Hi! I hope you have found some other useful tools in the list presented in this privacy guide? There are many things for freelance journalists.
''It is a rare fortune of these days that one may think what one likes and say what one thinks.''
— Tacitus, a historian of Roman Empire —
There have always been discussions around freedom of speech. It was even a problem that the ancient Greeks debated. However, the problem concerned with the liberty of the press appeared with the invention of the first printing-press in 1439.
Currently, freedom can be achieved through various digital tools like Tor browser and VPN services (for example, CyberGhost).
But that's not what this is about.
Let's start with some historical facts!
Can you guess when the first censorship committee was formed?
It happened in the year 1493 when the Venice inquisition presented the list of books which were forbidden by the church.
The current situation is even more dramatic…
The process of finding information turned into a real struggle with specialized agencies and the authorities. Pressmen are monitored, fined and even imprisoned.
Thus, 2 outstanding journalists were sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison. Involvement in a 2016 coup attempt was the reason for such a strict sentence.
Nowadays, a journalist, inquiring into a matter getting hold of a secret document that compromises a public person, becomes anxious that special agencies can access the information stored on his/her device.
What does a journalist do?
Such people often make use of ciphering tools for sending and receiving messages through emails.
A person picks up the receiver and discusses such case with an editor. Perhaps, he might not even imagine that a man who has targeted his data can eavesdrop on a conversation through a landline phone.
For sure, the example presented above is fabricated. But the mistakes of this type are made regularly by media people.
You will be surprised to know it!
Presswork becomes more and more concerned with cyberspace and therefore the importance of data security increases. In times gone by we could make our notes protected by putting them into a drawer and conducting negotiations in person to prevent eavesdropping.
Unfortunately, there has been a change in the air.
Today journalists face a great diversity of online threats, and it is necessary to take some important steps. The best thing one can do is to work out a detailed “Security plan” and follow it.
To understand what to do with the obtained information and make it secure it is necessary to answer a set of simple questions:
➢ What should I do to be protected on the Internet and what information do I need?
➢ Who may be interested in my personality?
➢ Who has both mind and opportunity to mess about with me?
➢ What are my most vulnerable spots?
➢ Do I have any strong sides?
➢ What security tools are already at my disposal?
Read this complete journalist security guide and you will NEVER be attacked by hackers, eavesdropped or suffer from data theft.
Here’re the issues any journalist will find useful:
- Freedom of press by country
- Why do journalists need privacy tools: cases you couldn’t think about
- Privacy tools for journalists
- Internet privacy guide for journalists' conclusion
Hold onto your hat!
To begin with, one must admit that geographical location may seriously influence the way a journalist looks for information and shares it.
The thing is that some pressmen have to use pseudonyms to publish their reports on the Internet.
What pan names give to the journalists?
Firstly, a correctly created pseudonym can add relevance. Don't forget about charactonyms!
Secondly, one can gain anonymity through pan names. The readers, as well as interested parties, will never know about your personality.
Thirdly, it is possible to disappear when it is required.
But what if a pressman or blogger wants to be recognized by people and known?
Of course, it will be necessary to take some reasonable precautions (which will be discussed in this article a bit later).
To know what to do, a man should be aware of all threats typical of the country one lives.
Thus, you see that only one-third of journalists around the globe are free to write the articles they want and cover the events that will be interesting for the readers.
Can you guess where the freedom of the press is the severest?
It may or may not surprise you but the least free countries in terms of freedom of expression in mass media are generally located in Asia.
Nobody keeps undercover that some journalists were killed in Syria while doing a job. Sometimes militants do it on purpose, sometimes such deaths are the combination of circumstances.
Over a period of about 40 years, the government controls the press in a ruthless way. Local journalists undergo severe monitoring and sometimes even repressions.
Young guys from Syria were condemned to a 12-year imprisonment after posting some pictures on the topic of politics and religion on their social media accounts. So you understand what can happen to journalists.
Authorities persecute journalists who criticize pluralism or the acting head of the state. Besides, bloggers, pressmen and even commentators often undergo sanctions for their actions on the Internet.
#7 Equatorial Guinea
The journalists can be detained and fined in this country in case they criticize the government or security forces of this state. In fall 2017 Ramon Esono Ebale was arrested for cartoons about the president. He had been in jail for 5 months.
