Security tools and techniques for journalists (Sponsored by Knight Foundation)

  • Event: 2017 IRE Conference
  • Speakers: Mark Monday of San Diego Union-Tribune; Tom Liffiton of The Research School
  • Date/Time: Saturday, Jun. 24 at 10:15am
  • Location: Grand Canyon 11-13
  • Audio file: No audio file available.

The digital world presents journalists with unique problems while communicating with sources or colleagues back in the newsroom. The objective of this presentation is to explore the digital security landscape and explain some of the tools and techniques journalists can use against the dangers they face. Topics will range from basic concepts of password management and spear phishing to the use of encryption, virtual machines, TOR, and steganography.


Speaker Bios

  • Tom Liffiton, a former Special Agent of the FBI, is currently a member of The Research School, which studies and promotes effective and secure research methods.

  • Worked at Arizona Republic doing investigative work before moving to San Diego Tribune where he investigated foster care abuses, Mafia infiltration of governments and consumer rip-offs. He was part of the team of writers who won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for General Local Reporting. after journalism he wrote and edited training manuals for the U.S. Navy SEALs, did Open Source Resource (OSINT) Intelligence, and was the OSINT instructor at the Army Intelligence School.

Related Tipsheets

  • Hidden Channels, Steganography, and the Research Professional
    The use of hidden messages—i.e., messages that are available only to people who know what to look for, where, and when—has been with us for centuries. Herodotus tells how a message about Xerxes’ hostile intentions was passed to the Greeks underneath the wax of a writing tablet. In ancient China, code ideograms were embedded at prearranged positions in dispatches. During the Middle Ages, monarchs used the grille system, where a wooden template was placed over a seemingly innocuous text, highlighting a secret message beneath.

  • Surveillance and Tailing
    A good, but unclassified, explanation of how to conduct surveillance – and therefore how to spot and shake tails – is found in an instruction handout produced by an American paramilitary group some years ago. The original document, quoted below, can be found in the Monday Collection at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. While the document is somewhat dated technologically, the concepts taught in the piece remain valid. The text and punctuation have been left as originally presented and do not meet all journalistic standards for clarity and stylebook-correctness.

  • Threats
    The following material, from a book by Mr. Tony Scotti, provides information on the ways governments and non-governmental organizations plan and carry out physical surveillance. While it directly addresses terrorist uses of surveillance, this is effectively a primer on the tactics, techniques, and procedures used in watching – and eventually ambushing or seizing – targeted individuals. It was provided by Mr. Scotti with the understanding that it would be used by IRE members for their personal protection. All other uses are prohibited.