Introduction: Make Your Own Amber Stick!

Picture of Make Your Own Amber Stick!

This instructable is based on the product offered here, called an Amber Stick at the official amber alert site.

It's a flash drive that holds all the information police would need to file a missing persons report, all encrypted and password protected. No more digging through your papers for current pictures, medical information and description-it's all right there!

It's a very cool product, but why pay 29.95 for something you can make for less than half that? The only feature our Macgyver Amber Stick does not have in common with the one they are selling you is the ability to instantly send your relative's information to the amber alert page (at the police's descretion).

This is entered into the travel tips contest because while traveling, you can leave one of these with family and friends in case something happens to you-traveling not always safe, especially in other countries.

Step 1: Overview

Picture of Overview

Cliff notes of this instructable:

1) Get a usb stick

2) Put data on it

3) Protect

That's it! You're done!

Well, unless you actually have to use it.

In that case, give it to the officer who needs the information, and give him/her the password. They should be able to access all the pictures and description, etc. If you just zipped the file and password protected it, they will of course have to unzip it to view the files, but that dosen't take very long.

Step 2: Get a Flash Drive

Picture of Get a Flash Drive

I got my 2 gig flash drive for 15 or 20 dollars, if I remember right. You probably already have a flash drive lying around that will work for this. The point is, you need a dedicated flash drive that you will not use for anything else.

If you want to put your Macgyver Amber Stick on your keychain, be sure to get one that has a jump ring or at least a place to attach one on the back. Not all flash drives come with this. Personally, I recommend putting it on your keychain so you always know where it is (unless you lose your keys, of course!).

Step 3: Download Encryption/password Protection Software

Picture of Download Encryption/password Protection Software

There are two options for this: Either buy/download for free a utility from the net, or just put your information in a password protected archived (zipped) file.

I downloaded Advanced File Lock from There are many free utilities just like this, and more for sale. Choose wisely, the free ones sometimes don't really encrypt your information.

Step 4: Enter Information

Save all the information the police would need to file a missing persons report for your family:

Medical information



Emergency contact numbers

I suggest a file heirarchy like this:

Master folder (easy to lock with just one password so you don't forget a zillion passwords)
_______________________________________________________________ |
Person one folder
Pictures of person one

Text file containing above information for person one

The information may need to be updated sometimes, especially if you are using this for children, their pictures and description will need to be updated regularly.

Step 5: Protect Your Information

Either use the software you downloaded/bought to encypt your data, or else put in all in one archived (zipped) folder. Be sure to password protect the root folder, either way.

And that's about it. If you ever need to give a police officer the pictures and contact/emergency info for your loved ones, just hand them the amber stick and tell them the password (of course, they'll have to unzip the folder if you just password protected a zipped folder). Enjoy your newfound peace of mind.


DrHoppe (author)2009-05-31

I would suggest using TrueCrypt. It is incredibly strong security and you can make it so that when the person plugs in the flash drive it loads up and prompts for the password. Also, no offense to Nacho and Lithium, but no password runs the risk that if the drive is dropped or lost then whoever finds it will have a LOT of your personal information...that's not good. Also, Windows Zip passwords can be cracked close to instantly. It is incredibly weak protection and easily circumvented by anyone with basic computer knowledge. If you leave it with someone you trust, just make sure that someone has the password if they need it.

Lithium Rain (author)DrHoppe2009-06-01

Good suggestion about TrueCrypt. Well, that's true, but you wouldn't normally be carrying this around anyplace it could get lost - it should be stored in one place (like a strongbox). If it isn't in one place, it should be in the hands of the trusted friend or the police, and presumably you have bigger fish to fry in that scenario (plus of course the friend/police probably aren't going to find anything they couldn't find out eventually on it). :)

DrHoppe (author)Lithium Rain2009-06-08

I was thinking more of the part where you suggest "you can leave one of these with family and friends in case something happens to you." After all, you can't control where your friends store it or what they do with it. While a close friend can be trusted with the password...they might leave in in their house where a kid can get at it, or they carry it in their purse/pocket. Who knows. Its just a good policy to keep it locked down if others have access to it. :-)

Lithium Rain (author)DrHoppe2009-06-08

Yeah, you're right - guess you have to strike a balance between accessible and safe.

