A new android app, ‘Umbrella’ has been built by Security First with added input from human rights, aid and open tech communities with the aim of providing security for journalists and human rights activists.
Talk Android describes the tool as;
‘…a one-stop-shop for advice for human rights activists, humanitarians, and journalists on a variety of topics. Besides advising on how to secure sensitive files, the Umbrella app will also help you to spot if you are under surveillance, make a secure phone call, and even prepare to cross a hostile border. The ability to find out the latest updates on your area’s security problems is also featured’.
Catalina Albeanu reports for Journalism.co.uk that organisations such as Security in-a-box and Electronic Frontier Foundation have been involved in the development of the tool which is free and open source and can be downloaded from Google Play.
Security First is based in London, offering digital security training and testing, advanced research training and protection and crisis management to NGO’s. The company was founded in 2013 by Rory Byrne and Holly Kilroy who both have backgrounds in the world of human rights. The app is designed to offer security tools and advice to activists who rely on a mobile phone as their primary device for accessing the internet;
‘We want to make sure that the growing numbers of human rights defenders accessing the web via mobile only (70% of the internet users in Egypt, almost 60% in India and South Africa) have access to the same tools that desktop users have, and that they have access to security tools at their fingertips when out of the office’.
Albeanu reports that Umbrella needs internet access when it is initially downloaded from the internet. After that tips and advice can be accessed from the device without an internet connection, although the dashboard which keeps users up to date with the current events and risks in the area in which they are situated, does.
Holly Kilroy, told Albeanu that secure communications is one of the biggest conserns for journalists operating in danger zones;
“It’s definitely aimed at people who don’t necessarily have training and who are using it for the first time to try and figure out their security needs,” she said.
The app collects together tools and advice which can be tailored to the user’s experience, and an onboard checklist lets users mark their progress. The app is currently in beta, and has been released for testing which will inform further development;
“We’re also working on incorporating social media feeds into that later on as well,” explained Kilroy. “This stage is for really extensive, in the field testing, so for people to use and give us feedback, improve what’s there, make sure it’s really user-friendly. We want to make the dashboard even more responsive and even more useful, and we’re also looking to get [the app] translated into a couple of different languages starting with Arabic and Spanish,” she added.