We spend a fair amount of time living out of hotel rooms as we travel on speaking engagements. John is always delighted when USA TODAY is delivered to our room (it defers working while he reads). On a recent trip, he actually found a great story. USA TODAY reported that the USA TODAY Network has launched a secure website for sources who want to share information with reporters covering government institutions from city halls to the White House.
The tool, called SecureDrop, is available at https://newstips.usatoday.com. SecureDrop is a system of communication made available by the Freedom of the Press Foundation to protect journalists and their sources. It uses the encrypted and anonymous computer network known as Tor and routes internet connections through a series of different computers around the globe, making it largely untraceable. The network requires use of a special web browser, which is available at https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en.
The system was developed amid a series of leak investigations under President Obama's administration in which federal agents secretly accessed reporters' phone records to identify their sources. President Trump seems to be following the same course even more doggedly. He regularly refers to leaks as "criminal" irrespective of the context.
Trump's election has created "a sense of urgency" among news organizations to find better ways to protect their sources, said Trevor Timm, director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which helped develop the whistle-blower system.
The foundation's online directory lists 29 news organizations that are using the system, including The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and the Associated Press. No system is foolproof. And its security depends in part on people taking basic precautions to protect their identities online. For example, people put themselves at greater risk if they try to use the system at work, where computer networks can be monitored. The Foundation recommends people use public Internet connections, and a special computer operating system called TAILS that is designed to make it difficult to track the activity or history of a particular computer.
Timm said he did not know of an instance in which the government had succeeded in identifying people who leaked information via SecureDrop.
I applaud the Foundation's work. My thoughts coincide with those of Christopher Dodd: "When the public's right to know is threatened, and when the rights of free speech and free press are at risk, all of the other liberties we hold dear are endangered."
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Digital Forensics/Information Security/Information Technology