Activist security used to consist of ensuring mobile phones were in several pieces before meetings began. But in a world of constant digital surveillance, activists have had to up their game – here are ten simple steps to keep your digital info private.
2. Be harder to track online
Browse the web with Firefox. Firefox is developed openly and its security is checked independently. The add-on Adblock Plus is good at removing adverts and gives you three powerful tools once installed. To be more secure and prevent Facebook and advertisers following you from one website to another, turn all three on: Malware Blocking, Remove Social Media Buttons and Disable Tracking. The add-on HTTPS Everywhere will hinder eavesdropping by turning on encryption where websites offer it.
Try a password similar to yours on howsecureismypassword.net – many can be guessed in under a second. The best passwords are over 20 characters long, with a mixture of lower and upper case letters, numerals and special characters – for example, ‘NoamChomsky,marrymein2014!’
If your password for the Manufacturing Consent Appreciation Society website is discovered, you don’t want it to be the same as you use for online banking. So you could change part of it according to the website – an obvious example would be to use the first letter of the website (though bear in mind that anything that’s obvious to you is likely to be obvious to others too).
5. Email securely
Riseup.net and aktivix.org offer free, secure email addresses for activists. They’re funded by our donations – so be generous. Thunderbird is a free, secure alternative to Outlook for sending and receiving emails.
Riseup and Aktivix can’t afford to let users save as many emails online as surveillance-funded corporate webmail services, so you may need to save older emails on your computer and make your own backups. You might also want to keep a less obviously security-focused email address for your family and boss.
The world-famous Tor is immensely powerful, letting you be anonymous online. But you need to spend time reading how to use it effectively – it helps you be anonymous but not necessarily private, so you need to be careful with personal details such as your name and personal accounts you log in to.
Tails lets you use Tor without leaving any trace on the computer you’re using.
Techtoolsforactivism.org explains the privacy benefits of internet cafes and public wifi.
8. Use Linux
If you have the time to learn how to use an alternative to Windows and Apple, Linux is the most secure, totally free and virus-proof choice for a new computer, or to start again with on an old computer. This is because, like Firefox, it is developed openly and its security is checked independently.
Ubuntu Desktop 14 will be released in April 2014 and Linux Mint 17 will follow, with Ubuntu’s unfortunate sponsored Amazon searches removed. When you install it, you simply tick a box to encrypt your full disk: a vital way to protect your data. For Windows and Mac users, cryptoparty.in has a guide to encrypting your full disk using TrueCrypt.
9. Get an ‘action mobile’
Mobiles and privacy don’t mix. Basically, leave it at home. Use cash to buy an ‘action phone’ to take anywhere arrestable. You can read more at activistsecurity.org.
Don’t worry if it gets confusing. Come along to a local ‘cryptoparty’ to meet scarily enthusiastic geeks who’ll be delighted to help you out. And read on:
#227 Democratic Dictators ● The psychology of authoritarianism ● Does national pride have a place on the left? ● Keep police out of schools ● Video games special ● The new left MPs ● Speaking to local organisers ● Simon Hedges’ column ● Book reviews ● And much more!
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