Safer communications: What to do when you can’t trust your communications channels

If you believe your communications are being targeted, you must stop using the communications services/accounts that you believe are compromised immediately. Create a new account and remember not to re-use your existing usernames, passwords or email accounts as you seek help.

Note: If you are unable to set up PGP email with Thunderbird or OTR with Pidgin or Adium, Mailvelope for email and Cryptocat app for chat in Firefox or Chrome are fast and simple ways to set up more secure communications in an emergency.

The following important recommendations can help you to set up new channels of secure communication:

  • After you’ve moved to a new device, create a new account using a new, secure password. Under no circumstances should you re-use an account or a password you have previously used. Find tips on creating a strong password here.
  • Unless your threat model includes surveillance by very well resourced governments such as the USA, the UK, China or many governments listed in Google’s transparency report, using Google products may afford you a degree of protection. Google tools (especially using Google tools on Chrome) can significantly increase security in these situations, and gives you access to more secure email, chat and voice/video conferencing. This security only helps ‘inside’ Google, i.e. Gmail to Gmail or Gchat to Gchat. It offers less protection if anyone forwards this information outside of Google, or a different email address then Gmail is added to a Gchat discussion.
  • An alternative to Google is Riseup, a volunteer group working to create democratic alternatives and practice self-determination by controlling our own secure means of communications. They offer services such as Gmail and Gchat. It is important to note that Riseup does not have the resources of Google. That said, depending on your situation, Riseup may be more appropriate.
  • For end-to-end security, there are many tools with strong encryption you can use. Here are a few recommendations:
    • Pidgin (PC) and Adium (Mac) allow you to chat securely, with end-to-end encryption using OTR. Here is a guide to installing Pidgin with OTR.
    • Jitsi can be used both for text chat as well as encrypted voice and video. Use this guide to set it up. You can create an account for a secure voice/video call for free here.
    • PGP (PC and Mac) allows you to set up end-to-end encryption for your email. Here is a guide for using PGP with Thunderbird on your computer.
    • Tor Browser Bundle can be used to increase your security and privacy while visiting websites by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world.
    • A number of secure tools come pre-installed in TAILS.