Knight Center
Knight Center


Online tips: 15 ways for journalists to protect themselves while using social media and the Internet

After the bodies of two young people were hanged from a bridge and a journalist was gruesomely decapitated for using social media and the Internet to denounce organized crime in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo, the old strategy of using pseudonyms on blogs, social media and the Internet no longer offers the protection it once did.

In light of organized crime's increasingly sophisticated methods, the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas consulted several cyber security and journalism experts on how journalists can protect themselves on the Internet from data theft, and safeguard their anonymity.

To get advice about protective measures for online journalists, the Knight Center consulted Daniel Santoro, politics editor for the Argentine newspaper Clarín and professor at the Foundation for New Ibero-American Journalism (FNPI in Spanish); and Judith Matloff, professor at the Columbia School of Journalism and adviser to the International News Safety Institute. Below are the tips they offered.

Security Habits:

1. Never leave your computer with your e-mail open or any other personal information. Turn off your computer when you're done with the day's work and never allow someone to see your computer's screen over your shoulder and keep in mind that your office or workplace computer could be under surveillance.

2. Change your passwords often (every two weeks in high risk environments) and be sure to use at least six characters, including * and #. Do not use names of family members, pets, or personal dates. Be sure to not repeat the same password across several accounts.

3. Keep your passwords secret and don't write them down or list them in your cellphone contacts.

4. Use a "dummy" computer without an Internet connection or USB drive to store sensitive or valuable information.

5. Limit the information you post to Facebook or other social media sites, like photographs of family and friends, or other personal information. If you have a Twitter account, never post information that could be used to identify you.

6. When surfing the web, enter the URL address in the browser and don't click on links that appear in pop-ups, e-mail or social media.

7. Frequently change you cellphone and SIM card, and block GPS locating options. Remember, text messages are not secure and are monitored in many countries.

8. Never handle confidential information on computers in cybercafes, or when using public wi-fi in cafes, airports or other public spaces.

9. Do not respond to requests for personal information or open attachments in your e-mail from people you don't know.

Technical Aspects:

10. Use the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

11. Enable a personal firewall to stop certain kinds of information from being transferred off your computer.

12. When sending important information, use an encryption program like GNU Project so only the recipient can open it.

13. To maintain anonymity on social media and the Internet, download the free program Tor. Tor keeps others from knowing your physical location, your browser activity, reading your instant messages, or remotely accessing your Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix or Android powered device. Click here for more information on what Tor protects and its limitations.

14. When chatting on Gmail or Google Talk, select the option "off the record" to keep your conversation from being saved.

15. For more information on protecting yourself on the web, download Global Voices' step by step guide to publishing you work anonymously on WordPress blogs.


heather wrote 6 years 3 days ago

re: 15 ways for journalists to protect themselves...

Be sure not only to use USB drive to store sensitive or valuable information... but BACK IT UP. Having any data on a device is worthless if you are guilty of the #1 cardinal sin in journalism. There are a lot of great tips and useful info here. Thanks for sharing.

Guest wrote 6 years 24 weeks ago

Computer Scareware

Just Say No To Scareware

Imagine: You’re happily browsing the internet one day when a host of urgent pop-ups tells you that malicious software has been discovered on your computer. These messages urge you to download software right away to fix the problem.

If you pay for and download the software, the program tells you that your problems are fixed. The reality: there was nothing to fix. And what’s worse, the program now installed on your computer could be harmful.

These programs are called “scareware” because they exploit a person’s fear of online viruses and security threats. The scam has many variations:

You may get ads that promise to delete viruses or spyware, protect privacy, improve computer function, remove harmful files, or clean your registry.
You may get “alerts” about malicious software or illegal pornography on your computer.
You may be offered a free security scan. Inevitably, it will find a host of problems.
You could get pop-ups that claim your security software is out-of-date, and your computer is in immediate danger.
You may suddenly encounter an unfamiliar website that claims to have performed a security scan and prompts you to download new software.

If you’re faced with any of the warning signs of a scareware scam, shut down your browser. Don’t click “No” or “Cancel,” or even the “x” at the top right corner of the window. Some scareware is designed so that any of those buttons could activate the program. If you use Windows, press Ctrl + Alt + Delete to open your Task Manager, then click “End Task.” If you use a Mac, press Command + Option + Q + Esc to “Force Quit.”

If the problems continue, you may already have malware on your computer. There are steps you can take to get rid of malware.

And the best way to avoid these scams? Keep your computer security software up-to-date and make these other computer security practices part of your online routine.

Geeks On The Go offers a wide range of computer support including computer repair, computer security, and general computer help so if you need assistance or have any questions regarding computer security you may contact us here. We can help!

Naomi wrote 6 years 26 weeks ago

Thank you

This article is not only helpful for journalists but every person on the planet who needs to use the internet.

namita wrote 6 years 27 weeks ago

15 ways for journalists to protect themselves while using social

your article is going to help me a lot.... thanks

Tobias Stuttgart wrote 6 years 27 weeks ago

Facebook profile

I think particularly with facebook, people are very skeptical. From personal experience I can say, that using the given privacy settings, even on facebook it is possible to stay at least a little bit anonymous.

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