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Disc encryption

Encryption is the process of protecting data with a complex cipher, scrambling it so that it can only be accessed (decrypted) with a password or key, sometimes requiring an additional authentication factor, e.g. a digital certificate  . Encrypting hard drives and removable devices, such as USB drives, is especially recommended for people working with confidential information, primarily journalists and human rights activists.

VeraCrypt is a multi-platform (Windows, Linux, MacOS X) free and open source  disk encryption software with advanced capabilities. It can be used to encrypt only specific files, whole hard disk partitions, removable drives, as well as a partition or drive where Windows is installed (pre-boot authentication).

Cryptomator enables you to encrypt your cloud storage files for services such as Dropbox or Google Drive. Files are encrypted within a secure vault which is then stored with cloud service providers, which cannot access the data. Cryptomator is open source and available for Windows, Linux, MacOS X and mobile platforms (iOS, Android).

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Mail server

Emails are considered sensitive data in any organisation. For security reasons, each organisation should have a dedicated email server . In this way, it protects itself from attacks and other malicious activities. 

In addition to the content of email, the importance of data from everyday communication is the so-called metadata - information that is generated and exchanged by software and devices used for sending and receiving emails. For attackers, metadata is often more important than the content of the letter itself, because it carries accurate information about the digital context of communication. Metadata is stored on the mail server, so its protection is specific. The basic step in this direction is to block all protocols (for example, FTP or HTTP) that the server does not need to perform its primary function, i.e. receiving and sending emails. A dedicated server can be rented as part of a hosting  package or other services, or an organisation can purchase a server with special software. An example of such software is iRedMail.

Alternatively, non-profit organisations can opt to use G Suite, i.e. Google’s productivity package which includes several popular tools and products (Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, etc.). However, it should be noted that Google’s business model is based on user profiling and analysis of personal data collected from its users.  

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General infrastructure protection

Here are some general recommendations on infrastructure protection:

  • Routers  can be configured to refuse automated collection of information about the system via the so-called footprinting method. This method involves creating a sketch of the network based on the fingerprints generated by sending digital signals. It should also be noted that the routing of data takes place according to different protocols, because they can be the main source of information for attackers. Mapping of routes through which data is transmitted (tracerouting), detection of active devices on the network  (ping) and similar methods can reveal to the attacker the entire infrastructure, i.e. the number and type of routers, computers and the way they are connected. Good practice dictates that ICMP requests be enabled for the web server, while the configuration for other servers and the internal network is set so that these requests are rejected;
  • Unnecessary server protocols should also be disabled. For example, everything can be blocked on the mail server except the protocols used for email (IMAP, POP, etc.) while web servers can be structurally configured so that access is provided only to public resources. Access to other folders and files, as well as the administrator part of the portal, should be disabled to avoid unauthorized access and data leakage;
  • Close unnecessary ports that no application on the server uses, with the appropriate configuration of network barriers (firewall).
  • By using intrusion detection systems, suspicious traffic is identified and rejected and footprinting attempts are registered;
  • Using anonymous registration services, information about the domain registrant can be hidden. However, it should be borne in mind that the reputation of a credible organisation is built through transparency, and this technique is not recommended in every situation.
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