Many journalism investigations start with tips delivered through email, text message or other digital means. It's easier than ever for that information to fall into the wrong hands, so finding ways to keep journalists and their data secure must be a high priority.
To that end, Freedom of the Press Foundation, launched a crowdfunding campaign to support four new tools that can help keep journalists' data secure.
The open-source encryption tools aren't the first that the foundation has supported. It recently took over management of transparency advocate Aaron Swartz's "last gift to journalism." SecureDrop is a submission portal that enables whistleblowers to submit documents and tips over a secure connection.
The tools are being developed by "proven security experts who we really trust and we believe are creating tools that are going to be most useful for journalists and newsrooms," Josh Stearns, a founding board member at the foundation, told PBS MediaShift.
These four tools will make up the foundation's suite of encryption programs:
Tails is an operating system that you can launch by plugging a USB drive, SD card or DVD into a computer. You can surf the web anonymously, with each Internet connection going through the secure Tor network. Journalists can use the OS to chat anonymously and share documents, and all files, emails and instant messaging can be encrypted. The campaign will help to fund improvements for Tails 1.0.
LEAP Encryption Access Project concentrates on creating secure connections for email. Standard email clients connect to a local proxy and LEAP takes over all the encryption services, enabling the service provider to encrypt all incoming messages so only recipients can read them.
RedPhone/TextSecure are two tools created by Open WhisperSystems that create safe passage for communication via mobile phone. Red Phone automatically encrypts phone calls from Android phones, and TextSecure encrypts text messages. Both tools work behind the scenes on your phone so as not to interrupt normal workflow.
Tor Project is an organization that aims to support greater digital security for everyone through a number of projects. Journalists often use the Tor Browser Bundle, enabling them to browse the Internet without leaving a trace of web activity or revealing their location. It's free, open-source and available to Windows, Mac, Linux/Unix and Android users.
Via PBS MediaShift.
IJNet Editorial Assistant Margaret Looney writes about the latest media trends, reporting tools and journalism resources.
Image CC-licensed on Flickr via garryknight.