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Data Age and Digital Security

By Zabihullah Noori, Deputy Director, Afghanistan Journalists Center

June 22, 2018

At this age of technology where activists use various forms of digital communication whether it is texting on a mobile phone, sending an email, twitting breaking news or organizing an online campaign on Facebook, the privacy and the protection of data is at the center of all these platforms.

Afghanistan Journalists Center as associated member of the CIVICUS participated in a digital security training that discussed the techniques and maneuvers of detecting data breaches and coming under cyber attack through phishing, malware, and spywares. The training also provided useful tips and list of procedures to follow on how to limit these threats and try to prevent them in the first place.

First and foremost, journalists, civil society activists and human rights defenders should download software from well-known sources. Regularly update their computers, tablets and mobile phones. Un updated software are more vulnerable to cyber attack. They should also install an anti virus on their Mac and PC desktop, laptop, tablets and mobile phones and run a health check at least once a week.

Once these steps are done then the journalists, civil society activists, and human rights defenders can follow these measures that will assist them to safeguard their data and devices such as computers, tablets and mobile phones and to protect their identity from hackers.

Password is at the heart of protection. The stronger the password, the more you are protects. The creation of a strong and unpredictable password backed up by a Two Factor Authenticator (2FA) is utmost importance. Passwords are the primary key to hackers who would be interested in hacking one’s account. The weaker or the most predictable the password the more it makes the hackers’ job easy to break in into the account. A password of 15-20 character-long containing numbers, characters and Upper and lower case letters would be really hard for hackers to break in. The 2FA will put another protection layer into the account. Even if ahacker manages to figure out the password in an activist’s computer, it will be really difficult to break in the 2FA that has been activated in another device such as mobile phone.

Variation of passwords for different accounts is another recommendation that journalists and activists must consider.  If the same password were used for different accounts, once a hacker manages to break in one of the accounts, then breaking into all accounts wouldn’t be a hard job.

Since memorizing so many passwords is not an easy task, using the password manager can help. Password manager is a great help in two ways. First for creating a strong randomized password, and second for storing all the randomized passwords for different accounts into a password protected folder. Instead of memorizing 10 different randomized passwords, the activist will only need to memorize the password for the Password Manager application.

Encrypting the computer hard drive, USB and external hard drive is another measure in keeping the data protected and secure from the hackers. It is worth noting that in some countries the governments can force the service providers to share the contents of the activists with them. However, if the data is encrypted, it will make it really hard, if not impossible to decrypt the data, given that is protected with a strong, unpredictable and randomized password and the 2FA.

Some countries ban activists from their activities by imposing restriction on their Internet. To break this and to be able to access the Internet and do not disclose your physical location to such authorities, it is better to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

If you ever felt hacked or got suspicious of coming under a malware attack, you can contact Afghanistan Journalists Center that will connect you to the right sources at Access Now whose staff will analyze the threats and advise you on how to deal with it.

And finally since journalists and activists try to reach as many people as possible they reach out to various sites, particularly social networking sites that are vulnerable to hackers. The activists and journalists must take extra care in using the sites that are safe for their communication.

Below are the list of some of the website and the purpose they could be used for.

https://www.google.com/landing/2step/ (Google 2 Factor Authentication to back up your password)

https://www.cnet.com/news/the-best-password-managers-directory/ (Password manager for creating randomized password and for storing all your passwords in one place)

https://prism-break.org/en/(websites for downloading open source websites)

https://www.accessnow.org/blog(warning about serious threats)

https://www.torproject.org/(keep your search anonymous and encrypt your search, but only use it for delicate and sensitive matters)

https://haveibeenpwned.com/(check if your email has been hacked)

https://share.riseup.net/(files sharing= equivalent of we transfer, but a lot safer)

https://www.sync.com/(for end to end encryption-*paid)

https://signal.org/download/ (-messaging, audio and video calls)

https://wire.com/en/(video calls-End to End encrypted)

https://securityinabox.org/en/(offer step-by-step instructions to help you install, configure and use some essential digital security software and services)

 

 

10 Journalists killed in one day in Afghanistan

April 30, 2018

Kabul—Suicide bombing kills 9 Afghan journalists and injuring 8 others in capital Kabul on Monday morning and hours later a journalist assassinated in southern khost city on his way to work, the deadliest day in Afghanistan journalism history.

Reports indicate a suicide bomber, posing as a journalist, detonated his explosives while standing among a group of reporters who had gathered to cover the first suicide attack took place in a heavily-fortified area of Kabul city.

Azadi Radio reporters Mahram Durrani, Ebadullah Hananzai and Sabawun Kakar, Mashal  TV reporter SalimTalash and cameraman Ali Salimi, 1TV reporter Ghazi Rasuli and cameraman Nauruz Ali Rajabi , AFP chief photographer Shah Marai and ToloNew TV cameraman Yar Mohammad Tokhi were killed in the attack.

IS (Daesh) claimed the responsibility. In an another tragic incident, hours later, unidentified gunmen shot dead BBC Pashto journalist, Ahmad Shah, in Southern Khost city.

These attacks come just six days after a local TV journalist was killed by unknown gunmen in Southern Kandahar city.

"We are shocked and saddened by the horrific violence perpetrated against our colleagues in Kabul and Khost –the deadliest day for Afghan media ; the journalists in Kabul were on duty to report about the earlier attack, simply informing the public.” said Afghanistan Journalists Center Executive Director Ahmad Quraishi

“Today was really a dark day for the Afghan media and we deeply shocked and saddened by this barbaric attacks, our thoughts and prayers are with innocent lives in the attacks” AFJC call on Afghan government to seek out and prosecute the perpetrators as quickly as possible, and also urge the International Court of Justice and the UN Security Council to investigate the incidents. Mr Quraishi added.

The sharp increase in violence in the country has been a big blow to freedom of press which is the biggest achievement of the people of Afghanistan after collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001.

AFJC strongly condemns armed attack on Afghan Journalist Masoud Hosaini

March 29, 2018

Kabul: The Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) strongly condemns armed attack on Associated Press chief photographer Masoud Hosaini and calls on the Afghan authorities for the immediate and effective investigation of the incident.

Mr. Hosaini told the media that he was driving to district 2th of Kabul city last night at around 7 pm when the car in which he was travelling was attacked by armed men and they opened three shots.

“Fortunately I manage to escape unhurt and after the attempt, the gunmen immediately escaped the scene.” He added

Masoud Hosaini is a Pulitzer Prizes winner covering sides of Afghanistan war including government and the insurgents for over 15 years.

The city police reached the crime scene soon after the incident was reported, collected evidence and started investigation after lodging a first information report against unknown assailants, an official at ministry of interior told Afghanistan Journalists Center

The Afghanistan Journalists Center executive director, Ahmad Quraishi expressed his concern over the attack on Mr. Hosaini

“Journalists have a right to carry out their work freely and without fear anywhere in the country. Journalism is not a crime, but attacking journalists is.” Said Mr. Quraishi

“I urge the Afghan authorities to take this incident very seriously. It is of crucial importance to immediately investigate this crime .All journalists must be protected from violence and intimidation. And there must be a clear and unequivocal commitment by the Afghan authorities to end impunity for attacks on journalists.” Mr. Quraishi added

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