Digital Safety Curriculum for NGOs

Are you an NGO or human rights advocacy organization?

Can you keep your sources and your research safe?

For questions or to book a workshop below, please email gjs AT journalistsecurity DOT net, or call 202-352-1736.

All courses are led by veteran digital safety trainer and journalist Matt Mitchell.

You will receive certification for each level completed, showing how your organization is taking steps towards building a proactive safety culture. For organizations interested in multiple levels, we do offer package rates. Just contact us for more information.

Learn more below.

Digital Safety for NGOs

Level One: Digital Hygiene

This level features a brief overview of how the Internet works, including basic steps to stay safe. We also discuss the essentials of threat modeling, myths and misconceptions about digital safety, and an introduction to common tools such as password managers. An essential first course for anyone handling sensitive information or assignments in an NGO setting.

Who is this level for?

  • Any NGO staffer working with sensitive information
  • Supervisors working in a hands-on capacity with staff
  • Regional managers and higher-level executives overseeing programs

 
What will I learn during this level?

  • How the Internet works
  • Basic “low-hanging fruit” steps to stay safe online
  • The principles of threat modeling as applied to digital safety
  • Common misconceptions about digital safety

 
What practical skills will I gain after taking this level?

  • Using a password manager
  • Assessing and creating a threat model
  • Optimizing your computer and online accounts for safety
  • Understanding and avoiding phishing attacks

 
Additional Details:

Cost$1,950
Duration1 hour 45 minutes
LocationCustom
PrerequisitesAn interest in digital safety. No prior experience necessary.
Class SizeUp to 24 participants

Interested in booking this course? Contact us.


Level Two: Protecting Your Research

This level takes digital safety a step further by reviewing precautions like two-factor authentication and other ways to secure ongoing research, including working securely within an Intranet and other internal systems. Additionally, we explore ways to collaborate safely with colleagues who aren’t trained in digital safety practices.

Who is this level for?

  • Any NGO staffer working with sensitive information
  • Supervisors working in a hands-on capacity with staff
  • Regional managers and higher-level executives overseeing programs

 
What will I learn during this level?

  • Secure use of search engines for research
  • The theory of compartmentalization as applied to digital safety
  • Use of adblockers for privacy and safety
  • Principles of secure browsing

 
What practical skills will I gain after taking this level?

  • Using a VPN
  • Deploying adblockers
  • Using a compartmentalization strategy
  • Conducting safe Internet research

 
Additional Details:

Cost$2,495
Duration2 hours
LocationCustom
PrerequisitesComplete Level 1 or enroll with instructor's permission.
Class SizeUp to 16 participants

Interested in booking this course? Contact us.


Level Three: Working With Contacts On The Ground

In this level, we cover “first contact” principles for reaching out and establishing communication with sensitive contacts securely, including training your contacts to use secure technology. We also discuss ways to secure your own communications and even meet face-to-face with contacts safely.

Who is this level for?

  • Any NGO staffer working with sensitive information
  • Supervisors working in a hands-on capacity with staff
  • Regional managers and higher-level executives overseeing programs

 
What will I learn during this level?

  • Best practices for phone use
  • The concepts behind encryption and its safe use
  • Encrypted communications for your digital devices
  • How to train outside contacts in safety principles

 
What practical skills will I gain after taking this level?

  • Using your phone securely
  • How and why to encrypt phone calls and text messages
  • How and why to encrypt emails
  • How to chat securely with encryption

 
Additional Details:

Cost$2,495
Duration2 hours
LocationCustom
PrerequisitesComplete Level 2 or enroll with instructor's permission.
Class SizeUp to 12 participants

Interested in booking this course? Contact us.


Level Four: Staying Secure In The Field

This level trains NGO professionals to encrypt their devices and secure their data when working in the field, including dealing with state search and seizure of digital equipment, both domestic and foreign.

Who is this level for?

  • Any NGO staffer working with sensitive information
  • Supervisors working in a hands-on capacity with staff
  • Regional managers and higher-level executives overseeing programs

 
What will I learn during this level?

