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In a cozy room in downtown Toronto filled with the scent of fresh coffee, a combination of journalists, human rights workers and experts in cybersecurity and digital law, began to trickle in. As I looked around I was impressed with the number of people who had come out on this chilly Sunday, giving up their weekend to learn about digital security and privacy at the Digital Self Defence Workshop, put on by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE). The workshop was supported by a CIRA grant from our Community Investment Program. I felt lucky to attend on behalf of CIRA to congratulate organizers and learn more about digital security and privacy myself.

The day included a full-group session on digital security basics followed by individual sessions targeted at journalists or human rights workers. After lunch participants took part in smaller workshops on encrypting audio/visual footage, secure web browsing, best practices for high-risk reporting, mobile security for Android and iOS, desktop security, phishing and digital device security at the border.

I was unable to be everywhere at once, but below are the top five tips on digital security and privacy that stood out to me after the workshop:

  1. There is no such thing as perfect security, just better security.
  2. Consider threat modeling, which is the process of identifying, enumerating and prioritizing potential threats. This will be different for everyone.
  3. Sometimes no hack is required. Who is looking over your shoulder while you use your device? Be mindful of non-tech ways someone can get to your data.
  4. Your digital device can be searched at the Canadian border (while in airplane mode). All downloaded material can be searched including photos, email, chats, etc.
  5. Much like taking a travel-size shampoo bottle with you, consider taking only the data you need when traveling.

There were certainly many more takeaways from the workshop and CJFE is committed to developing videos based on the workshop so that those who could not attend can watch them and enhance their digital literacy on security and privacy, thus spreading this knowledge beyond the one-day workshop. This was building a better online Canada in action. Keep an eye on the CJFE website for further resources.