New Digital Security Guide for Environmental Rights Defenders

(Guest Post by Samuel Maina. Samuel Maina is a Kenyan communications consultant & digital security trainer. He is the founder of Kijani Media and a blogger.)
The launch of a new digital security guide targets to reduce cyber-attacks against Environmental Rights Defenders in sub-Saharan Africa by equipping them with knowledge and tools to combat surveillance and disruption.
In October 2014, Tactical Technology Collective, a Berlin-based info-activism organization, launched the ‘Digital security tools and tactics for Environmental Rights Defenders in Sub-Saharan Africa’, a digital security guide targeted specifically for Environmental Rights Defenders.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the fight to save the environment and natural resources that impoverished communities depend on is intensifying as oil and gas are discovered in more and more places. The loss of land to agricultural multinationals and the building of mega-dams is increasing; extraction of a myriad other resources and poaching are all at an all-time high. In the middle of all this are Environmental Rights Defenders (ERD) struggling to make corporations and governments accountable to the people and to defend the integrity of ecosystems.
The increasing demand and value of Africa’s natural resources has made the work of Environmental Rights Defenders ever more dangerous than before as corporations and governments use all means to stop them from defending ecosystems and people.
Reports released by such organizations as Global Witness, particularly the ‘Dangerous Environment’ report, show a sharp increase in known killings of environmental and land defenders by their adversaries. The report shows that three times as many people were killed in 2012 than 10 years before.
With the growth of technology and increasing use of digital tools to do their work, ERDs are increasingly becoming vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Governments and corporations are targeting ERDs through loopholes left in their digital life.
Since 2012, Tactical Tech has been working with ERDs in Africa to help them tighten security around their digital resources. To develop this guide, Tactical Tech worked with Kenyan environmental communications and digital security consultant, Samuel Maina, who they had trained in 2012 and 2013.
Security in a box
To inform the development of the guide, it was necessary to assess defenders digital threats, risks, vulnerabilities and capacities in a survey. During the survey, conducted in May-June 2014, Samuel interacted in person with ERDs in Nigeria, Liberia, Tanzania and Kenya and also online and on phone with ERDs in Uganda, DRC and other African countries where defenders are known to be in a constant fight to protect the environment from the might of extractive industries.
The guide is an offshoot of Tactical Tech’s Security-in-a-Box tool that has served human rights defenders for many years. It is designed to walk defenders through a process of securing their digital resources and information exchange systems so that they can close the loopholes that their adversaries – governments and corporations – could use to get to them and either disrupt their work or harm them physically.security in a boxThe guide covers topics such as:

  • How to assess your digital security risks
  • How to secure your online collaborations
  • How to use your smartphone more securely
  • How to make a distress call in emergencies
  • How to protect your evidence

This guide is designed for use even by defenders with basic computer knowledge and provides links to many useful applications and tools that one can install in their computer to secure their digital life.
The guide is available online at: https://securityinabox.org/communities/04
And as PDF at: https://securityinabox.org/sbox/pdfs/enviro-africa.pdf
A limited number of handy print copies is also available for those who like reading print.
If you know of any individuals or networks who may find this guide useful, please share with them. If you have any questions or wish to learn more about the guide, please email lisa[@]tacticaltech[dot]org or [email protected]
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