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Mobile Security Risks for Activists

Mobile Risks: Intro

Activists, rights defenders, and journalists use mobile devices and communications for reporting, organizing, mobilizing, and documenting.  Mobiles provide countless benefits -- relatively low cost, increased efficiencies, vast reach -- but they also present specific risks to rights defenders and activists.  

Mobile communication is inherently insecure and exposes you to risks that are not easy to detect or overcome.


Your mobile communication is not only an exchange between you and the recipient of your message, but also between your device and the mobile network.

Additionally, information about other mobile uses, such as your photos or video, your data, the Internet sites you visit from your phone, and your physical location, are stored on your device and often logged by your mobile network.  

(The above graphic shows a schematic overview of the layers of the mobile networks to give you sense of the different elements that make up communications between two phones.)

How much is this putting you at risk?  This Overview will help you evaluate your level of risk in regard to your mobile communications.

Part I describes security vulnerabilities associated with mobile phone technology and the risks they pose to you - the information held by your mobile network operator (MNO or operator), the information stored on your phone, and the risks related to unauthorized use.

Part II discusses common phone capabilities - voice, SMS/text messaging, web browsing, mobile email, mobile photos and video, and smartphone apps. We describe the safety risks these pose for you and give you tips on how to minimize them.

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