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You and the Internet

You and the Internet

The Internet collects and stores a lot of information that you and others post online.

The Internet also collects and records data about you from the way you search for information online, including your routines, habits, locations and focus areas of your work.

All of this can be used by an adversary as a way to target you, so you need to know how to manage your online image and navigate the Internet securely to protect yourself, your story and your sources. 

Best practice: assessing your digital footprint


Take these steps to review your online profile:  
  • Search for your name on a number of different search engines. Remember to check images and video. Note anything that could put you at risk.
  • You can request that search engines remove certain data about you. Check out individual search engine policies for information on how to do this.
  • Check to see if your address is listed online. If so, you will need to contact the site to have your address removed. The process to do this will vary depending on the company and the country.
  • Check to see if any family members appear in any search results linked to your name.
  • Read comments left by people who read, listen to or watch your work. Note anything that could cause you concern.
  • Be aware that personal photos could be used as a way to discredit you and your work as a journalist.
  • Secure your social media sites. See our guide on how to do this.
  • Be aware of how your online profile can put you at risk if you are travelling and working in different countries. Have you published anything that could upset a government, criminal group or others?

Best practice: navigating the Internet securely


Take these steps to ensure you navigate more securely online:
  • Avoid using public computers, including Internet cafes. If you do use them, avoid opening personal accounts, log out of all accounts when you leave, and make sure you clear your browser history.
  • Public WiFi is convenient especially for journalists who travel but it normally has weak security. Protect your devices from malware and protect your data by using a VPN when using a public network. See our guide below on how to do this.
  • Turn off Bluetooth and other file sharing settings.
  • Chrome and Firefox are some of the more secure browsers. They also allow you to add extensions to the browser that can help you to use the Internet more securely.
  • When navigating the Internet check that the web pages you are using are secure. The URL should have a padlock and the letters https. You can add an extension to Chrome and Firefox that encrypts your data with many major websites.
  • Fake domains are websites that are made to look like authentic websites. Clicking on links on the site could install malware onto your device. Ensure that you check the site address carefully. Check that it has the correct spelling and that it has https at the beginning of the address.
  • Adversaries can target you through malware hidden in advertising. To prevent this, consider adding an ad-blocker to your browser, such as Adblock Plus. To block spying ads and privacy trackers install Privacy Badger. These are simple and quick to install. See our guide on Malware for more information.


VPN (Virtual Private Network)

This is a tool that allows you to browse the Internet without anyone seeing what you are looking at online. This is very useful if you are using public WiFi in cafes or airports. The VPN hides your IP address making it appear as if you are navigating the Internet from a different country. A VPN helps you access content that might be blocked by governments.

  • Read user reviews of a VPN service before subscribing. VPNs vary in quality and security. A variety of VPNs are blocked in some countries so you should research before buying.
  • Use a service that is not located in the country that you are working in.
  • When using the VPN, select to navigate from a nearby country. This will ensure that the Internet connection is faster.  
  • In some countries it is illegal to use a VPN. Make sure you do your research before crossing a border.
  • Your Internet service provider will not be able to see what you are looking at online, but it will know that you are connected to the Internet.
  • Using a VPN on your phone will hide what you are viewing, but your mobile phone company will still be recording your location.

Advanced best practice

If you are looking for more advanced security you may want to consider using Tails or the Tor Browser Bundle. These require a degree of technical knowledge to use and you will need to practise using these tools before implementing them in the field. These tools offer greater security but they may not be convenient or offer the speed needed to do your work.

This is a computer operating system and software package that can fit on a USB stick. It allows you to work from a computer without leaving a trace. Download Tails here.

The Tor Browser Bundle
This is a secure web browser that can run off a USB stick. You will need to understand how it works in order to make sure you are using it correctly and securely. Go to the Tor website for further information or visit their Twitter @torproject.



Key words: 

IP Address - This stands for Internet Protocol Address. Each device connected to the Internet is assigned a number and this is used to identify the location of a computer accessing a server. This number is also used to ensure that information arrives correctly to the person using the Internet.

VPN - This stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN makes your Internet connection more secure by hiding your activity online. It also allows users to access blocked content. It does this by hiding your IP address and instead it gives you a temporary IP address and makes it appear as if you are using the Internet from another country.


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