endgroup$ Aug 13 '17 at 3:29
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I highly doubt a 1cm cube storage device is a spinning magnetic disk. Modern storage is solid state (flash drives) or optical (DVD's) which are not affected by magnets - until the field strength hits astronomical proportions. $\endgroup$
    – sdfgeoff
    Aug 13 '17 at 16:07

Answer heavily depends on if all devices must be recovered or at least one of devices suffices.

It would be very thoughtless of the character not to provide (at least) some redundancy.

In case all are needed then it would be better to package them into a single unit: in this case I would go for making them a box (by gluing them together or sticking with tape) with some meaningful content (if the box is small enough can be some kind of jewel box containing some trinkets of small value). Specific depend on actual aspect and characteristics of said devices (are they recognizable on sight? easily damaged?). Rationale is the thing should look like some kind of bricolage handmade for a gift.

In case the various devices are essentially copies and only one needs to be recovered it would be better to hide them in different and separated places: a few ideas (applicability depends on actual look):

  • in a miniSD -> SD adapter
  • in a slit (natural or carved) in a tree
  • hang it to a cat (or dog) collar
  • in a slit between two bricks or between any two normally adjacent surfaces (as @nzaman pointed out)
  • glue on top of toothpick, olive on other side, dip into Martini
  • glue to the end of rotor blade of an helicopter drone toy
  • put on an envelope and cover with a large post-stamp

There is a third plot alternative: you don't want any of the devices to be found (presumably to avoid incrimination); in this case you should minimize the number and keep them together (as in the first case (pun intended)).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Also, car bumpers are hollow plastic; pry the gap wider with a knife and slide them in $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Aug 12 '17 at 13:40

Data need:

What is the purpose of hiding:

  • Hiding so you could recover the data in case of the government want destroy the data. (1)

  • Hiding so government cannot recover the data. (government want the data, or you go to jail if the recover the data) (2)

You can have both. However, try to decide which one is first priority.


  • Do they have the 'detector' for what you are trying to hide (kind of metal detector) ?

If yes, then try to fix that. Do something to blind 'detector'.


  • Redundancy

Redundancy would be best for case (1). But not for case (2). If case (2) does not happen, then you can hide few copy why left one copy (seem to be original) in your office to be compensate.

If (2) but not case (1), then just destroy them all.

But if you require both case (1) and (2), I suppose the best ways is to create 2 copy of the data hide in 2 difference place. If government got the data, you still not screw up (you go to jail, but you have 'friends', right ?).

  • Friends

Give the copy to friends (or the only-original one) depend on priority of purpose (1) or (2).

The friends can keep those stuff with them in their property, and/or slip away undetected to hide somewhere far away from search team.

  • $\begingroup$ > What is the purpose of hiding? it is a combination of both: government want to make sure that they have the only copy of the data, and if they find proof that he ever had a copy of the data, they destroy it and punish him. There is no way to detect the data drives, they are kind of similar to USBs: common and lots of shapes and sizes $\endgroup$ Aug 13 '17 at 4:31

The problem: your hero knows where he hid the stuff. And the bad guys know he knows. And they will make him talk.

If the hero hands the things off for someone to hide, then he will give up his associate, and they will make the associate talk.

If the hero gets blind drunk and hides the things so he will not remember where they are, that is pretty clever in a dumbass kind of way. But the things are not hidden. They are lost.

He needs the things to leave him in the company of a stranger and take an unpredictable, circuitous route, ultimately coming back to him after a long time.

He needs a gnome.

[ enter image description here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/stolen-gnome-returned-to-canadian-woman-after-travel-adventure/

The travelling gnome prank involves the theft of a garden gnome, which then accompanies strangers and gets into trouble in the course of a long trip. The gnome eventually comes home with photos of his mysterious doings. In your case, the gnome is a mule, carrying a stash of illicit data within his hollow body. Even if the hero is caught, he cannot say where the gnome might be.

The baddies could wait it out, but it might take months. Or they could try to figure out where the gnome might be, and set off in pursuit.

enter image description here


Since hacker epxects govermental attention, he should take into account not only known public CCTVs but covert surveillance too. So no 'dig at night'. The safe place should be

  • on his usual route
  • accessible without strange maneuvers like climb to the traffic light

Some options like

  • go to the library and put in a book
  • stick up to own cat's collar

are too obvious for detectives. Also it's easy to check.

