Digital security doesn’t have to be difficult – if you follow our new guide

It has never been more important for freelance journalists to practise good digital security – to protect themselves, their material and their sources.

Digital security doesn’t have to be difficult

Main photo: Nader Elgadi

But it doesn’t have to be difficult. Taking small, simple steps can make a huge difference to a journalist’s safety in the digital space. RPT’s new Digital Security Guide is here to show you how.

Ask most freelance journalists what they mean by digital security and they will usually talk about encryption. But that’s not the whole picture. Good digital security is about taking back control of your information, your devices and your materials. Put simply, it comes down to knowing what information (about you) is “out there” and then knowing what you can do to help remove, shape or protect it.

“We’ve discovered that many freelance journalists aren’t practising good digital security because they don’t really understand what it is,” says RPT’s Digital Safety Consultant, Ela Stapley. “So we decided to go back to basics and put together this new guide which offers clear, easy steps to help freelancers change their everyday practices and adopt new habits.

“This guide shows freelancers how they can make changes to the way they think about information security and their online presence, one step at a time. For example one month, they could review their social media privacy settings; the next month they could look at the way they communicate with sources, and so on. You don’t need to do it all at once, but you do need to do it!”

Common issues

Ela says freelancers are also vulnerable because of a lack of understanding about what risks can lurk in the digital space. “Often freelancers make errors simply because they haven’t thought about the digital security implications. They may not know that they need to increase their security or they are unsure of what to do.”

For instance, serious risks can occur when personal data is available online, whether that’s a home address, a photo, or details of family members. This information can be used to build up a picture of a journalist’s personal life and can leave a freelancer and their family vulnerable to both a digital and/or a physical attack, so knowing how to protect yourself and your online profile is vital.

A poor knowledge of passwords and how to manage them is also putting freelancers at risk, making accounts vulnerable to hacking. Knowing how to make strong, long passphrases, and using two-step verification for email and social media accounts are simple actions that will ensure you are more secure.

Next steps

So, the road to improving your digital security needn’t be long or complex. Starting now, you can incorporate quick and simple habits into your daily routine by working your way through our guide, which is divided into eleven stand-alone chapters – each one covering a specific area, such as social media, passwords, mobile phones and malware. There’s also a chapter on encryption – for when you’re ready!

“Journalists might not need to think about encryption straightaway,” Ela explains. “The first priority should be social media and passwords: do a tidy up, a review, and lock down your private data.”

So go on, have a look at our new guide now and get started today.

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