2. Understand your equipment

Updated:July 2016

2. Understand your equipment

In the last section, we identified your digital equipment as a potential threat. Here’s where you’ll dig deeper into what poses a problem and how to deal with it.

A. What kinds of messages will you be sending or receiving?

Is your communication encrypted? Are your service providers sharing your information, making data visible? How do you know?


B. Is there, or has there ever been, any sensitive information on this device that you need to protect?

If the topic you are covering is sensitive, it’s likely that it will involve information that was intended to remain secret or confidential. How are you making sure this information is protected? 

One way to determine if you should encrypt an electronic file is to think about it as if it were a physical thing: If it was a paper document, would you shred it before throwing it out? If someone found it, would the contents potentially pose a risk to yourself or anyone else? If the answer to either is yes, then you should encrypt that file.


C. Will you always have the device on you? (Hint: The answer is likely ‘no’)

Think of all the possibilities: theft, confiscation, accidental loss, a mix up at the airport, leaving your computer or mobile in another room, taking it to the repair shop, storing it in a hotel while you’re out, it goes on. These are just some of the reasons you may not have a piece of technology with you at one time or another.

What information is on your mobile, laptop or other devices? What would happen if it were to end up where it shouldn’t?  Do you have any security checks (e.g. passwords, encrypted hard drive and/or files, etc.) set up on your device to prevent unauthorised access? Could you securely erase or hide files so they wouldn’t be discovered?

Don’t leave any assignment-critical device alone in your hotel room or elsewhere. Invest in a comfortable backpack or other method of carrying bag that you won’t mind carrying for long periods of time, and avoid bringing technology that you don’t really need.


D. Will you be using anyone else’s communications equipment or public internet access during your assignment?

There’s added risk whenever you use someone else’s technology, or access the internet through public networks. How are you avoiding a data trail that could expose confidential information? How are you making sure your connection is private? Be realistic about where you’ll be working and how much you’ll be relying on internet cafes, borrowed equipment, public wi-fi and so forth.


Next: 3. What material will you be recording/transmitting?

Image credit: Laptoppage, used here under a Creative Commons licence.
Created: June 2014

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