Do the absolute basics of making sure you have a reputable: firewall, antivirus, anti spyware and anti malware programmes. Sometimes these come as all-in programmes, do a lot of research to find out what is best at the moment as the market changes rapidly.
2. Email Security
Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail are not secure enough email options for people working in the non-secure world. At the very least they are vulnerable to passport hijackings. At worst it is quite possible for security agencies within the government to be regularly reading your emails.
Good secure email options, unfortunately, usually cost money. Many organisations give a secure email options. Otherwise you could use something like Swissmail.
If you use Mailchimp to email newsletters, be aware that the newsletter is effectively a web page. Yes it is secure on their server but all servers are vulnerable to hacking. For more advice, and a warning, for missionaries serving in non-secure parts of the world regarding email communication see here.
If you do a Google search on your web browser, that information will be stored. In non-secure countries national security agencies will have access to that information. Also, assume that any web page you look at will be noted. Therefore, it is wise to avoid websites that may cause you problems.
There is a common way around this issue, and that is to route all of your information through a VPN (Virtual Private Network). There are also search engines that do not store your search information, such as StartPage.
It is also a good idea to regularly clean the cache (The area that stores downloaded internet information). If you do not know how to do this on your web browser, use a programme like CCleaner (for PCs), which will also provide other useful computer software fixes.
4. Data Storage
Storing sensitive information on your computer is also worth thinking through carefully. Many people have no other security apart from the password at the login screen. Any government agency, and many criminals, will be able to bypass (or force) the password. There are a number of programmes out there that will provide a way to store information securely, often by providing an encrypted area on your hard drive that hides behind a separate password.
5. Password Security
Password security is a massive subject. Many people use one password for everything, and often a password that is highly guessable. This is not a good idea! At least have a number of passwords that you cycle through. A better approach is to use a dedicated password creating programme, such as LastPass.
6. Social Media
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and all social media sites are a minefield for anyone working in the non-secure world. People have been expelled, outreach trips cancelled, and lots of unwanted information has ended up in the wrong hands vis social media mishaps. If you can survive without social media and you want to work in the non-secure world, delete your account. If not, you have to work very hard to manage your content, friends, timeline etc. For basic information on how to stay secure in the social media world see here.
See the article Your government is spying on you through Facebook right now for information on how governments in the West are legally gathering information. Assume that the non-secure world is putting in just as much effort, but don’t have the same legal foundations as Western countries.
7. Removing Web Information
If your name is on a website that has content on it that could cause you problems, there are ways to remove your name from the internet, but it is a long process that may or may not be successful. This is a subject for a more in depth study. However, if you do a thorough web search, you will find some good advice.
by David M
This post was adapted from original material published in the BAM Global Think Tank Issue Report on BAM in Hostile Environments