Security tips for Journalists

Security writings and interviews of Andrew Lih:

Practical Internet Security for Journalists (In 10 Minutes)
Andrew Lih, March 2, 2006


* Motivations
* Three most practical tools
* Four secondary tools
* Two good practices


* Foreign correspondents on the move
* Job needs – investigative journalism, protecting sources, privacy to work, confidential research, prevent blackmail
* Different countries/laws
* Don’t be at mercy of others
* Take matters into own hands…

Typical Scenario

* Journalist with laptop on assignment, plugs into hotel broadband/wireless to work. Risks:
* Password captured
* Email read
* Identity revealed, activity traced
* Laptop physical security, files accessed


* Encryption
* Protect personal info
* Security practices
* Password discipline
* Account discipline


* Three practical steps
* Easy to use
* Free versions of all
* Can be put on USB memory stick

Tool 1 – TrueCrypt

* Makes new “disk” on Windows computer
* Completely encrypted, secure by password
* Store documents, notes, source lists
* AES encryption – 149 trillion years to crack a 128-bit AES key


* Country-specific laws

Tool 2 – Hushmail

* Web-based, all mail encrypted on disk
* Can send/receive encrypted email
* No personal info, no logs kept
* “Not even Hush can access the encryption keys of individual users”
* Free simple, US $29.99 for full account
* Targeted use


* Anonymous accounts
* Email notification

Tool 3 – Torpark

* Combination of Firefox web browser and TOR anonymous router
* Easy to use, one-click access
* Conceals IP address, encrypted
* Works around content blocking/monitoring
* Uses The Onion Router –


* May be slow to startup (20-30 seconds)


* Password discipline
* Email account discipline


* Have three types on hand
Trivial (“buddha”)
* Nontrivial (“h@ppybuddh@”)
* Banking strength
(”6eijin9spring!1978″, like Beijing Spring)


* Throwaway – Free services (spam collects, reminders, bogus name)
* General (Email, work, personal)
* Secure (Confidential sources, interaction)

Internet access

* Home, cafes, wireless, hotels on the road
* Consider extremely insecure
* Who can contact your computer?
* Who can read what you’re doing?
* Passwords in the clear?

More steps (4-5)

* Google mail –
- Note the “S” and must be that address!
- Entire session is encrypted
- Yahoo/Hotmail – crypted login, not session
* Firefox browser –
- Clear all private data option
- Blocks malicious popups

More steps (6-7)

* Skype –
Secure instant messaging
Encrypted voice conversations
* VPN –,
Commercial virtual private network
Secures wireless access, hotel access, avoid filters
US $5.95 a month


* If you remember nothing else today…
Avoid Yahoo/Hotmail
* Put it on a USB memory drive
* Can use in Internet cafes



* Internet Explorer
* Yahoo/Hotmail
* Weak password
* Cleartext transmissions
* Documents on disk
* Instant messaging


* Mozilla Firefox
Google mail (https)
Strong passwords
VPN or secure email
TrueCrypt volume


* Don’t leave digital breadcrumbs
* Don’t let others decide your fate
* Still legal liability – subpoena, state secrets, etc. – but you control your destiny
* Secure email, transmission, disk storage
* Practical steps – encryption


* Security Tips for Journalists

Andrew LIH
site –
email –

23 thoughts on “Security tips for Journalists

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