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Protecting Your Sources

The International Federation of Journalists wanted us to share this with you.

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by Guest Post on
Jun 29, 2017

Below are some helpful suggestions for journalists in a new digital age from Michael Dagan, former editor of Haaretz. You can download his full ebook here.

Many journalists have expressed concern for whatever lays ahead for the freedom of the press. At a time when it’s possible to express the following statement – “Donald Trump controls the NSA” – and not be held a liar, anything’s possible. Add that to the fact that recent news on the CIA taught us that almost all encryption systems can be compromised, if someone has the perseverance to crack them – and you are en route to envisioning an utterly Dystopian world, where you cannot even get too comfortable laying on your sofa, in front of your own smart TV.

The good news is that it is nevertheless possible to make it difficult for anyone to try and intercept your emails, the text messages you’re sending or your phone calls. You can take measures to make the lives of those who want to uncover your sources and the information being revealed to you, much harder. Of course, the degree of effort you’re prepared to take to protect your privacy, your sources’ anonymity and your data’s safety, should be commensurate to the likelihood of a real threat, be that hacking or spying.

The tips can be described as falling within the following categories:

  1. Securing on-device applications and functions
  2. Isolating your devices and/or their environment
  3. Acting cautiously both in the digital and real world

When communicating with your sources and safeguarding your sensitive data, it is important that you are doing so in a safe manner. There are a few steps you can take that might help you. They include:

  1. Beware of big names. Presume that large companies’ encryption systems have back doors that secret services can access.
  2. Always encrypt everything
  3. Perform full disk encryption
  4. Avoid chatting with sources on the phone

You can read the rest of the tips for communicating safely here

Beyond securing the communications with your source, and protecting possible breaches of the sensitive data you get hold of, you should also avoid being tracked while browsing. Online habits can disclose or provide hints as to the story you’re working on, or worse, hint or disclose the identity of your source. Some things to remember while browsing online are:

  1. Browse in a private mode
  2. Use alternative browsers and search engines
  3. Avoid HTML Web Storage
  4. Repair DNS leaks

Even more tips about browsing safely can be read right here.

Another thing you should consider securing is your email. Places like Google and Microsoft will most likely just give out your emails to government agencies if and when required to do so. Here are some things to think about when creating an email address.

  1. Safe extensions
  2. Secure email providers
  3. Disposable Email Addresses
  4. Encrypting your mail
  5. Choosing secure messengers

More great tips can be found here.

As Micah Lee put it when interviewed on privacy in WIRED: “If your computer gets hacked, the game is over. Creating a virtual sandbox around your online communications is a good way to keep the rest of your system protected. Tor is awesome and can make you anonymous. But if your endpoint gets compromised, your anonymity is compromised too. If you really need to be anonymous, you also need to be really secure”.

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