TECH: Why Cybersecurity is important for all Journalists?

3 mins read

by Augustina Baker

They have a target on their backs—a target that could put their lives in danger…

Being a journalist has always carried a certain level of risk. After all, they are the first to leak potentially-harmful stories and expose the truth, whether the truth be good or bad for the subject of the story.

Because of the risks involved, it’s important for journalists to protect themselves. But first, what even are the risks involved?

Cybersecurity Risks Facing Journalists

In the section below, I’ll discuss three of the many cybersecurity risks journalists face every day.

1- Google’s Threat Analysis Group Findings

Let’s start with the findings of Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG), a group dedicated to finding security vulnerabilities and alerting the public about them. Earlier this year, a report from TAG revealed that journalists and news outlets have become targets of governments everywhere.

These governments hire hackers and cybercriminals in at attempt to steal the information of journalists spreading negative information. Basically, if the journalist isn’t spreading propaganda, governments paint a target on their back for hackers to find.

2- Having Sources Leaked

A journalist’s reputation is everything. Without a good reputation, they’ll be left without sources—the lifeblood of every journalist. 

Without practicing proper cybersecurity, journalists not only risk their personal information but the personal information of their sources. Not only could this be incredibly damaging to their reputation, but their sources could suffer as well.

3- Putting Their Lives in Danger

Like I hinted at in the earlier paragraph, journalists put a lot on the line by just being journalists. Many people would rather see journalism become a dead industry than see success in the field since their reputation could be at stake.

Not only could these people steal their information like TAG mentioned, but a journalist’s life could be put in danger, especially if said journalist is working on a sensitive story in an area not-so-friendly towards journalists.

How Journalists Can Protect Themselves

With all of the risks involved, it’s a surprise many people seek to become journalists—heroic, but surprising. But how can these people protect themselves from the risks involved? Fortunately, it’s easier than it may seem.

1 – Using a VPN

Encryption is key to keeping yourself secure in today’s digital world. And a VPN that ensures a secure connection wherever you are is your answer to proper encryption.

Virtual private networks (VPNs) encrypt your data on a point-to-point basis, meaning any data going to or from your device will be encrypted, hidden from other people on a network.

Considering many journalists move around and may have to count on public networks, a VPN is an essential tool in their cybersecurity arsenal.

2. Minimizing Activity on Social Media

Social media allows us to stay connected and gives journalists a way to connect to sources. However, journalists would do well to minimize the amount of information they give out.

Interacting with people on social media is fine—don’t worry about that. However, don’t give out personally identifiable information. If conversations get sensitive, which they always do, make sure to take the exchange over to a trusted and encrypted messaging app.

3. Using Password Managers

Passwords guard our most sensitive information. The theft of a password means doom for whatever information that lies behind it. When I put it that way, it’s obvious as to why journalists should use password managers.

Password managers store your passwords in a secure “locker” and make sure no one can steal them. Considering that many of them are free to use, there’s no reason not to use one.

Conclusion

Journalists carry out the heroic duty of breakings news of goodwill, corruption, and whatever important world events they can get their hands on. Because of this, they have a target on their backs—a target that could put their lives in danger.

And in a world built upon the Internet, it’s important for them to put cybersecurity first. Doing anything else could spell catastrophe. Fortunately, the solutions I’ve given out today will immensely help with any cybersecurity risks a journalist may run into. 

Augustina Baker is a Cyber-security expert. She writes about potential dangers in the world of Internet.

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