Despite the death of Fedel Castro, the digital environment of Cuba is severely monitored and undergoes blocking. At the same time, the authorities make attempts to prevent journalists from covering some issues.
Being an authoritarian state, Eritrea forbids all independent media. Foreign journalists often undergo pressure being in Eritrea whereas their rights are violated.
Numerous news sites are not accessible for the residents of Crimea. Besides, the reports about journalists' disappearance are not rare for this region. Olena Maksyimenko and Katerina Butko, Ukrainian journalists, disappeared in 2014.
Now when the era of president Karimov is over, the situation in the sphere of human right improved a bit. But there's food for thought. Independent news websites are still blocked in Uzbekistan by the authorities, and therefore journalists are still persecuted.
Fish stinks from the head… The situation in Turkmenistan reminds this saying. The acting president of the country is known as a «Father Protector». Thus, the press is far from being free there. Many sources are banned when numerous journalists undergo blackmailing.
#1 North Korea
Because of a totalitarian regime, North Korea is known to have the most repressive media environment all over the globe. What is more, not any foreign journalist is allowed to visit North Korea.
According to the investigation conducted by «Reporters without Borders», the number of journalists who underwent imprisonment in 2018 equals 321. They suffer from such a strict sentence because of their professional activity.
Although the European Human Rights Convention states that everyone has the right to express thoughts in a freeway, journalists are also prosecuted here.
- In the course of the demonstrations in Ukraine (February 2013) hundreds of journalists were attacked while covering demonstrations.
- In the year 2016, the number of journalists jailed bacause of their work reached the figures of 262. The countries of China, Turkey, and Egypt are the leaders in such activity.
- 74 journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2017.
Well, from these facts, one may conclude that it is necessary to take some measures and become defended.
As you have studied from the previous part of this security guide, geography determines how free or restricted a journalist is. However, local restrictions are not the only obstacle one faces while doing one’s job.
Other threats that make journalists keep silent
Physical harm is always evident, and therefore an offender may be easily found and neutralized. Thus, adversaries become more discreet and attack journalists in a hidden way.
Almost every journalist becomes the target of adversaries. Pressmen are attacked through social media accounts, emails, and even personal letters. Some of them even receive death threats.
It may sound rather odd, but journalists undergo blackmailing. Criminals burn pressmen with the purpose to get information or to make newspapermen not to cover some events or cases.
⇒ Data theft
It is a real nightmare for any journalist. In case a device is cracked, hard won-data fall into the hands of an enemy or a rival. Pressmen make a living with pen and information found. Thus, such a leak is a catastrophe for them.
⇒ Online abuse
One can hardly find a person that would be indifferent towards outrage. People use social media platforms to criticize journalists. Moreover, some plotters share pressmen's social media accounts, phone numbers, and emails on sex dating websites. Quite often they are attacked through Twitter and Facebook.
⇒ Device loss
A gadget with information may be lost. Thus in case this device is non-protected all the data stored on it becomes the ownership of a person who finds it. And it'll be great luck when such man is conscientious and doesn't use such info.
But who knows?
By virtue of their occupation, journalists often undergo snooping. Their phone calls, messages, and even movements are tracked. Interested parties want to know how they find information in order to prevent the publication in case the material can compromise some individuals.
⇒ Info source
Journalists always aim at keeping their sources of information anonymous. It is explained by the fact that in case the informer is revealed, he/she may become the source for other people, prosecuted and what not.
Plotters attack journalists with different aims. In case someone doesn't want the issue to be covered, intimidation, abuse, and data theft become the main tools in their hands.
Latest news is the target of journalists' rivals. Thus, hackers aim at stealing such data from computers. In case they don't manage to do it, adversaries can thieve a gadget that contains unique or discreditable information.
Are you ready to study the list of security tips?
Here we go!
Reading this security guide till the very end, you will get to know how to make your data secure, communication – protected and identity – hidden.
To begin with, it is necessary to point out that any journalist should be prepared for the above-mentioned threats. And the tools mentioned in this part of the security guide will make them safe while data protected.
''There are two types of encryption: one that will prevent your sister from reading your diary and one that will prevent your government.''
— Bruce Schneier —
Ciphering is the #1 instrument for achieving security. Undoubtedly, anything can be encoded: information, communication and even activity.