Another options hard to check

  • I suppose he has friends and/or just could visit to the neighbors. Visit some of them often and once hide cards in the washroom. (The difficulty is detectives can't ransack every house he visited last month - if he visited at least 10 people on a regular basis. If he visited someone only once, it's too suspicious)
  • Do jogging for 10 kms. Again, on a regular basis. Once hacker drops out or just spit out the small container. The diffuculty in tight monitoring on a whole distance especially if there are several routes of jogging
  • If he smoking, stick card to cigarette and drop it out. Do it on usual manner in usual place. Nobody could track all cigarette stubs. The problem is to select place where the stub will not be cleaned.

And other just hard to detect

  • Using copter, slingshot or something else throw up container to neighbour's swimming pool. Hacker should do it secretly, i.e. 'at night from his window'
  • 'Lost' cheap phone/camera or hat. Make sure that it will be found and got to some 'found stock'. The problem that hacker should be able to prove it's his item and detective couldn't find it.

Well, the stereotypical answer is "under a park bench".

If he eats out frequently, under the sink in some restaurant's bathroom, or even to the underside of some unobtrusive surface (like a table) might work.

If he can do it without being seen, sticking one behind the siding of his house might be a great spot; what are the chances the authorities are going to be that thorough searching? (The trick is a) don't be seen, and b) don't make it obvious that you did this.)

If he knows he can get to one without being followed/tracked, the top side of a drain pipe in the country would do nicely. Or just put them in a weather-proof, critter-proof box and stick it unobtrusively in a forest somewhere. (If he can make a trip to a large national park, the authorities are going to have one heck of a time searching the whole place.)

Keep in mind that where to hide them is only part of the problem. If he isn't hiding these in his house, he needs to be seen but not noticed hiding them. Shoe untied? Nope; hiding one. Stretching on the park bench? Nope; hiding one.



If you can have multiple copies + depending on how thorough the search:

  • hide it in a book that will be left alone
  • Waterproof, then put it in an inconspicuous water pipe
  • Put it in a (broken) electrical appliance, box it up, then put it in the garage
  • Put it in a door handle?
  • Stick it inside a dead lightbulb that is plugged into a light fixture
  • If your character has one of those motion detector lights, stick it in the motion detection box
  • Waterproof, stick in a sprinkler pipe
  • melt a stick of butter, stick the card (protected) in the butter, harden the butter, use a little bit (so the stick is used) and put the butter back into the refrigerator
  • dig a 5-foot (any distance) hole in the backyard, put the card (protected) in the ground, bury the card, re-dig a shallower hole above the card and plant a tree, only if it is the proper time of year. (You usually don't plant a tree in winter, etc...)

Well, that's all I could think of for now. Please, let me know if this was helpful! :)


Just how through a search is your character expecting?

1) There's a bit of damage to the wall behind our thermostat--someone punched a hole to fish the wire out (it's not the builder's wire) and didn't bother to patch as it's behind the thermostat and invisible. SD cards and even smaller flash drives could be put in there, it would be necessary to cut the wall open to find them.

2) Take a plastic rod (need not be round) several inches long, tape the memory to it ensuring it's waterproof. Go to the washing machine, pull the hose out of it's drain and drop the rod down the pipe. It can't make the turn so it stays in the pipe. The horizontal part of that pipe is below the slab, thus metal detectors won't even find it, they'll only find the rebar.

3) Go up into the attic, locate a ceiling fixture, locate it's power wire. Tape the device to the wire. It's under the fiberglass, a very unpleasant search, and a metal detector will simply see the wire.

As for outside:

Female? Got a park or the like nearby with a lot of vegetation and either no restrooms or unpleasant ones? Duck into the bushes, urinate, wipe with a kleenex from your purse, toss the kleenex into the bushes. What CCTV won't see is that you were also holding a waterproofed SD card taped to a small stone when you tossed the paper. The stone goes farther, even if they inspect the paper they won't see the card.


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