App that helps activists, scribes in high-risk areas

London, Sep 29 (IANS) Human rights activists and journalists who are more at risk than ever nowadays have got a lifesaver in a new app that gives them latest tools and advice on how to operate securely in high-risk places.

Called “Umbrella”, the new app provides practical advice for everything from how to make a secure phone call or protect files, to spotting surveillance or what to do if you are arrested.

Lessons give simple step-by-step actions detailing what to do in any given security situation and show the best tools to do it with.

Easy-to-use checklists can help mark your progress, and a dashboard also allows you to keep up-to-date with the current risks in your area.

“We wanted to build a simple, easily-accessible tool that brought together digital and physical security, and helped human rights activists implement it in a really user-friendly way,” said Rory Byrne, CEO of London-based Security First that developed the app, in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are basically building the tool we wish we had ourselves,” he added.

According to one Iranian journalist and trainer, who must remain anonymous for security reasons: “Umbrella is very useful for my work. It really helps me as an individual and a trainer. It keeps me to up to date on the go. It also keeps me updated with the newest tools, which is hard to do with my busy job”.

The fact is that human rights activists and scribes are more at risk than ever.

If humanitarians are to be able to continue providing aid in Sudan or journalists are to be able to continue exposing political violence in Zimbabwe, they must first and foremost be able to work safely.

Umbrella’s aim is to simplify the way in which activists approach security issues and, in doing so, allow them to retain complete focus on the human rights challenges at hand.

“Managing the safety of staff and collaborators in insecure environments, across multiple locations and facing an array of threats can be challenging,” noted Matt Timblin, director of security at Human Rights Watch.

“The prospect of an easily accessible app that allows quick access to security advice is an exciting and innovative development in helping improve the security of those working as human rights activists, humanitarians and journalists around the world,” he added in the statement.

Umbrella is free and currently available for the Android platform at Google Store.

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