Cybersecurity 101


Reporting during a contentious election cycle exposes both reporters and newsrooms to a host of cybersecurity concerns. 

And, chances are, between campaign speeches, tight publication deadlines and on-background sources, you need tools and resources you can use right now to protect yourself. 

Global Cyber Alliance’s Cybersecurity Toolkit for Journalists does just that. 

Here’s a bite-sized breakdown:

  1. Know What You Have: This sounds simple, but you need to account for every device you use that can be subject to a cyberattack. That means work laptop, work cell phone and the older work cell phone in your desk drawer that somehow is still connected to your newsroom’s WiFi. Hackers will look for loopholes in a network – that old, outdated cell phone without the latest security updates fits the bill. The same goes for an old computer on your network. 
  2. Update Your Defenses: And, speaking of outdated security, it’s critical to update the latest security patches on every device you use. Don’t wait for the auto-upgrade, especially if it’s a big file and you’re out in the field. Be proactive in making sure your updates are installed correctly.
  3. Passwords: Yes, easy to ignore. But a complex password could be the difference between a plea to Twitter support to recover your account and a thwarted social media hack. Please, don’t use your birthday, your dog’s name or your first grade teacher. Moreover, install two-factor authentication – Google Authenticator, among others – for an additional layer of security.
  4. Phishing: Another seemingly obvious one, but do NOT click links in an email, even if it looks like it’s from someone you know. Having the right antivirus software helps, too.
  5. Backup and Recover: If you’re not routinely backing up your documents, why not? Whether it’s a cybersecurity attack or a power surge, having multiple back-ups can save major headaches down the line. Also consider a “hard copy” via an external hard drive, especially if you’re dealing with sensitive material. 
  6. Encrypt, Encrypt, Encrypt: Whether it’s data or when you’re messaging a source, make sure it’s encrypted. Here’s a guide on encrypting your email – and you should already be using a platform such as Signal for messaging securely. 

3 Apps You Should Have: 

  • 1Password for Journalists: A one-stop shop for managing all your passwords and accounts. 
  • ProtonMail: Consider this additional email platform for end-to-end encryption. 
  • TOR Browser: If you’re trying to anonymize your browsing and/or avoid Google’s algorithm – use this. 

And, if everything above seems overwhelming, that’s OK. Just implementing a few cyber hygiene practices is better than no security at all. 

Additional resources from Election SOS: