Basic Internet Security


The digital world is changing at a tremendous speed. New communication technologies open up new possibilities, but by using them you can also expose yourself, and others, to risks. Many people have trouble assessing these risks especially with regard to the subject of safe digital communication. This is particularly true for people working in regimes with high levels of censorship. However, also in countries considered to be relatively free and uncensored, your data can be used or misused by others - governments, companies, or other persons (sometimes even unintended).

How to protect yourself, your sources or your friends? What are safe routes to take? How do you secure after your personal data? This manual aims to address these issues to help you choose your own 'level' of safety.

How to trust technology?

When verbally passing a message you usually need to know your contact persons to know if you can trust them, but you also have to know your technology a little to know if you can trust it. Technologies can leak or distort your message just as humans can. Technologies are invested in types of trust relations: some devices are safer than others, some can be modified, and some are better avoided.

This book tries to address these different layers by giving hands-on explanations on how to make your digital communication and data more secure and by providing the reader with a basic understanding of the concepts of digital communication and data security. It derives from the following principles:

  1. No method is entirely secure;
  2. You need to have a basic understanding on how and why technology works to make it work for you;
  3. You need technology for safer communication: either some basic tools, or more sophisticated equipment, depending on where you're at and where you go.

Keeping up to date

Publications about the digital world become outdated fast and a viable solution today could be serious threat tomorrow. Therefore we created this book as open source, so it can be easily updated and will be free for others to update, extend and redistribute. The focus in this book is also on free and open source tools.

There is a wide range of books dealing with different aspects of secure communication in a digital age. We have combined our knowledge with existing publications and our contributions can be re-used and revised as well. This is the advantage of having a growing pool of excellent reusable content at FLOSS Manuals - its becoming easier in this field to make books quickly by combining existing materials using this resource.

Different users, different tools

The handbook aims to provide everyone an understanding about how they can protect themselves and the persons they communicate with. It also aims to provide insights into the limits of protective measures, so people can make an informed trade-off.

The manual was a direct response to a workshop given by Greenhost ( to the people from Free Press Unlimited ( The workshop made clear that journalists face many problems with regard to security. This manual therefore addresses the concerns and needs expressed in that workshop. However, the manual provides information on different layers of protection and therefore is valuable for other audiences as well. Using the manual does require some basic knowledge on how to operate a computer with a keyboard, mouse or any other pointing device.

In the chapter on 'Why to use this manual' you can read more about the reasons for taking more security measures and how the manual addresses these issues.

How was this book made?

This book was written in a Book Sprint. FLOSS Manuals has developed this methodology for the rapid development of books in amazingly short periods (2-5 days). FLOSS Manuals is an entirely open and voluntary organisation of some 3000 members. FM has manuals on free software available in over 30 languages and all for free. You can read more about free software at the website.

The idea for the book came from ISP Greenhost from Amsterdam. Besides providing sustainable hosting solutions they strongly adhere to a free, open and safe web. They bring this in practice by not logging user information, providing secure options for communication and helping users to make their computers and usage of the internet safer. For this book they gave a workshop at the NGO Free Press Unlimited from Hilversum, The Netherlands. Free Press Unlimited promotes Press Freedom all over the world, educates journalists and helps them securing their communication. A big part of this book is based on the workshop and the concerns of the journalists present. For more information check their websites.

Many thanks to Buro 2.0 for providing the space for this Book Sprint. Buro 2.0 is a co-working space for open source developers and experts. They were extremely generous to offer their Berlin venue to us for 5 days and made us feel very welcome and well looked after. Check them out their website.

The Book Sprint was 4 days long and the full list of onsite participants included:

Adam Hyde (facilitator), Jan Gerber, Dan Hassan, Erik Stein, Sacha van Geffen, Mart van Santen, Lonneke van der Velden, Emile den Tex and Douwe Schmidt