TTFA2: An Introduction to this Booklet

From HacktionLab: A UK-wide network tech-activists providing meet-ups, events, workshops, national skillshare gatherings and hacklabs
Jump to navigationJump to search

An introduction to this booklet

This booklet will help you;

  • Use Email Securely
  • Publish news and upload media anonymously
  • Make your web browsing more anonymous and secure
  • Use Facebook and Twitter more securely
  • Get organised online without relying on corporate social networking sites
  • Use encrypted messaging on mobile phones
  • Hide stuff on your computer so it can't be found
  • Find a more secure and decentralised replacement for Twitter
  • Support Free Software, open licences and decentralised/ federated communication

Why this booklet is important;

Harsh Sentences were handed out to individuals who used Social Networking sites to 'plan riots' in August 2011. Many status updates that may have been intended as a joke were taken as incitement to riot in court. On the other end of the spectrum, the Radcliffe on Trial story tells of the UK's largest ever pre-emptive arrest, which was based on extensive police surveillance and infiltration. Many of those who were charged had incriminating messages on mobile phones. While this booklet cannot stop police infiltration, we can provide information about tips to avoid leaving an electronic trail which can be linked to you.

The aim of this short booklet is to provide an introduction to the effective use of technology for activism. It is not an exhaustive guide but aims to link out to step by step guides and more complete information.

The tools used here could be of use to some of the following;

  • Journalists wanting to protect themselves and their sources
  • Researchers investigating corporate and state wrong doing
  • NGOs, charities and campaign groups
  • Local environmental or pressure groups
  • Anyone communicating digitally who doesn't trust the authorities of tomorrow

Free Software and Free Network Services

Nearly all of the tools in this booklet are Free Software based.

Computer programmers in the Free Software community have collectively spent millions upon millions of hours of their free time writing virus-free, highly secure software that respects your privacy. You may have already seen or used some of this software: Firefox, OpenOffice, and GNU/Linux operating systems such as Ubuntu & Mint Linux are used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

The Free Software we are talking about here is free to run, you are positively encouraged to see how it works and change it to your own needs and you are free to redistribute it. All these rights are protected in the software's license, most commonly the GPL (General Public License).

If you change or improve free software and then re-distribute it, you must release your changes under the same license in order that everyone else can benefit from them. Free Software is written by people who see software as inherently political. They are coding for an ethical purpose, namely to ensure that people retain self-managed control over their own information infrastructure.

The long revolution is creating small federated microsocieties, true guerilla cells practising and fighting for this self-management. Effective radicality authorises all variations and guarantees every freedom. Raoul Vaneigem

The same philosophy can be applied to online Network services. These are services like Social Networking sites and Video sharing sites like Facebook and YouTube. Many collectives and coders are working on creating Free Network Services which support federation and freedom for the information you input to these services. Some of the issues of Free Network services as opposed to ones which restrict your freedom are very well explained in a talk by Eben Moglen 'Freedom in the Cloud'.

Introduction to Safer Communication

Effective political organising has always required good communication. Over the last two decades the information revolution has changed the way political activists communicate to an extent that was previously unimaginable. Alongside the new opportunities this has created, there also remains the age-old problem of how to get information to your political allies while maintaining confidentiality.

One of the oldest security techniques is to use an alias (or aliases) for your political persona. The idea is that very few people will know that your online nickname and email address are linked to your real name and address. In this way, if your alias is somehow incriminated, it will not be easy to discover the identity of the person behind the alias. You do not want to keep changing aliases, so you'll need email providers who will not (or cannot) disclose your personal details if they are pressured by the police.

Communicating securely is everyone's business. Even if your activism is currently legal,you can help make the Internet safer for everyone and help the 'open web' by adopting good security practices. If only the people doing spiky things used these practices, they would attract attention just by doing so. Get into the habit of doing things securely before you really need to and you will be a thorn in the side of the surveillance state.

Having decided who you want to talk to and about what, you need to consider three things:

  • Synchronicity: do I want to send a message that can be picked up later or chat in real time?
  • Authenticity
  • Privacy: how can I stop the message from being read by anyone other than the person or people I intend?

This table shows a selection of possible methods for secure electronic communication and how well they perform:

Medium Synchronous? Authenticated? Private?
Mobile or landline phone Yes Yes* No**
VoIP phone Yes Yes Yes***
Instant messaging using Off-The-Record Yes Yes Yes
Skype-to-Skype call or chat Yes Yes No
Email No No No
Facebook chat Yes No No
Crabgrass chat Yes Yes Yes
Signed Email No Yes No
Encrypted Email No No Yes
Signed, Encrypted Email No Yes Yes
* A phone call can be authenticated if you recognise the voice of the caller. ** Phone calls can be intercepted. *** VoIP calls can be routed through secure networks


  1. http://ttfa.net/gpl
  2. Wikipedia article: http://ttfa.net/freesoftware Free Software Foundation: https://imc.li/xkw6b
  3. http://www.archive.org/details/isoc-ny1710