Digital information and communications security

A guide to help potential contributors develop their skills.

If you are considering contributing to Exeter Observer please see our contributors guide.

Introduction

If you want to reduce the likelihood of anyone accessing your digital information or monitoring or intercepting your communications, there are steps you can take to increase your security.

These notes introduce some techniques and tools for those using common operating systems. Others are available, some of which are listed in the advanced section.

A basic approach

  1. No such thing as perfect security
  2. Understand your situation cf. threat model
  3. Think weakest link cf. end to end encryption
  4. Keep it simple
  5. Keep it free? cf. open source software
  6. Know who to trust
  7. Update!

Guides

Device security

Communications security

Email

Mozilla Thunderbird is a free and open source email client that supports OpenPGP encryption by default.

K-9 Mail is a free and open source email client for Android that supports PGP encryption via the OpenKeychain add-on. Both are available via F-Droid, an open source software repository.

It is important to note that PGP encryption doesn’t secure the sender and receiver information that are necessary for email to work, or the subject line. Using a generic subject line helps address this latter issue.

Several webmail providers are also available which offer more privacy-focussed services.

cf. key verification

  • Webmail+

    • Protonmail - Switzerland, Android/iOS apps, automagical encryption to other Protonmail accounts, freemium
    • Tutanota - Germany, green data centres, automagical encryption to other Tutanota accounts, freemium
    • Runbox - Norway, hydro data centre, workers co-operative, multiple domains/aliases
    • Autistici - Italy, autonomous anti-capitalist collective, account on request
    • Riseup - US, autonomous anti-capitalist collective, IMAP/XMPP/VPN services, account by invitation
    • Fastmail - Austrian company with US data centres, see security info, free trail only

Instant messaging inc. audio/video

Signal is end-to-end encrypted, available for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac and Linux and is open source software, which means its code can be audited by privacy experts to confirm its authenticity, among other things. It can be also be used to make secure voice (and video) calls, as can Jitsi.

Teams

Network security

cf. Panopticlick

cf. 2FA, Fido alliance

  • Firewalls (incoming & outgoing)

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an effective way of preventing websites you visit and email systems you use recording your IP address (akin to an internet postcode) and using it to identify your physical location. It can also help prevent your internet service provider monitoring your online activity.

Using Tor Browser is another effective way of defending yourself against tracking and surveillance. Using TAILS (see advanced secion below) is a another way of routing your internet connection via the Tor network from almost any computer and Orbot supports using Tor on Android.

cf. Guardian Project

cf. LineageOS

More advanced security

cf. EU Google Personal Information Removal Request Form

More guides

Guides covering other Exeter regional policy and practice areas are also being prepared.

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