Since 2014, our digital security guide, Surveillance Self-Defense (SSD), has taught thousands of Internet users how to protect themselves from surveillance, with practical tutorials and advice on the best tools and expert-approved best practices. After hearing growing concerns among activists following the 2016 US presidential election, we pledged to build, update, and expand SSD and our other security education materials to better advise people, both within and outside the United States, on how to protect their online digital privacy and security.
While there’s still work to be done, here’s what we’ve been up to over the past several months.
SSD Guide Audit
SSD is consistently updated based on evolving technology, current events, and user feedback, but this year our SSD guides are going through a more in-depth technical and legal review to ensure they’re still relevant and up-to-date. We’ve also put our guides through a „simple English“ review in order to make them more usable for digital security novices and veterans alike. We’ve worked to make them a little less jargon-filled, and more straightforward. That helps everyone, whether English is their first language or not. It also makes translation and localization easier: that’s important for us, as SSD is maintained in eleven languages.
Many of these changes are based on reader feedback. We’d like to thank everyone for all the messages you’ve sent and encourage you to continue providing notes and suggestions, which helps us preserve SSD as a reliable resource for people all over the world. Please keep in mind that some feedback may take longer to incorporate than others, so if you’ve made a substantive suggestion, we may still be working on it!
As of today, we’ve updated the following guides and documents:
Assessing your Risks
Formerly known as „Threat Modeling,“ our Assessing your Risks guide was updated to be less intimidating to those new to digital security. Threat modeling is the primary and most important thing we teach at our security trainings, and because it’s such a fundamental skill, we wanted to ensure all users were able to grasp the concept. This guide walks users through how to conduct their own personal threat modeling assessment. We hope users and trainers will find it useful.
SSD Glossary Updates
SSD hosts a glossary of technical terms that users may encounter when using the security guide. We’ve added new terms and intend on expanding this resource over the coming months.
How to: Avoid Phishing Attacks
With new updates, this guide helps users identify phishing attacks when they encounter them and delves deeper into the types of phishing attacks that are out there. It also outlines five practical ways users can protect themselves against such attacks.
One new tip we added suggests using a password manager with autofill. Password managers that auto-fill passwords keep track of which sites those passwords belong to. While it’s easy for a human to be tricked by fake login pages, password managers are not tricked in the same way. Check out the guide for more details, and for other tips to help defend against phishing.
How to: Use Tor
We updated How to: Use Tor for Windows and How to: use Tor for macOS and added a new How to: use Tor for Linux guide to SSD. These guides all include new screenshots and step-by-step instructions for how to install and use the Tor Browser—perfect for people who might need occasional anonymity and privacy when accessing websites.
How to: Install Tor Messenger (beta) for macOS
We’ve added two new guides on installing and using Tor Messenger for instant communications. In addition to going over the Tor network, which hides your location and can protect your anonymity, Tor Messenger ensures messages are sent strictly with Off-the-Record (OTR) encryption. This means your chats with friends will only be readable by them—not a third party or service provider. Finally, we believe Tor Messenger is employing best practices in security where other XMPP messaging apps fall short. We plan to add installation guides for Windows and Linux in the future.
Other guides we’ve updated include circumventing online censorship, and using two-factor authentication.
What’s coming up?
Continuation of our audit: This audit is ongoing, so stay tuned for more security guide updates over the coming months, as well as new additions to the SSD glossary.
Translations: As we continue to audit the guides, we’ll be updating our translated content. If you’re interested in volunteering as a translator, check out EFF’s Volunteer page.
Training materials: Nothing gratifies us more than hearing that someone used SSD to teach a friend or family member how to make stronger passwords, or how to encrypt their devices. While SSD was originally intended to be a self-teaching resource, we’re working towards expanding the guide with resources for users to lead their friends and neighbors in healthy security practices. We’re working hard to ensure this is done in coordination with the powerful efforts of similar initiatives, and we seek to support, complement, and add to that collective body of knowledge and practice.
Thus we’ve interviewed dozens of US-based and international trainers about what learners struggle with, their teaching techniques, the types of materials they use, and what kinds of educational content and resources they want. We’re also conducting frequent critical assessment of learners and trainers, with regular live-testing of our workshop content and user testing evaluations of the SSD website.
It’s been humbling to observe where beginners have difficulty learning concepts or tools, and to hear where trainers struggle using our materials. With their feedback fresh in mind, we continue to iterate on the materials and curriculum.
Over the next few months, we are rolling out new content for a teacher’s edition of SSD, intended for short awareness-raising one to four hour-long sessions. If you’re interested in testing our early draft digital security educational materials and providing feedback on how they worked, please fill out this form by September 30. We can’t wait to share them with you.