In case the data is encrypted, only the person who possesses it has access to such information. In the event when the data holder wants to share such info, the addressee gets the key to decode it.
ꙮ Browser security
It is a general knowledge that many modern browsers are far from being secure. Some of them even serve third parties to monitor users. It is accomplished through data collection.
On the one hand it makes browser usage very convenient, but on the other hand, such database may be harmful for users.
After PRISM exploration program details were exposed in the USA and users got to know that the authority had access to Google and Yahoo! data, the number of «Browser security» requests increased.
Want to use browsers without any threats?
It is possible!
Just follow some simple rules:
- Don't save password while signing in on websites.
- Clear Cookies regularly.
- Use 'Incognito mode' when using browsers.
Some IT-specialists advise netizens to use specially developed add-ons for browsers. They make use believe that such extensions will manage to make users anonymous on the Internet and their actions masked.
Unfortunately, browser security add-ons supply users with only some kind of security. And it is better to use them in combination with other privacy instruments.
Here are the most prominent of browser addons:
➢ AdBlock Plus
Although it was created to prevent internet surfers from watching annoying pop-ups with ads, the principle, this program is based on, allows journalists to hide their online actions from third party sites.
A great bonus of this program is an absolute lack of data storing.
It is a very smart add-on for browsers. Ghostery manages to identify trackers and stop them from tracking users' online activity. Also, it serves to block ads speeding up the page loads and what not.
If a journalist wants to keep his online manipulations hidden, he definitely does NOT forget to clear cache and cookie files. Or… it is possible to introduce automation to this process thanks to this addon for Firefox browser.
Although some browsers allow surfing the Internet using 'Incognito mode', it does NOT necessarily guarantee a journalist will be REALLY protected against third parties interfering in his life.
A security guru Bruce Schnider wrote in his blog:
''Surveillance is the business model of the Internet. It's not just the big companies like Facebook and Google watching everything we do online and selling advertising based on our behaviors; there's also a large and largely unregulated industry of data brokers that collect, correlate and then sell intimate personal data about our behaviors.''
And it is difficult to disagree with this idea.
Journalists undergo this type of threat as well. So let us study the most efficient privacy tools for 2020.
ꙮ Tools for reaching anonymity
We have already pointed out that many journalists prefer being anonymous to cover events and cases in an absolutely truthful way. This may be achieved through a set of digital instruments:
The Onion Router
This technology is also known as Tor. It is a special network of free nodes that allows users to run a connection through a set of volunteer servers before reaching the targeted website or service.
In case one manages to use this tool properly, the desired level of anonymity will be easily achieved. Besides, in contrast to many security tools for journalists, The Onion Router is absolutely free of charge.
Among the weak sides one will find:
- Plugin driven attacks are still possible.
- The used server is NOT anonymous.
- A journalist can be identified in case of HTTP use.
As far as a pressman uses Tor for anonymity and wants to be protected while opening HTTP websites, one may make use of proxy servers. This tool was worked out for geographical restrictions bypassing. But why not to try it?
Good news! The majority of browsers work with proxies and therefore, almost everyone has a chance to be protected.
But, here's what makes people think before starting using proxies:
- Plugin driven attacks are still possible.
- The browsing history is stored on servers.
Virtual Private Networks
It is a good tool for being anonymous while surfing the Internet, messaging and searching for information. However, some experts say that it is not always secure to use free VPNs.
In case a journalist uses a trustworthy VPN provider (study Express VPN review to find out more), one may become protected.
However, VPNs are not without minuses:
- Such tools may make the internet connection a bit slower.
- The best VPN services are rather pricey to use.
However, in case such weak sides of Virtual Private Networks are not significant for you and you still want to make use of one of them.
A journalist has a chance to use a dedicated server to be unrevealed online. Although their prices are high (sometimes hundreds of dollars), dedicated servers prevent journalists from plugin driven attacks and XSS.
It is an analog of Tor. It is used to hide network activity. Apart from numerous bonuses, a person gets after opting for I2P, a user's IP address and his/her online activity will not be exposed.
ꙮ Email security
Emails were always an easy and convenient way of information exchange. They give us a facility to send and receive messages and files of different types.
Email marketing services (e.g. MailChimp or Constant Contact) are also frequently used and may become the target of hackers.
At the same time, emails frequently become the target of hackers or journalists' rivals.
