As a journalist in today’s digital era, the threat of online surveillance is always looming.
It is of paramount importance that you keep your sources and yourself well protected when online.
But digital intrusions are not easily avoidable, especially if you don’t deploy the right measures to ensure your online privacy and that of your sources is maintained.
This simple guide will walk you through the basic necessities of staying protected when you’re online, and keeping hackers and spies at bay.
Free instant messaging apps have become essential communication tools for many journalists over the past few years.
To prevent putting your online privacy in jeopardy, stick to IM apps that are known for their strong encryption.
WhatsApp Messenger is a fairly reliable option but if you’re looking for an IM app that’s dedicated to protecting your online privacy, Signal is by far the best choice.
It is the preferred IM app for freedom-of-speech activists, journalists and online privacy advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The HTTPS Everywhere browser plugin is a useful little tool that can do a lot to preserve your online privacy.
The plugin is compatible with browsers such as Chrome and Firefox. Once installed, it encrypts all your traffic, making it harder for digital intruders to pinpoint your exact location.
The plugin is the brainchild of the anonymity network creators’ Tor Project and internet safety advocates’ EFF.
Email encryption is especially necessary when you’re a journalist, since it prevents third parties from snooping in on your conversations with sources and other people.
PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption remains the most popular way to retain online privacy when it comes to email services but it is not the only option.
OTR (Off The Record) encryption is considered a very good alternative to PGP.
The protocol is designed to automatically attach itself to any IM program installed on your device, providing a highly encrypted environment to carry out your confidential conversations.
OTR continuously generates encryption keys throughout your conversations, making it impossible for unwanted eyes to retrieve old conversations and thus keeping your online privacy well maintained.
However, it only works if both parties have it enabled.
It goes without saying that all your passwords should be strong and used only once per account as a way of retaining your online privacy.
If keeping track of all your passwords proves difficult, you can always opt for a reliable password manager to do the work for you.
Always choose websites and services that support two-factor authentication, which is by far a more secure way to log into your account.
2FA adds a second step when logging in, such as sending a random code to your cellphone, making it impossible for hackers to get in even if they happen to get your login information.
Your browsing habits should change significantly if you want to retain your online privacy.
Use the Tor Browser, which is available for free, to conceal your online address and to access blocked websites securely.
Tor conceals your real IP address from your ISP, the websites you visit, and any other unwanted third party intruders.
It can run straight from a flash drive too, making it a handy piece of software to have as a journalist.
Operating Systems—Microsoft’s Windows, especially—and software often have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers to gain access to your data.
The good news is that updates often provide patches to these vulnerabilities, ensuring your system is generally safer.
To maximize on this, ensure you keep your software updated.
Spyware can be used to remotely activate the core components of your device, such as the camera and the microphone.
While it may seem paranoid to assume that someone is listening in or watching you every time you log on to the internet, it is not an improbable scenario.
Protect your online privacy by disconnecting or covering your webcam and microphone using tape just in case a hacker manages to bypass your security systems.