New year, new habits: stay switched-on with our digital security guide

Practising good digital security is more important than ever for freelance journalists to protect themselves and their work, and the start of a new year is the perfect time to begin incorporating simple habits into your daily routine.

New year, new habits

Here are some practical steps, taken from our Digital Security section, to help you get going. Whether you’re looking to improve your password security or navigate the Internet more securely, we have something for you.

Create effective passwords

It is never too late to learn how to create and store effective passwords. Weak or reused passwords leave your accounts vulnerable to being hacked and your data being breached. Spend some time learning how to create long and strong passwords. Freelancers should also consider investing in a password manager, which is currently the most secure way to create and store passwords. Read our guide to passwords to find out more.

Start using a VPN

Freelance journalists travel often and are likely to connect to public wifi when working from cafes, passing through airports, or staying in hotels. These wifi connections are not secure and can be used to snoop on your Internet activity, leaving you vulnerable to criminals as well as hostile adversaries interested in your work.

You can easily secure your online browsing by using a VPN on all devices. A VPN is a service that hides your online activity by making it appear as if you are navigating from another country. They are very simple to use and there is a wide selection of VPNs available. Freelancers should research which service is best depending on their location and security needs. Find out more about how to use a VPN here.

Learn how to better protect yourself against spear phishing

Journalists are increasingly being targeted by spear phishing as a way to gain access to their devices and/or accounts. Adversaries do this by sending their targets a tailored message with a link or attachment via WhatsApp, text, email, or social media messaging platforms. Clicking the link will lead to malware being downloaded and could give the attacker complete access to the information stored on the device.

Attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated, making it difficult to tell if a message is from the intended sender or from someone wanting to snoop on your information. Freelancers can take a number of quick steps to check whether a message is authentic or not. Our guide to spear phishing is a good place to start.

Read up on digital security news

One sure way to get ahead with digital security in 2019 is to keep an eye on the digital security threats specific to the countries and regions in which you are working. Freelance journalists should look out for news on hacks or security breaches that could indicate that their accounts and passwords have been compromised. They should also keep up-to-date on changes to government legislation and online security in their region. There is a growing trend by governments to use communication and/or terrorism laws to crack down on journalists. Governments often do this by banning the use of encryption as well as restricting access to the Internet, for example, during elections or anti-government protests. Keeping abreast of these changes can prepare journalists better and give them time to protect both themselves and their sources.

Don’t forget, you can dip into our comprehensive Digital Security section throughout the year to develop best practice in the digital space – and look out for our upcoming Arabic translation! Join our mailing list and follow @rorypecktrust on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and YouTube for the latest news.