  • Basics of encrypted hard drives and devices
  • Safely using cloud storage
  • Preserving data offline
  • Using alternate devices while traveling

 
What practical skills will I gain after taking this level?

  • How and why to encrypt a laptop or smartphone
  • How and when to safely use a “burner” phone
  • Storing data securely on the cloud
  • Keeping devices safe on the road

 
Additional Details:

Cost$2,495
Duration2 hours
LocationCustom
PrerequisitesComplete Level 2 or enroll with instructor's permission.
Class SizeUp to 12 participants

Interested in booking this course? Contact us.


Level Five: Working Overseas

For NGO workers working overseas for extended periods, we discuss ways to cope with threats specific to an international environment, including crossing borders with electronic devices, securing devices while overseas, and staying aware of travel safety and surveillance risks.

Who is this level for?

  • NGO staff currently on an overseas assignment, based in another country, or preparing to depart
  • NGO supervisors working in a hands-on capacity with foreign-based staff
  • Regional managers and higher-level executives overseeing programs

 
What will I learn during this level?

  • Best practices for crossing borders and checkpoints
  • Awareness and avoidance of surveillance threats
  • Key principles of hotel and travel safety
  • Selecting appropriate devices for international assignments

 
What practical skills will I gain after taking this level?

  • Understanding and crossing checkpoints and borders
  • Using strong passcodes and travel-specific devices
  • Recognizing and avoiding surveillance
  • Avoiding common hotel safety flaws

 
Additional Details:

Cost$2,495
Duration2 hours
LocationCustom
PrerequisitesComplete Level 3 or enroll with instructor's permission.
Class SizeTo be determined based on enrollment

Interested in booking this course? Contact us.


Level Six: Managing State-Level Threats

In this level, we help prepare NGO workers who are under threat from state-level actors, including managing sensitive or leaked information, keeping whistleblowers or witnesses safe, and communicating and sharing documents safely with colleagues working overseas. We also explore the use of anonymous document drops for submitting sensitive information, as well as the use of secure operating systems.

Who is this level for?

  • NGO staff working with whistleblowers, sensitive human rights issues, or legal cases
  • NGO managers working in a hands-on capacity with sensitive cases
  • Regional managers and higher-level executives overseeing programs

 
What will I learn during this level?

  • Best practices for managing leaked information securely
  • Digital safety steps to keep whistleblowers and witnesses safe
  • Securely sharing information with colleagues
  • Managing anonymous submissions from whistleblowers and witnesses

 
What practical skills will I gain after taking this level?

  • Understanding and utilizing secure document submission systems like SecureDrop
  • Deploying secure operating systems like Tails
  • Using safety tools when communicating with whistleblowers and witnesses
  • Sharing documents with colleagues worldwide

 
Additional Details:

Cost$2,495
Duration2 hours
LocationCustom
PrerequisitesComplete Level 5 or enroll with instructor's permission.
Class SizeTo be determined based on enrollment

Interested in booking this course? Contact us.


Level Seven: Digital Counter Surveillance and Data Gathering

During our seventh and highest level, we explore a variety of tools from the digital safety world that NGO workers can incorporate into their practice, including drone usage, basic hacking tools for investigations, and beginning to understand the challenges inherent in attribution and accountability of digital information.

Who is this level for?

  • NGO staff with previous digital training, aptitude, or area of interest
  • NGO managers working in a hands-on capacity with data or information security
  • Regional managers and higher-level executives overseeing programs

 
What will I learn during this level?

  • Using drones as a research tool
  • Utilizing digital safety principles for human rights investigations
  • Understanding and interpreting technical data
  • Introduction to authenticating digital information, including reported hacking

 
What practical skills will I gain after taking this level?

  • Flying and reporting with a drone
  • Interpreting server logs and other technical datasets
  • Understanding the inherent difficulties in authenticating digital information
  • Verifying and authenticating reported security breaches and hacks

 
Additional Details:

Cost$2,495
Duration2 hours
LocationCustom
PrerequisitesComplete Level 6 or enroll with instructor's permission.
Class SizeTo be determined based on enrollment

Interested in booking this course? Contact us.