For the working journalists, anonymous web surfing is a Must

In the media industry where “credibility is the name of the game,” any information and its sources to be used for the knowledge of the general public is crucial and should be kept protected at all times, by both journalists and media companies.

With the UK government and its draft investigatory powers bill in progress, police and security services were given new powers. The said bill has also gathered some criticism from media lawyers emphasizing how it could be used to spy on journalists and their sources.

However, it’s not only the UK-based journalists who should be aware of the tools and techniques they can use to protect themselves and their sources from surveillance, especially if they are handling investigatory projects which may have highly confidential information, and if they’re speaking to whistle-blowers.

Aside from encrypting the documents included in their job ﹘ articles in progress or confidential documents passed upon them ﹘ since it’s a crucial thing to connect to the internet for other valuable information, it’s also a must for them to surf the web anonymously to avoid hacking on their personal and media companies’ information. Complete anonymous web surfing can only be achieved through using Tor (The Onion Router) software, and/or an encrypted VPN service, when connecting to the internet.

Whenever we connect to the internet, our identity is revealed by a unique IP (internet protocol) address. Each connection we make, either to websites, email servers and others, may be traced back to us through our IP.

This just means that even if journalists make use of a sensible encryption for their documents, the identity of their revelations’ whistle-blowers and those they work with can be uncovered. Because of this, especially in dire situations, secure anonymous surfing should undoubtedly be done.

One of the simplest ways to achieve this is through using a Tor software package, which anonymises connections by sending them through a series of intermediate nodes (computers running the Tor software in “relay” mode), before finally accessing the website through the final node chain, the exit node.

However, with the Tor, even though its network is encrypted, the exit node will transmit data as it was at the beginning. To put it simply, the user is responsible for encrypting their communications, or else their anonymity can be compromised. Care should also be taken when links are followed since external applications such as a linked PDF file that is opened will not be running through Tor by default and can unmask the user, a great risk for the society’s watchdog. Always using the latest version of the software is also highly recommended.

Another way of surfing anonymously online is to register and have an account on a best VPN (Virtual Private Network) service, much better if it is an ultra secure and encrypted VPN. In a nutshell, VPN serves as a relay point for your connections. When you connect to the internet while using a VPN, the IP address you appear to be connecting from is that of the VPN server and not your original IP. And so, all your data is being encrypted between your computer and the VPN servers.

VPN services vary in their levels of security. It’s better to use a best VPN service that doesn’t log any user activity, like FrootVPN. It’s because data retention and logging of activities can be dangerous since the information gathered can be handed to governments and law enforcement agencies when a threatening situation arises.

In addition to Tor and VPNs being great tools for anonymous web surfing, these can also be used to access websites that have been blocked. Especially for the working journalists who always travel to handle different news coverages and beats, using a Tor or a VPN is an indispensable move. In countries which operate particularly aggressive censorship of the internet, such as Iran (for war coverages), China, and Saudi Arabia, or even Western governments now making their move towards internet censorship, like Australia, Italy, France and the UK (which were all placed under surveillance in the annual Reporters Without Borders Enemies of the Internet report in 2010 following moves to implement their own filters), access to sites routinely used by journalists (especially social media correspondents) for consistent news updating, like Twitter or even Google itself, may be restricted. But with a secure VPN however, any media practitioner can be allowed to bypass such restrictions regardless of their physical location.

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