NachoMahma (author)2009-01-18

. If the stick will be left with a trusted person while you are on vacation, I suggest not using compression/encryption. At least for the info that the police will need to get to easily and quickly. Yes, c/e is very reliable on modern systems, but why take the chance of a misplaced bit or a password that can't be remembered when under stress?
. I love gmjhowe's web page idea. That should make it much easier for the police (or other authorities) to access. Just don't make that the only way to get to the info.
. And make sure all the files are stored in common formats that anyone can read. Eg, .TXT (you shouldn't need any fancy formatting), .JPG, &c.

Lithium Rain (author)NachoMahma2009-01-18

Excellent suggestions. I'd like to add them to the instructable if that's okay with you.

NachoMahma (author)Lithium Rain2009-01-18

. I figure anything I post in a public forum is, well, public. Go for it.

Lithium Rain (author)NachoMahma2009-01-18

Cool, thanks. :)

NachoMahma (author)2009-01-18

. It might be a good idea to include all the software needed to read your files. You can find free no-install apps (run straight from the flash drive without being installed) using any search engine. PortableApps has a nice suite of no-install apps with a configurable front-end.
. Linux support would be something to consider, but I imagine most police/&c are running Windows.

Berkin (author)2009-01-17

Nice. How is this password-protected?

Lithium Rain (author)Berkin2009-01-17

If you zip files in windows, you have the option to password protect them. Otherwise you'd need to download software (there's all kinds of freeware for this kind of tihng) to make it password protected.

Berkin (author)Lithium Rain2009-01-17

Alright. I'll try doing that right now.

Sandisk1duo (author)2008-10-24

Now all you have to do is change the LED color from peach to amber!

Lithium Rain (author)Sandisk1duo2008-10-24


Sandisk1duo (author)Lithium Rain2008-10-24

oh wait.... there isn't much difference in color....

gmjhowe (author)2008-07-01

You could easily build a simple 'website' to view and access the page - i kno this may be beyond some people, but its alot easier to open a file called 'open_me.html' and browse it as if it was the nets. ps, is the idea that you hand the drive to police when your child goes missing?

Lithium Rain (author)gmjhowe2008-07-01

That might work...but the beauty of this is that it's portable... Yep, that's the idea behind the original product and this knockoff. :)

gmjhowe (author)Lithium Rain2008-07-01

well what i mean, is all the website files would be stored on the memory stick, then they access them directly!

Lithium Rain (author)gmjhowe2008-07-01

That is a good idea.

mikeasaurus (author)Lithium Rain2008-07-07

Thinking about this a bit more. If you set it up with this on the flash drive:
(flashdrive G:)
> hidden dir
> Your Full Name.html

Writing the entire thing in html makes it one tidy package. You could write it however you wanted, actually it'd be just like browsing Facebook, MySpace, whatever. And since it would open up directly into your browser, it could link out to somewhere else on the web. The officer could do some 'on site' investigation just from this one huge clue.
The passowrd thing would be kind of a problem if the person is seperated from their key and an officer does find it. maybe they'd need some kind of secret password that just works so they can do their job. I dunno.

I can see potential beyond just this. It's simple and elegant.. Very interesting.

Lithium Rain (author)mikeasaurus2008-07-08

Thank you! That is a very good idea, do you mind if I put it in as an alternate way to store the data?

gmjhowe (author)Lithium Rain2008-07-09

wow, creative brainstorming, i must say, this is an excellent use of the comments system! A symbol of what ibles is about

mikeasaurus (author)Lithium Rain2008-07-08

Of course, it'd be neat to see this brought to the next level, if you need a hand with writing the html and setting up the drive let me know. Using very simple commands and folders this can be quite easy to mass produce

Big Bwana (author)2008-06-24

Nice Ible .....

With children, you should also have them put there hands flat on a scanner and scan them, hold there hands still and do at least a 300 DPI or better scan, or scan a paper copy of both there finger and hand prints, and if your child is very young use there foot prints, data like this can be of great value should you forget to redo the pictures every once and while, it also allows for a positive ID of a child... Also you should scan all of there's and your ID's Credit cards, etc and store them on that same jump drive (( This should be stored in another folder also encrypted, with a different key )) because after a major event, replacing ID's can be a huge pain, but if you have a copy, that is a good start...

And about some of the freewares out there, that either don't encrypt or use a very weak encryption.. Try using P.G.P. It's free, and your allowed to use PGP zip as freeware after the trial period expires....

Lithium Rain (author)Big Bwana2008-06-24

Thanks for the suggestions!

About This Instructable




Bio: Lithium Rain is absolutely not to be trifled with when it comes to building insane and useless things. She prides herself on being able to ... More »
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