It’s an old maxim that the goal of journalism is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Often, this may mean exposing corruption to the benefit of exploited people.
When a journalist uncovers and reports on the wrongdoings or crimes committed by powerful people, they can make powerful enemies. Unfortunately, there have been too many examples lately of journalists facing pressure from government officials or industrialists — in some cases, they have died under mysterious circumstances that are still unsolved.
Let’s look at the type of phone security journalists should get to keep them and their sources safe.
Military-grade encryption, known as AES-256, is a cryptographic algorithm that is much stronger than the encryption found in free apps. The phrase “end-to-end encryption” may make it seem like the maximum amount of protection. Actually, the “end-to-end” is less important than the strength of the encryption.
Journalists need encrypted text messaging to keep any identifying information of their sources private and keep a tight lid on the details of their story until it’s time for publishing. Military-grade encryption is much stronger than the encryption found in free apps, especially because some of these apps sell user information to third parties.
Messages protected by subpar encryption can be intercepted, while military-grade encryption is the strongest in the industry. If journalists rely on encryption from free apps, they may get what they pay for, and they owe their sources way more than the minimum amount of security.
Multiple Forms of Security
Unfortunately, decrypting messages isn’t the only way they can be intercepted. What about obtaining the phone itself?
Hardened devices need a slew of security features to complement the encryption. Why put so much energy into locking the front door when side doors are left open?
One basic but crucial feature is a password with an optional secondary pin, but security goes way beyond that. Journalists need phones that let them set up duress passwords, so the phone will automatically delete any sensitive information if someone enters the wrong password too many times.
Scheduled burn functionality lets journalists send texts, notes, and pictures that expire after a set time, even if there’s no data connection. Such content can’t be forwarded or saved on either device.
Remote-wipe and anti-theft protection are crucial, but features like secure group chat may enable journalists to offer contacts the type of protection and comfort they need to speak about sensitive topics.
Ease of Use
Journalists work on tight deadlines, and in the internet age, there’s increasing pressure to respond to stories faster than their peers. Secure phones are essential, but they can’t be so cumbersome to use that they slow them down.
In the past, encrypted phones were a labyrinth that took time to navigate. Now, phones with military-grade encryption are just as secure as they are easy to use.
Society depends on journalists to probe deep into big stories that powerful interests may prefer to keep private. Reaching out to people whose voices are seldom heard in mainstream news is the bedrock of journalism. Secure phones let journalists do their work seamlessly and safely, and that’s something their sources will appreciate.