For a lot of IT geeks, information security – InfoSec – has been little more than a hobby that lets us delve into the world of online spy tech. Most of us haven’t been doing anything any more illegal than the occasional movie torrent or text to a pot dealer, and the average InfoSec geek has traditionally been more likely to be a Breitbart-reading Reddit troll than someone who is actually part of a marginalized group.
That’s got to change, and soon, because the Breitbart-reading Reddit trolls are now running the asylum, and the only free speech they actually care about is their own.
In December’s issue I went over some basics: turn off geotagging, use encrypted cloud services, use the Tor browser whenever you can. But those were kinder, gentler days, when we didn’t yet know that we were walking right into the worst case scenario, as much as we may have suspected it.
If you’re going to a protest, of course you’re not going to leave your phone at home. But before you go, turn off any fingerprint unlocking and change it to a password, PIN, or pattern. You can’t be forced to give up your password, but you can be forced to put your finger on the sensor. Current iPhones and most Android phones turn on encryption by default, but it’s a good idea to double-check your security settings.
You might want to show all your Twitter followers the cool protest signs, but save them until after the protest. If things get ugly, pictures you posted to social media can be used to identify people who attended the protest. But if there were enough white people there to keep things peaceful, share away once it’s over.
And while I usually advise against letting Dropbox auto-upload your photos, an exception should be made for letting it back up photos that you might be forced to delete from your phone – they can be moved to something more secure later. In many states the ACLU has an app for just this purpose, but there isn’t an Ohio version yet.
For communication, install Signal and set it as your default SMS app, and then make sure anyone you’ll be texting about any important plans does too. Signal is an encrypted text messaging app, but it only works when both the sender and receiver are using it. But if I can get my mother to install it, you can get your friends to.
Encrypting your laptop is just as important (especially if you’re involved with Herr Trump’s nemesis, Journalism). Current versions of Mac OS X come with an encryption tool called FileVault 2. The Windows equivalent is called BitLocker, though it’s not available on Home versions, so if you don’t have Pro on your laptop you’ll need to find something else. Both can be used to encrypt not just your hard drive but also removable USB drives.
We have an ugly few years ahead of us, but fortunately the tools to keep ourselves safe are already out there. Make sure to use them.