A report by compiled for Zimbabwe Network for Citizen Journalists by Richard Kawazi. Training and resource support courtesy of Digital Society of Africa and Internews Zimbabwe .

The right to digital privacy and internet security must be respected in a functional democratic media.

It is with great importance that content creators become aware of their rights to digital privacy whilst enjoying freedom of expression and access to information guaranteed by constitution of Zimbabwe.

However there is blatant disregard to journalists and content creators rights to privacy and internet security.

Journalists and content creators are falling victim to cyber security  threats including the following:

  • Phishing
  • Digital Surveillance
  • Malicious attacks (Spyware)
  • Bugging

Activists, journalists,  and whistle blowers are constantly targeted for digital security breaches by malicious hackers and government initiated monitoring and surveillance of persons of interest.

This has resulted in violation of digital rights to the effect of privacy invasion, identity theft,  extortion, revenge porn and illegal siphoning of funds by criminals.

This article will unpack tools and hacks that you may use to increase your digital privacy and Internet security .

Create a strong password for all your accounts

It takes a dedicated hacker less than three days to crack a weak password.

Weak passwords have characteristics that can be linked to your personhood and your immediate environment. For example a weak password would look like this. Your name and date of birth. John@1992.

zncj

For instance, John Chimuti is a human rights activist and whistle blower who uses his Facebook account for microblogging – this account will be easy to hack if John has a weak password that is easy to guess or crack using computer programs.

The best password is one that is completely random and unrelated to your personhood.

Here is a tool you can use to generate strong passwords.

Keepassxc is an open source software that is free and safe to use.

It comes with complete database encryption using industry standard 256-bit AES. Fully compatible with KeePass Password Safe formats. Your password database works offline and requires no internet connection.

Check any signs of bugging on your devices

Believe it not, but your device could be bugged.

This could happen for various reasons including surveillance from government, rivals or organisations with a mission to monitor your activities.

So what is bugging ?

Bugging is surveillance using a hidden microphone or camera.

These tiny surveillance devices can be planted on your device to listen and record your conversations.

Bugging is a violation of anyone’s rights to privacy and digital safety.

Here is a checklist if your phone may have been bugged.

If you experience two of these problems at the same time, it could be a sign your device might need to be checked for bugging.

NB this is not diagnosis but precautionary measures.

  • Opening and closing applications.

If your phone is constantly openning and closing applications without prompting instructions, it maybe a sign of bugging.

  • Heating up unnecessarily

If your phone is heating up without any heavy applications running in the background, this could also be a sign that your phone is bugged.

  • Echoing

If your phone is always echoing or recently started malfunctioning during phone calls as if you are speaking back to yourself, this could also be a sign that your phone has been bugged.

You can also increase your digital security using these extra methods also.

  • Free antivirus software (Windows defender for PC users )

You can always stay protected from malicious attacks and viruses by activating windows defender.

Windows defender is free and all you need is to activate and keep the software updated.

  • Use a VPN

virtual private network (VPN) provides a secure connection for your devices when you access the internet. When your connection is secure, your information stays private. 

At this point, you might be asking how does a VPN protect you? And how does a VPN work? VPNs act like a middle man between your internet service provider (ISP) and the internet. When you route your connection through a VPN, you access the internet through your VPN provider’s private server. One of the main benefits of a VPN is that your data is encrypted before it’s transmitted. Using a VPN also hides your IP address, which protects your identity while you’re online.

Conclusion

Every citizen has their right to digital privacy and Internet security.

No matter what you do in life and what your digital footprint looks like, you are prone to attacks and invasion of privacy.

In particular, digital rights are also women’s rights who evidently suffer harassment and abuse over the internet.

Investing in a strong and secure password, and auditing your social media account settings may save you from invasion of privacy and security threats.

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By Richard Matthew Kawazi

Richard Kawazi is a media policy and tech enthusiast, also a multi award winning journalist with a keen interest in Experimental Media Development.