In today’s world, it is more critical than ever for journalists to be in a position to protect themselves along with their sources. The working environment for journalists is more treacherous than ever. What can journalists do in order to protect themselves along with their sources? Here we look at five ways.

Record Number of Journalists Killed, Imprisoned or Facing Charges

The figures for 2017 revealed that a record number of journalists have been murdered along with many thrown in prison or facing criminal charges. This has resulted from people finding out what they were writing about or reporting and not wanting that information made public.

Amidst the Me Too movement, wealthy private interests in the US sought out military-grade surveillance firms to spy on reporters and their sources; even the president of the United States, Donald Trump, has lodged attacks against journalists in his own country..

Despite knowing the risks when conducting research online, many journalists fail to make use of what are essentially basic tools to keep them safe from digital attacks.

Here are five ways journalists are able to protect themselves better, along with their sources.

1.   Encrypt Information and Passwords

Encryption plays a huge part in keeping data safe. Encryption makes it extremely difficult, although not impossible, for an outside party to access it. Resources are needed in order to decrypt data and this means potential snoopers may be put off and think twice.

There are numerous ways to encrypt data on a computer and ways to stop people from obtaining access to the computer used and finding information stored on it.

Full computer disk encryption is advisable and there are many services out there from which to choose.

The same applies to passwords. These should be encrypted so it is harder for anyone to get their hands on them. It is common sense not to write passwords down or share them with others. It is likewise advisable to change your passwords on a weekly or monthly basis to ensure that they are harder to discover.

With information encrypted on hard drives, along with passwords, there is less chance of that information falling into the wrong hands.

2.   Use a Firewall, Virus, and Anti-spyware

If keeping sensitive information on a computer or laptop make sure the computer has a decent firewall installed on it, along with virus and anti-spyware.

A firewall can block third-parties from obtaining access to your computer, and spying on you and your sources.

Virus and anti-spyware are great tools for keeping your computer safe from prying eyes. Spyware is just as its name suggests - it installs a software on the computer that can spy on whatever you are doing, including logging keystrokes on the computer.

3.   Safety behind A VPN

A VPN (virtual private network) is a great way of ensuring privacy when conducting research, chatting online and checking emails.

A VPN provides security online by hiding your actual IP address and supplying you with a fake one. This can make it appear that you are in another part of the country or world. Not only this but it provides the all-important encryption of internet traffic too.

A VPN can also be used with a mobile device to add security when out and about. Providers usually offer apps that work on multiple platforms, including iOS and Android.

4.   Make Sure Sources Are Educated

Journalists must ensure that their sources are educated in the values of being protected.

If people can discover your sources there is a good chance they are going to be linked to you. Therefore, explain about security regarding the exchange of emails or messaging when online or over the phone to sources. Make sure your sources use encryption and explain the value that a VPN has to offer.

In short, whatever precautions you take to remain safe your sources should take the same steps. The more you protect against leaks the safer you and your sources are going to be.

5.   Protection for Online Chats

Chat apps and messenger systems are a great way of maintaining contact with sources but they also make you vulnerable. If you want to keep conversations concealed, apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Google Allo are not great unless you have enabled the Signal protocol to encrypt information.

Even with using Signal there is an issue in that while the content of the message is encrypted, the sender and receivers details are not encrypted. This still leaves you vulnerable to exposure.

An alternative to the above messaging apps and a web browser is to use the Tor web browser, giving you access to TorChat. Tor browser and chat are a safer way to chat privately without anyone being able to snoop, more so if you add in the extra security of a VPN.

In Conclusion

All journalists get their hands on delicate information, information that should be kept under wraps until the time comes to reveal it. Equally as important as protecting themselves, journalists need to keep their sources safe. Anonymity is critical to the world of journalism.

Whether this is by using a VPN or simply using common sense to keep passwords safe really does not matter. The important fact is that steps have to be taken to maintain your safety and that of your sources, along with your data and information. The above are five excellent ways in which you can do just that.