Claudia and Felix are reporters working in a journalists organization in Latin America. They investigate and report on issues such as human-rights violations, enforced disappearances, drug trafficking but always with a focus on the social impacts.

Their organization has been collaborating with others on a shared whistleblowing platform for some years.

Claudia has been designated by her organization to be the person in charge of the whistleblowing platform. She has an OpenPGP key to communicate with other organization on the platform but she only uses it for that. Actually, right now it's expired.

Felix is a sociologist but he "likes machines" so people call him whenever a computer issue pops up in the office as they don't have a dedicated computer person.

Most journalists in their office use Mac but their administrative staff run Windows.

Whistleblowing platform

The whistleblowing platform was set up by a tech organization from abroad. They gave each organization some training on the platform and a dedicated laptop to access it only from Tails. The training was focused on the platform, so they didn't receive a proper training on Tails itself. In general, little technical support was provided after the platform was installed.

Though the dedicated laptop seemed to be new, Tails takes 2-3 minutes to start. Maybe it's because of the computer but they don't really know because they didn't try it on another computer. All organizations collaborating on the whistleblowing platform received the same machine and some gave up on using it. They probably got the worse computer in the world!

It was not clear to them whether it was safe against malware to start Tails from their personal computer instead of the dedicated computer.

When working on leaked documents, they download them from Tails but do the real work from their own computers.

The first year Tails worked very well. But then they started having more problems when the upgrades started.

They know they should do more for their digital security

Their organization is aware that the stories that they are investigating require more digital security but they are struggling with switching to new tools. It costs a lot to change people's habit, especially with older journalists who are not going to change their investigation techniques.

Their administrative staff have their Windows encrypted using BitLocker but the journalists on Mac are reluctant to encrypt their computer because it would make them slower to start.

The organization is looking into switching their emails to a trusted provider but they are not there yet. They tried to get people to switch from GMail to Thunderbird but it was not adopted because people are really used to GMail and found Thunderbird slow in comparison, especially on bad Internet connections. So they tired to make people use OpenPGP on GMail with Mailvelope but this failed as well.

The same happens with Signal, which is not as fast and reliable.

But they managed to get people to use Mumble, hosted by a trusted provider, for their internal meetings.

In general, even after learning from the recent malware infection of journalists in Mexico. It's very hard for people in Latin America to know whether they have been infected because they lack local people who can do computer forensics. How can you know whether you are being spied? Not to get paralyzed, people stay blind to these issues and keep on doing their work as usual.

What they dislike

  • Upgrades!

    Several time, their Tails stopped working because of an upgrade. In such cases they would get help from another organization collaborating with the whistleblowing platform which has more technical staff. Right now for example, their Tails has been broken since December and is being fixed by them.

    One of their Tails was so old that it was impossible to upgrade it. Felix installed a new Tails and copied the cryptographic key to the whistleblowing platform manually.

  • Some months ago, they had troubles with their local keyboard configuration that was not always applied.

  • They once lost the configuration of their persistence and struggled importing their keys back to the new persistence.

    When configuring Tails, some options are shown but it's hard to understand what they correspond to if you are not an expert.

  • They have lots of trouble connecting to Tor. It can take up to 15 minutes and Felix tried on different networks (in the office and at home).