Tag Archives: security

So Google scans email for dodgy images – should we be worried about scanning for sensitive documents?

Gmail logo

You could be forgiven for not having heard of John Henry Skillern. The 41 year old is facing charges of possession and promotion of child pornography after Google detected images of child abuse on his Gmail account.

Because of his case we now know that Google “proactively scours hundreds of millions of email accounts” for certain images. The technology has raised some privacy concerns which have been largely brushed aside because, well, it’s child pornography.

Sky’s technology correspondent Tom Cheshire, for example, doesn’t think it is an invasion of our privacy for “technical and moral reasons”. But should journalists be worried about the wider applications of the technology, and the precedent being set?

Continue reading

Why every journalist should have a threat model (with cats)

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you

If you’re a journalist in the 21st century you have two choices: you can choose to be paranoid, or you can choose to be delusional.

The paranoid journalist assumes that someone is out to get them. The delusional journalist assumes that no one is.

In this post I will explain why and how every journalist – whether you’re a music reporter or a political correspondent – can take a serious and informed look at their security and arrive at a reasonable evaluation of risks and safeguards.

Don’t panic. I promise that by the end of this piece you will be less anxious about security, and no longer paranoid. I also promise to use lots of lolcats. Continue reading

Interview: president of IRPI Cecilia Anesi talks about secure leaks platform IRPILeaks

IRPI leaks

Last year the Investigative Reporting Italian Project (IRPI) introduced a platform for Italian and international whistleblowers, the first of its kind in the country.

The project has been called IRPILeaks and, like the Dutch PubLeaks and WikiLeaks, is a tool for those want to leak staying anonymous and safe.

IRPI aims to use this anonymity to encourage leaks from people who want to expose misconducts of companies and public authorities. A list of risks they could face in the process is published on IRPI‘s site. Continue reading

Web security for journalists – takeaway tips and review

Web security for journalists - book cover

Early in Alan Pearce‘s book on web security, Deep Web for Journalists, a series of statistics appears that tell a striking story about the spread of surveillance in just one country.

199 is the first: the number of data mining programs in the US in 2004 when 16 Federal agencies were “on the look-out for suspicious activity”.

Just six years later there were 1,200 government agencies working on domestic intelligence programs, and 1,900 private companies working on domestic intelligence programs in the same year.

As a result of this spread there are, notes Pearce, 4.8m people with security clearance “that allows them to access all kinds of personal information”. 1.4m have Top Secret clearance.

But the most sobering figure comes at the end: 1,600 – the number of names added to the FBI’s terrorism watchlist each day.

Predictive policing

This is the world of predictive policing that a modern journalist must operate in: where browsing protesters’ websites, making particular searches, or mentioning certain keywords in your emails or tweets can put you on a watchlist, or even a no-fly list. An environment where it is increasingly difficult to protect your sources – or indeed for sources to trust you.

Alan Pearce’s book attempts to map this world – and outline the myriad techniques to avoid compromising your sources. Continue reading

Online security for journalists: never assume you’re secure

image from xkcd

image from xkcd

With news last week of the New York Times and Washington Post being hacked recently, The Muckraker‘s Lyra McKee looks at internet security.

“They were able to hack into the computer and remotely access my Facebook account, printing out a transcript of a private conversation. Then they told me who I’d been talking to over the past week and who was on my contacts list. They’d hacked into my phone. When they first told me they could hack into computers and phones, I didn’t believe them. So they showed me.”

I was sitting at the kitchen table of one of Northern Ireland’s few investigative journalists. He was shaken.

In thirty years of reporting, Colin (not his real name) has seen things that would leave the average person traumatized. A confidante of IRA terrorists, he has shaken hands with assassins and invited them into his home for a chat over a cup of tea – as he had done with me that night.

A few weeks previous, during one visit from a source, the subject of hacking had come up. Continue reading

The future of open journalism: how journalists need to step up their game

Wolf blowing down the pig's house

Illustration by Leonard Leslie Brooke, from Wikimedia Commons

Cross-posted from XCity Magazine

The future of journalism, according to The Guardian’s ‘3 Little Pigs’ film, is “open journalism”. Users are becoming part of every element of news production. The newsroom no longer has walls.

If that is going to happen then journalists need to huff, and puff, and blow down three particular houses of our own: our preconceptions around the sources that we use online; around why people contribute to the news process; and about how we protect our sources. Continue reading