A Google Hangout on Mobile Security

Updated:July 2016

Here's some guidance and takeaways on mobile security from a discussion with freelancers and the Guardian Project.

In December 2013, the Rory Peck Trust and the Guardian Project teamed up to hold a Google Hangout discussion on mobile security for freelance journalists. Participants included:

Victor Breiner, freelance photographer
Emma Beals, freelance journalist and member of the Frontline Freelance Register
Marcel Mettelsiefen, freelance cameraman and Rory Peck Award finalist
Giulio Petrocco, freelance photographer
Nathan Freitas, Guardian Project founder and developer
Diana del Olmo, former Communications Manager at the Guardian Project
Andrew Lyons, former Digital Producer at the Rory Peck Trust, now Technologist at Internews.
They discussed how mobiles can put freelancers under threat when on assignment, the options out there to minimise these threats, and the current issues with digital security that the freelance community feels exist.

Here's a run through of a few key points in the conversation:

  • A "burner phone" is a vital piece of kit when confidentiality could be at risk and you're not sure who could be targeting you. It's just a different phone you've got for calls and communication you don't want to make on your regular phone that may be under scrutiny, and one you'll not miss when you have to eventually dispose it.
  • Using call-forwarding phone numbers can help you keep your mobile private from everyone, and disguise whose calling you. It can also help you blend in and not be targeted for surveillance.
  • Realising that some security is better than none is a good thing. Skype isn't that secure, but could be better than using a regular, "open" phone conversation. Using stronger encryption through Ostel can provide even better security, and works on many types of mobiles including Android and iPhone.
  • Encrypting email using your mobile is still a troublesome process. Guardian Project works on tools for this, but suggests you use different encryption keys on your mobile than you use on your computer to avoid exposing your private encryption keys by moving them between devices, and that your better off using the likes of ChatSecure instead of email for really private electronic texts.
  • There's dragnet surveillance (monitoring whole networks) and then there's targeted surveillance (specifically spying on you). By using better practices like the ones discussed in our hangout, you can avoid being picked out of a crowd. Targeted survelliance is more difficult to work around, and solutions must be specific to the situation.
Created: December 2013

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