Beyond encryption

Hold the phone! And other security strategies…

Encrypted messaging is just one of many techniques that journalists should be deploying in the digital age. I asked Christopher Soghoian, a security expert, what he would recommend as top defenses for journalists and their sources. Besides using disk encryption on your laptop (see this sidebar), he replied, in an e-mail that I’ve edited slightly, mainly to expand abbreviations:

• Don’t talk to sources using the telephone, even if you don’t directly talk about the issue. Telephones leave records behind. If you do need to talk to them using a cell phone, Fed-Ex them a prepaid phone, and tell them not to use it, or even turn it on, near their home/office.

• Use commercial virtual private networks (VPNs), which cost five bucks or so a month.

• Don’t use e-mail. If you have to talk and it can’t be in person, I like instant messaging with OTR encryption (, built into AdiumX and available for Pidgin).

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Dan Gillmor is founding director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, a project of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and is the author of We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People, and Mediactive.