Journalism is a very exiting occupation that helps reveal your creative side, raise public awareness or is used to simply write about kittens and other fun stuff. No matter the form, journalism is all about information and opinions. Information is of great value for journalists. Facts gathered by reporters are often considered exclusive. That brings certain risks.
If you are a journalist, chances are your computer is a potential target for hackers who would like to steal exclusive info from your hard drive for money. People working in media have already started realizing Internet threats. Not every journalist is an advanced computer user which makes it a little more difficult to protect his or her work. In this article, we take a look at some simple yet effective measures every journalist should consider.
The software choices
Let’s start with the basics. The first major point to be made is that a lot of people use 15-year old software. It goes without saying that such products are prone to failure and vulnerable to attacks as developers don’t release bug-fixes and security updates for it any more.
Once you get over that, it is a good idea to look around and see what alternatives OS’s and software you can get in 2015. There are widely known alternatives, new players and a few underdogs that may surprise you.
So alternative OS choices include:
Mac OS X – Apple’s flagship operating system that may be of particular interest to journalists because there are few examples of any kind of malware for this platform. The downside is that it comes pre-installed on specific hardware that is pretty expensive.
Chrome OS – Google’s brainchild, an OS based on a Chrome browser which also comes pre-installed on specific hardware (not as expensive as Apple though). It mainly uses cloud-based applications which can work out well for a journalist if one has Internet access at all times. You can store your data either on an internal hard drive or in a cloud (custom FTP server can also be hooked up). Chrome OS (obviously) cannot be infected with any kind of Windows viruses. It’s also available as an Open-source Chromium OS which you can install on a USB stick to use with any PC in live USB mode.
Linux– it’s actually not an OS but rather a base (technical term for it is ‘kernel’) for multiple OSs which were dubbed ‘Linux Distributions’. We will not talk about popular choices like Ubuntu or Elementary OS and showcase security-oriented ones.
Tails OS – security focused Linux distribution based on Debian Linux. It bundles Tor by default and forces all of the Internet traffic to go through it. You can use it either as a live USB or install the system permanently onto your hard drive.
Qubes OS – yet another security-oriented OS. It uses virtualization (xen) to isolate each running program and, therefore, reduces the number of possible threats and vulnerabilities.
A major downside to both Tails and Qubes OS is that their installation and running requires some overall knowledge of the Linux platform. Not every reporter possesses such knowledge and it could be time-consuming to learn all of that stuff.
Windows RT – a mobile OS designed for ARM processors. You can’t execute the dreaded “not-a-virus.exe” file in this OS which is both good (because most viruses can effect you) and bad (because you’ll have to look for alternatives for all of your standard apps like MS Office).
Most of people who have a computer spend at least 50% of time using their PC for web-browsing. Journalists are no exception. In fact, being a journalist means you will spend even more time on the web than others. The reason for that is the amount of information they need to find online and spend time in numerous chats and video conferences.
It’s no secret that the modern web is full of advertising, banners and other stuff which potentially contain all kinds of malware, spyware or adware. Due to this fact, it is a good idea to restrict your browser from executing certain type of web programs and visiting certain sites.
Our Choices include:
HTTPS everywhere – try to visit website with enabled HTTPS (that will minimize the risk of a “man in the middle attack”), you may also be interested in a Chrome browser extension.
AdBlock – this is an obvious choice for many as it blocks annoying ads that can be seen on popular sites like “YouTube”. It also blocks some malicious scripts that hide behind those ads, which makes it a must-have.
No Script – this browser extension blocks Java script execution. You might be interested in doing this if you visit a lot of unfamiliar websites loaded heavily with Java. By default, it blocks everything until you specifically tell it not to. You can also disable that and tell it to block only those pages you do not trust.
It will also be a good idea to clear the browser cache after each session as those files can be used to spy on you.
TOR – a network of peer computers that help make your location anonymous. As mentioned before, it comes bundled with Tails OS, or you can easily use it through the TOR-integrated Privatoria Proxy service. 63+ countries are available for surfing in one click.
Secure VPN – this is probably the ultimate measure anyone can take to protect themselves against Internet threats. The Privatoria VPN encrypts 100% of Internet traffic and also provides extra features like DNS filtering to secure your network. You will be able to surf securely from 10+ countries.
Read also 7 Tips to follow when you use a VPN.
Data Storage Options
This section will be particularly useful for those who store their data offline using hard drives and USB sticks. Even if you are using cloud storage, you may find some interesting tips here.
Questionable Cloud Services
Major cloud storage services do not provide any info about encryption. This means your data is potentially protected only by your password. If that’s the case, you want to make sure you are using a strong password which consists of upper & lower case letter, as well as digits.
Personal File Server
This option is a lot more versatile than cloud storage. Basically you get as much space as you like and have real control over your data, meaning if you want to delete a file, it will definitely be deleted as you have the physical access to that file (which is not the case with most clouds). The downside here is the set-up process. This requires advanced computer knowledge and will require you to buy the hardware to build the actual machine and have it running all the time.
This option is probably optimal. It’s more secure than cloud storage because it can be encrypted. At the same time you can use it as an Internet service to upload your files through a web-browser. Privatoria FTP service provides the most secure storage option for your files. Upload any type of file instantly and store it for as long as you want.
You can also use Privatoria Secure Data Transfer to transfer files to anyone over the Internet. The file you upload for sharing is encrypted and only available for 24 hours (it is purged from the server afterwards). You can share files up to 1 GB. After the file is uploaded, make sure the recipient opens the link in a web browser and enters the unique file ID (long numeric number) that was generated.
Watch the video for detailed instructions.
This option will also be interesting for those who like to store their files offline. Some people may not know that even though the operating is system is secured with a password (you can’t enter the OS without knowing the password), the hard drive which contains the OS installation can be easily mounted as an external drive if taken out of the computer and connected via SATA cable to a different machine (the OS password is not applied in this case).
Hard Drive and USB thumb drives Encryption
Luckily, there is a remedy for this problem. The most common solution is encrypting the hard drive. There are a number of programs for the Windows platform you can use; most Linux distributions offer this solution during system installation. Once encryption is applied, your hard drive cannot be accessed without the decryption password (you have to enter a password before accessing certain volume, Ubuntu Linux offers an option to encrypt the whole drive, meaning you have to enter a password before the system can even boot; when connected via SATA, the drive will ask for a password).
The last but not least is your e-mail security. Sharing sensitive information via e-mail without encryption is not safe and a journalist might lose a lot in the case his research is leaked.
Gmail PGP Encryption
Secure Mail for Gmail Chrome extension encrypts the contents of your mail and gives you a key to share with the recipient. This gives you some security. So, if you trust Google with your data, give it a try.
Our Secure E-mail provides an optimal solution for the security of your mail. Advanced encryption methods are used to protect your data and send it over a Secure SSL channel. You can access your account with your Privatoria login once you create an account (e.g email@example.com).
Secure communication channels
Being a Journalist also means you have to do chatting and participate in conferences. Privatoria offers an ultimate secure alternative to VoIP service which does not require third-party software installation. With Privatoria Secure Chat your communication is encrypted and no logs are written whatsoever.
Watch this video to learn more how it works.
At the end of the day, a journalists gives us sensations; that’s just what do they do for a living. This obviously means they cannot afford data leaks. The Internet has become a dangerous place and when you have valuable data, it becomes your natural desire to protect it. Privatoria provides a bundle of security services to secure your Web browsing, online communication and most importantly, your data.
You’ll get Secure VPN, Tor Integrated Proxy, Anonymous E-mail, Secure Chat and Secure Data Transfer services in one safe place!
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