Journalist On the Move Circumventing Online Censorship
A Journalist can get used to working in dangerous situations. Still, there’s no need to take unnecessary risks with your communications. As a journalist on the move, you should understand your threat model. Moreover, learn to communicate securely with others and circumvent internet censorship.
Journalist On the Move?
Communicating with people has gotten easier through the internet and telecommunication networks. However, online surveillance has also gotten more prevalent. Hence, without taking extra steps to protect your privacy, your data could be vulnerable to eavesdroppers.
Usually, the most privacy-protective way to interact with others is in person. Even so, this isn’t always possible. So, the next best thing is to use end-to-end encryption. Above all, encryption protects journalists from online attackers.
How End-To-End Encryption Works
End-to-end encryption ensures that the sender of information turns it into a secret message. After that, it can only get decoded by its final recipient. This means that nobody can listen in and eavesdrop on your activity. Not even the website or app you are using or your Internet Service Provider. This is a core element of good encryption.
When two people want to use end-to-end encryption, they first generate keys. These keys turn readable data into data that someone with a matching key can only read. So then, the matching key decrypts the data. Still, eavesdroppers can see the encrypted data but won’t be able to read the message.
In comparison, some services like Google Hangouts advertise “encryption.” But they use keys that Google creates and controls. This is not end-to-end encryption as the sender, and recipient of the message don’t have the keys. Thus, to be secure, only the “ends” of the conversation should have the keys.
Indeed, end-to-end encryption means that users must keep their keys private. Using this type of encryption involves some effort. For instance, choosing to download an app that offers it to proactively verifying keys.
Ordinarily, phone calls and text messages do not get encrypted at all. As a result, governments and people with power over phone companies can access your communication. If your risk assessment comprises government interception, use encrypted options over the internet.
Examples of services that offer end-to-end encryption include:
On the contrary, examples of services that don’t offer end-to-end encryption include:
Trusting Your Messaging Service
End-to-end encryption can defend you against surveillance by hackers and governments. However, these groups can corrupt the software you use even though it uses encryption. For this reason, it sends your data unencrypted or with weakened encryption. In turn, you can use tools that use known and reviewed encryption methods.
Furthermore, the tools get designed to be independent of the transport systems they use. For example, OTR and PGP.
Off-the-Record (OTR) is an end-to-end encryption protocol for text conversations. It can get used together with many instant messaging services like Pidgin. Conversely, Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is the standard for end-to-end encryption of email.
Note that end-to-end encryption only secures the content of your communication. Thus, it does not keep safe the fact that you are communicating in the first place.
How A Journalist Can Circumvent Online Censorship
Internet providers sometimes use software to prevent users from accessing certain services. This is known as internet filtering and is a form of online censorship. Besides, censors can block entire websites or individual web pages. Sometimes, content gets blocked based on the keywords it has.
There are various ways of going around internet censorship. Moreover, some protect you from surveillance, but most of them do not. For instance, when someone blocks or filters a site, you can use a circumvention tool. The reason being, the tool helps you get the information you need.
Besides, circumvention tools that promise security or privacy aren’t always secure or private. Also, tools that use terms like “anonymizer” do not always keep your identity a secret. So then, choose your circumvention tool depending on your threat model.
There are four main ways to circumvent censorships:
Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access blocked services and websites.
Using the Tor browser to protect your identity or access a blocked website.
Visiting an encrypted web proxy to gain access to a blocked website.
Visiting a web proxy to get access to a blocked website.
In general, circumvention tools work by diverting your web traffic. By doing so, the traffic avoids the machines that do the filtering or blocking. A service that redirects your internet connection past the blocks is sometimes known as a proxy.
For the ability to bypass filtering, numerous proxy tools utilize encryption. Additionally, they provide an extra layer of security. Encrypted proxies are more secure than plain web-based proxies. Yet, the tool provider may have information about you. Therefore, they may have your name and email address in their records.
For that reason, the tools do not provide full anonymity. A web proxy that starts with “HTTPS” uses the encryption provided by secure websites. Again, be cautious as the owners of the proxies can see the data sent to and from secure websites.
Virtual Private Networks
A VPN encrypts and sends all internet data from your computer via another computer. This computer could belong to a nonprofit VPN service, a trusted contact, or a commercial. Once correctly configured, a VPN service can get used to access web pages. Also, it can access other internet services.
Along with that, it protects your traffic from getting spied on locally. But, your VPN provider can still keep tabs on the websites you visit.
Nevertheless, devious people may run some VPNs with exemplary privacy policies. Thereupon, do not use a VPN that you don’t trust.
Journalist On the Move Using Tor
Tor is open-source software created to provide you with anonymity on the web. It hides user’s online footprints, so their location gets impossible to track.
Reporters Without Border advises journalists on the move to use Tor when communicating with sources in repressive regimes. Likewise, Tor got used during the Arab Spring. It evaded censorship and smuggle protest and riot coverage to the international press.
Cybercriminals also use Tor to access the dark web. The reason being, to avoid authorities when visiting the black market. Besides, the darknet is a hotbed for criminal activities. Following this, anonymity in the dark web is crucial.
Journalists should stay safe online without being targets of sacrificing access to data.
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