Home Web information How to protect digital information working on the front lines. Recommendations from Council of Europe experts

How to protect digital information working on the front lines. Recommendations from Council of Europe experts

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On 30 September 2022, the Council of Europe project “Support for the safety of journalists, media and access to information, including the communication strategy for the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine” and the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine organized a webinar “Digital Safety of Journalists and Media Actors Working on the Frontline”.

The objective of the webinar is to increase the level of knowledge of journalists on the security of communications in the frontline area and in the occupied territories, as well as on the preparation of devices to travel to dangerous territories.

Taras ShevchenkoUkrainian Deputy Minister of Culture and Information Policy on Eurointegration, stressed in his introductory speech the importance of acquiring knowledge about digital security.

“The safety of journalists today becomes one of the highest priority tasks, because it is both about quality coverage of everything that happens during the war, and about guaranteeing the life of every person , which is the highest value for our state. I hope that the participants of this webinar will be better informed and will feel safer and more protected after this webinar. I wish everyone to stay safe, to fulfill their duties and bring benefits to society” he said.

Steen Norlov, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Ukraine, noted that the Council of Europe continues to support national partners and the Ukrainian media community to respond to current needs and the consequences of the war. He recalled that according to Council of Europe standards, the responsibilities of States during an attack include guaranteeing the safety of national and foreign journalists, freedom of movement and access to information, the provision of information to the media and safeguards against undue limitations on freedom of expression. . The responsibilities of journalists include upholding professional and ethical standards and combating the spread of propaganda and disinformation.

“Unfortunately, journalists and the media continue to be the target of physical and digital attacks which can expose them to discrimination, danger and even death in the course of their work. Regular monitoring of violations of journalists’ rights in Ukraine shows a significant increase in online threats, online harassment, interference with privacy and other forms of human rights violations on the Internet against journalists, bloggers and public activists because of the public nature of their work. In addition, journalists face the daily risk of hacking emails and social network accounts, in particular to disseminate misinformation. The most common risk of neglecting the basics of digital security is the loss of important information. For a journalist, it is often much more serious than for an average Internet user. In addition to the state’s obligation to protect journalists and other media actors, journalists themselves can take important steps towards a safer online life”he said.

The webinar speakers were experts from the Digital Security Laboratory, Council of Europe consultants Iryna Chulivska and Maksym Lunochkin.

Iryna ChuivskaCouncil of Europe consultant, expert from the CSO “Digital Security Laboratory”, called the most vulnerable methods of communication – phone calls and text messages, since the mobile operator has access to information about the approximate location of the subscriber (when the phone is turned on activated), information about calls and messages and can listen and record (for example, at the request of law enforcement).

Recommendations:

  • Avoid telephone communications near the forehead (or if the interlocutor is near the forehead) and on very sensitive subjects.

As for Internet providers and owners of wi-fi networks, they also have access to your mailboxes, as well as to the sites you use. In the Russian Federation and the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, special services automatically monitor Internet traffic.

Recommendations:

  • To hide ISP information, you can use special programs such as VPN (Psiphon, Tunnel Bear, Mullvad, Proton, Nord, Private Internet Access).
  • It is worth using messengers who do not have access to correspondence (Signal, WhatsApp, Facebook secret chat, Telegram secret chat).
  • It is important to configure two-factor authentication, automatic deletion of correspondence (if such an option exists). You should also regularly check the history of active sessions to make sure no one else has used your account.

In a war zone, you may find yourself in a situation where your gadgets and information about the Ukrainian army fall into the hands of the Russian army.

Recommendations:

  • Automatically clean all sensitive chats and remember to manually delete messages regularly.
  • Rename contacts containing the words ZSU, SBU, ATO, etc.
  • Disable auto-saving of media files and replace Touch/Face ID with a passcode.

Today, journalists don’t often use email as a means of communication, but keep in mind that email stores passwords for accounts on other sites, information on Google Drive, and so on. In other words, if an attacker hacks your mail, he can obtain data about your information on the network.

Recommendations:

  • Set up one-time passwords and two-factor authentication for mail, avoid phishing (a type of online fraud, often fake emails, advertisements, sites that aim to steal passwords, codes PIN, contacts, etc.) and unreliable account recovery methods.

Maksym Lunochkine, consultant of the Council of Europe, expert of the CSO “Digital security lab”, explained how to prepare the devices for a journey in dangerous territories. According to him, some of the main problems encountered by journalists include forgotten device or account password, lost device, broken device, no connection, no power sources, etc.

Recommendations:

  • Before traveling to dangerous areas, consult experienced journalists who work on the front line or search the Internet (for example, on the websites of IMI or “Detektor Media”) for information on the problems they face .
  • Analyze and assess risks. Understand how they can be avoided and if there are enough resources for this.
  • Make backup copies of all important data.
  • Print the most important documents.
  • Check the working condition of the devices.
  • Set one-time password or biometric data for unlocking.
  • Encrypt the drive.
  • Store information on cloud services (if necessary, purchase more space for data storage).
  • You need to remove the previous information from the devices so that it cannot be restored (eg encrypt the device then format it, reset the settings to factory settings).

About fifty participants took part in the webinar.

In August 2022, the Project and the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and Information Policy organized a webinar “Digital Safety of Journalists in Conditions of War”, whose speakers were also Iryna Chulivska and Maksym Lunochkin.

Earlier, the Council of Europe project “The European Union and the Council of Europe working together to support media freedom in Ukraine” launched the course “Digital safety of journalists and other media actors” on the Prometheus educational platform. The course aims to train media professionals and anyone who uses mobile devices, social networks, the Internet and cloud services. It explains how to protect accounts, devices, prevent phishing, hacking and cyberattacks.

The Council of Europe project “Support for the safety of journalists, media and access to information, including a communication strategy for the Prosecutor General’s Office in Ukraine” aims to help the media community Ukrainians to solve the current needs and the consequences of Russian aggression and the war in Ukraine.

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