In case of information or its source, adversaries use digital tools to crack emails. Some resourceful developers know about it and took it into consideration while working out new email services.
It is dead difficult to find a reliable online mail service that would be really secure. Protonmail is exactly what is required to make correspondence protected.
There is no need to provide the service with any personal information while creating an account, which is definitely a plus.
Despite all the benefits, Protonmail has one significant minus – its price. When a man wants to make use of unlimited use of this service, it will be necessary to pay.
This Sweden-based service used a top-notch OpenPGP encoding to cipher all the electronic mails. Among other benefits of CounterMail service, one will find lack of IP logs, which guarantees
Besides, it offers a secure password manager as a bonus. There are 2 ways to use it: through a browser and as an app for iOS gadgets.
The weakest side of this email service is that in the event that an addressee uses another service, the letter cannot be encoded. To sum up, if a journalist's source uses CounterMail, there is the sense to think about it as a communication tool.
If you don't want the emails you send and receive would be read by third parties (other journalists or any entity targeting your materials), it is worth using Mailfence.
Thanks to two-factor authentication the service provides its consumers with private messaging. Among other benefits that attract numerous users around the world are:
- absence of ads;
- automatic spam blocking;
- facility to send text messages and faxes
Similar to CounterMail, this email service makes mails encrypted in case when an addressee also uses this service or OpenPGP encoding system. Besides, its storage is limited to 200 MB.
ꙮ The right choice of search engines
In this regard, it is recommended to use search engines which do NOT collect user browsing history:
This secure search engine does NOT track users. Thus, having installed DuckDuckGo, a journalist keeps his search history undercover. It doesn't matter whether a person enabled the private mode of this browser or not, he will NEVER be spied on through this service.
In contrast to DuckDuckGo, this search engine does NOT require any software to be installed. However, it is possible to download a specially developed app for Android and iOS gadgets.
StartPage was worked out with the purpose to make people free of monitoring while searching for information on the Internet.
This Swiss-based search engine was worked out to make journalists unrevealed. Even in a case a user left his/her email, it will never be shared with third parties.
Have you ever used a search engine that would encrypt user search history? Gibiry DOES it! This search engine is wonderful not only in terms of anonymity but restrictions bypassing as well.
ꙮ Private messengers for journalists
Everyone knows that today all landline and satellite phones can be easily eavesdropped. Special agencies can even record your voice. In this regard, it is recommended to use encryption while talking to your editor or source.
But how to encode voice?
Voice over Internet Protocol messengers solve such problem at one stoke. Such apps use special encryption and therefore nobody could manage to know what you have discussed.
This Open source messenger was launched in the year of 2013 and is still popular among people who want to communicate privately. Journalists ca entrust their communication into Signal, as it offers E2E ciphering far all messengers.
This VoIP app makes protected not only messages, but all the attached files as well. It is very convenient for pressmen, as sometimes they get data in a digital format.
Luckily for Signal users, the messenger had NOT been implemented in sharing users' data with third parties, which means that the messenger can become a real 'Alladins lamp' in hands of journalists.
This Switzerland-based application for exchanging messages is puts privacy and security first. The messenger can protect various devices running on Android, iOS and Windows.
Nobody would manage to interfere in Threema users' conversations, as this app is free of any surveillance tools. For user convenience, the ciphering mechanisms are turned on automatically. Besides, Threema allows people sign up to it without being exposed.
And of course, massages Threema users send and receive cannot be read or seen by the company.
Wire is located in Europe but works worldwide. Thanks to end-to-end encoding, Wire makes audio and video calls, file and screen sharing absolutely protected from the prying eyes.
Wire is in the list of online privacy tools for the journalists because had never been involved in the cases of sharing information with third parties. Moreover, the company does NOT have access to its consumers' messages and files shared.
Apart from all the gorgeous facilities Wire provide users with, it ciphers information stored on a device. Isn't it great?
Apart from numerous security tools for journalists, it is necessary to point out one tip that should not be ignored.
ꙮ Secure cloud storage services
In view of the events occurring around Google and its apps, it is recommended to avoid its tools to store secret data. The information stored there can be stolen and therefore compromised. Thus, it is better to use more secure services for keeping data.
As soon as one opens the site of this tool, a message that notifies about the way one surfs the internet appears. It is advisable to use Tor browser instead of the ones we got accustomed to.
This cloud storage system is a great tool for journalists, as it allows sharing data with the world famous news agencies like The Guardian, Associated Press, Bloomberg News, and what not.
This journalist privacy tool encrypts users' data so that no one will manage to decipher it. Besides, SecureDrop servers are placed inside the buildings of news agencies.
It's absolutely free of charge!
Another good alternative to Google Drive and other less secure cloud storage providers is SpiderOak.
Similar to SecureDrop, this tool encodes its users' communication as well as shared data.
Any journalist, who wants to store the data in a safe place, will definitely want to use this service because of its military-grade ciphering.
Having been approved by such giants as Business Insiders, TNW, and Digital Trends, Tresorit provides a secure and convenient use and control over all the information people store there.
This fantastic secure cloud storage can be tested for free. The free trial period lasts for 14 days.
Don't miss the chance to test a secure storage tool!
In case blog privacy and data security are important issues for you, it is necessary to think about secure passwords before it is too late.
Here are several tips to follow while creating a password:
- a reliable password SHOULD consist of lower-case and capital letters, punctuation marks and numbers;
- NEVER use one password for two or more accounts;
- don't use NON-DIGITAL things to keep passwords;
- take use of PASSWORD GENERATOR.
Business group chats
Steer clear of such apps like Campfire, Skype or Google Hangouts, as they may lead to the data leak. What is more dramatic, such tools can be easily hacked and as a result all the chats as well as sent and received files become known for third parties.
Do you remember secure messengers discussed in the previous part of this Privacy Guide for Journalist?
They are more reliable in terms of security!
It became dead easy to spy on journalists in a modern digital environment. Stalkers manage to eavesdrop conversations through mobile phones, emails, text messages and whatnot with one click only!
Devices infected with malware collect and send data about passwords, stored information and any single activity of a user (the way to get rid of such troubles is described in our ''Hide my IP guide'').
Special agencies, criminals, terrorists and other pressmen can be the attackers. The authorities may use such attacks to make journalists keep silent or punish them for critics.
Every newspaperman from any corner of the world should take necessary precautions to be secure in a digital world.
The words of an independent journalist Brian Krebs left in his Twitter account support the idea that newspapermen should care for their data:
''Many people mistakenly believe if they don't manage a bank, retirement or phone account online then it can't be hacked. But it's important to remember that bad guys may do this for you, with costly results. Plant your flag, mark your territory.''
Such comment is like a cry for help, as data theft is NOT a rare phenomenon nowadays. The aim of this Journalist Privacy Guide is not to persuade you subscribing for Nord VPN or use Protonmail in particular. We just collected the most efficient privacy tools.
We just inform you about the things you can use in your daily life!
Thus, now it's time to sum up and plant the flag:
➬ First of all, one should know that NOT ANY app or program may be installed on a device used in a journalist work. Besides, it is strongly recommended not to allow apps to access user files.
➬ Secondly, be cautious both in REAL and in DIGITAL life. Don't leave important notes on a table and never allow other people to use your gadgets.
➬ Thirdly, follow the rule ''encrypt everything''. Choose one or more tools to make all your online as well as offline activity ciphered. Here's what to encode:
- all information stored on a device;
- online traffic (including search history, sent and received messages, opened pages, time spent on them, etc.);
- communication (messengers, mobile and landline conversations).
➬ Fourthly, think about the security of your information source. Make certain that your source knows how to be anonymous online. It is really vital for both of you, as only in case source and journalist take measures to be protected online, security is achieved.
➬ Fifthly, it will be not a bad idea to use two-factor authentication.
➬ Sixthly, use browsers wisely! It is recommended to use browsers that are worked out to provide users with non-trackable web surfing. In case, it's impossible, use 'INCOGNITO MODE.
➬ And finally, make everything possible to be anonymous on the Internet (see section 'Privacy tools for journalists').
Besides, don't forget about secure messengers, they may help you a lot in reaching the desired privacy while contacting with your source or editor.
Following the tips presented in this Internet privacy guide and using the best Internet privacy tools, any journalist or blogger may count on the facility to cover all the topics in its true colours.
Download this Internet privacy guide for journalists to have it handy any time!
Do you like this privacy guide for journalists? Or maybe you have other tips to share? Anyway, you are always welcome to share your thought and ideas in the comments below!