Online Security for Feminists 101

01 February 2016

Everyone should know how to protect their accounts and personal information online, but online security is particularly important for feminists who work on the internet, as anti-feminists increasingly turn to hacking, harassment and doxxing (that is, leaking people’s personal details online) in their campaigns against us. Despite this, many of us don’t take steps to protect ourselves until we’re being attacked - and by then its often too late. Online security has a reputation for being time-consuming, expensive and confusing, but all it takes is a lunch hour to take some basic steps to shore up your defence against potential attackers:

Change Your Passwords

Make sure, at the very least, all your social media accounts and your email have strong, unique passwords. These will be a lot easier to create and keep track of if you use a password manager like LastPass (which is free!). Alternatively, if you prefer an old school approach, you can use a password generator and keep your passwords written down in a notebook. Just don’t lose that notebook! You might be tempted to keep them in a note on your phone or computer, but think how easy it would be for someone to read that file if they gained access to your device.

Enable 2FA on Your Email

Your email account is the keys to the castle. If a hacker gets access to your email account, they can send password reset requests to any of your other accounts and then it’s game over. 2FA stands for two-factor authentication, which is exactly what it sounds like - to log into an account, you’re required to submit not just your username and password, but another form of identification. Usually this is a code sent to your phone, but it can also consist of a physical key or stand-alone app. If you’ve ever used online banking, you’ve probably already used 2FA! 2FA is one of the best ways you can protect an account, and if you want to be really secure, you should activate everywhere you can. Failing that, however, you should certainly have it activated on all your email accounts. All major email services have it as a feature, and it’s fast and easy to set up.

Lock Down Your Information

This is about making an attacker’s life harder. Most attacks on feminists are opportunistic, and if you make it a hassle for them to even find out where to attack, they’re going to give up. Set up a public-facing email you can have on display if people want to contact you, and keep the email you use to access your accounts secret. Your Facebook account is often a big security weak point, as people think of it as more personal than other social media; don’t link to it from your other accounts and be careful when accepting new friends. If possible, use some variation of your name and/or change your privacy settings to make sure your profile doesn’t show up in search engines. Post as little personal information as possible - this might seem obvious, but I once uploaded a picture to Twitter of a letter addressed to my cats before I realised it had my home address on. Don’t do that.

Use a VPN

Using a VPN (or Virtual Private Network) is great security advice for everyone. A VPN is a programme you run on your device that encrypts any data you send over the internet. For feminists in particular, using a VPN will stop people from being able to use your IP address to work out your location. Your work or school might already provide you with a free VPN, and there are many free (although these often come with restrictions, advertisements or even sell your data) or paid options available. I personally use Nord VPN and I’m pretty happy with it.

If you want to go even further, organisations such as Crash Override have great guides you can use, and can provide free personal advice and support if you are attacked. However, taking these four steps will put you in a great position to keep your accounts secure, keep your personal information private and keep fighting the good fight while staying safe.