Indivisible East Bay

Digital Security in the Age of Trump

The success of Indivisible and Indivisible East Bay depends on people being able to feel safe in order to participate as much as they want. We believe we’re all stronger the broader our movement, and that breadth requires that people from all walks of life be able to play a role and feel safe doing so.

We know that the US government and internet companies have technology to listen in on our phone calls, read our email and text messages, see what we search for online, record and analyze what we “like” on Social Media, and surveil many other aspects of our growing digital lives. It’s safe to say the new Administration will continue to make use of these tools. Also, municipal police departments are availing themselves of this technology, including SF and Oakland PDs, such as technologies to capture phone numbers of cell phones carried by people who are present at a demonstration.

In order to enhance everyone’s digital security, we would like to propose that people follow the guidelines below.

Ensuring digital safety

As with everything related to security, nothing can prevent a committed intruder, especially a State actor, from hacking into your digital lives. However, there are lots of things you can do that can keep most hackers out, keep you under the radar, and make life difficult for a particularly committed actor.

Some of these measures might be as simple as not bringing your smartphone with you to an event; collecting all phones from people at a meeting and placing them out of earshot and out of view of the meeting; using Signal instead of your regular texting app; using a password manager; activating two factor authorization on your accounts. Think of these as different slices of Swiss cheese stacked in front of one another: any single slice will have holes that one can get through. But, enough of them stacked together will form a more thorough barrier.

For basic digital safety there are several areas where you can take action:

Description Ease of setup and use Setup time
1 Good password hygiene, much aided by using a password manager, like 1Password and LastPass. A little time-consuming to set up; once set up, your digital life will be much, much easier to manage. Depends on how many accounts you have.
2 Enable 2FA (two-factor authentication) with all your accounts. Easy to setup and use. Maybe 5 min per acct that has this as an option.
3 Encrypt your hard drive. Easy to setup and easy to use. 5 min
4 Use a passcode protect your devices. Easy to setup, easy to use. 5 min
5 Keep your operating systems up to date. Easy to do. 5-10 min, periodically
6 Use an encrypted messaging app, like Signal. Easy to setup and easy to use. You’ll need to get your correspondents to use it. 5 min
7 Cover your browsing tracks. Easy to set up (download the TOR browser). Easy to use, but with some performance hits (slower). 15 min to download and install, depending on your internet connection.
8 Use fully-encrypted email. Harder to setup, but once in place easy to use. 30-60 min.

Additional resources

If you’d like read more on this topic, check out our new Digital Security Resources page. The provided materials go into further detail on risks and what you can do to make yourself safe.

Step-by-step instructions on how to do ALL of the above and more can be found on the EFF’s Surveillance Self-Defense website.

Among the best, most comprehensive and user-friendly guides out there, the EFF’s guide is written by the folks who care about civil rights in the technological age. It gives high level rationale for why this is important, and an overview of many specific à la carte solutions, how hard they are to implement, and what they’ll do. We recommend that you read this slideshow which presents the same material.

Our friends over at Indivisible Austin have posted a number of practical guides regarding digital security. Worth the bookmark.

Addendum: Digital Security as an Act of Solidarity

Government surveillance is nothing new. It’s well known that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was surveilled by the FBI, not to mention generations of African-Americans before and after him. And today, BLM activists, DAPL activists, and many Americans who practice the Muslim faith, are being monitored by local, State and Federal authorities.

If we think we’re not being surveilled by the government, we may find ourselves communicating with friends or family members who are, or who may potentially be, monitored. When many of us say, “I have nothing to hide,” we’re reflecting a mindset that is rooted in privilege, that doesn’t take into account the possible vulnerability of the person we’re communicating with electronically.

One way to support our marginalized correspondents (and challenge our privilege) is to use a more secure means of communicating with them. In addition to normalizing the use of these tools and helping others protect themselves, we will have a taste of what it’s like to take measures against unwarranted surveillance. Today, for many still, to employ digital security is act of solidarity; for others, it has become an act of necessity.