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Secure Communications

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Learn about using secure communications.

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Secure communication basics

Protecting your content

Secure communication is always a trade-off between security and convenience. When communicating there are different levels of security. This section focuses on protecting the content of your communications.

Choosing the appropriate form

Choosing the most appropriate form of secure communication will depend on your unique situation, your threat model and the activities in which you are involved.

Communicating when surveilled

If you are actively surveilled, for instance, you need to focus on many more aspects regarding your safety and the safety of the people you communicate with.

End-to-end encryption

A communication tool that provides end-to-end encryption (such a PGP-encrypted email, or chat with OTR or Textsecure on your phone) is better than using a tool with transport-layer encryption (such as Gmail, Facebook, or Twitter).


Anonymisation is another component of secure communications. Anonymisation tools hide the sender and recipient of a message and will protect the identity of the participants in a communication.

If your communications are compromised

Consider the consequences

In your communications are compromised, case you have to consider the consequence for yourself and your contact to reveal information about the emergency.

Stop using the communication channel

Stop using the communications services/accounts that you believe are compromised immediately. Create a new account and remember not to re-use your existing usernames, passwords or email accounts.

Using Google products

Unless your threat model includes surveillance by very well resourced governments such as the USA, the UK, China or many governments listed in Google's transparency report, using Google products may afford you a degree of protection.

Google tools

Google tools (especially using Google tools on Chrome) can significantly increase security in these situations, and gives you access to more secure email, chat and voice/video conferencing.

Drawbacks of Google tools

This security only helps 'inside' Google, i.e. Gmail to Gmail or Gchat to Gchat. It offers less protection if anyone forwards this information outside of Google, or a different email address then Gmail is added to a Gchat discussion.

Alternatives to Google

An alternative to Google is Riseup, a volunteer group working to create democratic alternatives and practice self-determination by controlling our own secure means of communications. They offer services such as Gmail and Gchat.

Using Riseup

It is important to note that Riseup does not have the resources of Google. That said, depending on your situation, Riseup may be more appropriate.

Secure communication tools

For end-to-end security, there are many tools with strong encryption you can use. Here are a few recommendations:

Pidgin and Adium

Pidgin (PC) and Adium (Mac) allow you to chat securely, with end-to-end encryption using OTR. Here is a guide to installing Pidgin with OTR.


Jitsi can be used both for text chat as well as encrypted voice and video. Use this guide to set it up. You can create an account for a secure voice/video call for free.


PGP (PC and Mac) allows you to set up end-to-end encryption for your email. Tactical Tech has developed a detailed guide for using PGP with Thunderbird on your computer.

Tor Browser Bundle

Tor Browser Bundle can be used to increase your security and privacy while visiting websites by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world.

Using the Tor Bundle

For detailed instructions on using the Tor Browser Bundle, refer to the Using the Internet Anonymously lesson.

Using a smartphone

For detailed instructions on communicating safely on a smartphone, refer to the Safe Phones section.


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  • en/topics/understand-4-digisec/1-encryption/1-1-intro.md: Understand encryption
  • en/topics/understand-2-security/1-your-security/1-1-intro.md: Learn more about your security
  • en/topics/tool-2-signal/0-getting-started/1-1-intro.md: Using Signal for secure messaging

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