Activist Security Handbook

Anyone considering exercising and/or protecting their democratic rights, and/or trying to change the world into a better place would benefit from reading the Activist Security Handbook.

Written by UK activists who have successfully campaigned for over a decade in the face of increasing repression from the state and corporations, it was first published in 2004 and reprinted in 2008, so there are aspects that could be a little more up to date. That’s more than made up for by the excellent tried and tested information and advice across a range of subjects such as:

  • Dealing with infiltrators
  • Security For Actions
  • Security for Demonstrations
  • Personal Security
  • Surveillance
  • Computer Security & Internet Privacy
  • UK Legal Issues

et cetera, et cetera

I highly recommend it. It can be freely downloaded (pdf), so why not check it out. As I’ve said, there are aspects to it that could be updated. If you feel you have something to offer in the way of up-to-date input (like how to avoid getting kettled!), get in touch with the producers at info@activistsecurity.org As they say, it’s intended as a resource for the entire social justice/anti-capitalist/environmental/animal rights collective movement, so it needs your input as well.

Participating Online with Safety Toolkit

The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) has developed a series of briefings to help those working on-line improve the security of their computer and on-line communications. The briefings were developed as part of a project aimed at improving the on-line security of computer users such as journalists and human rights workers. But the content of the briefings is relevant for all those working on-line.

An Introduction to the ‘Participating With Safety’ Project

Computers are a very useful tool to assist people’s work. They not only help with writing, graphic design and publishing information, they are increasingly becoming an essential communications tool as part of computer networks and the Internet.

But the reliance people have on computers is also a weakness. This weakness, and the ways of working around the problems computer technology can create, must be understood by those using computers. Through the understanding of the weaknesses of the way computers and computerised communications work we can take steps to protect our work, our security and our privacy.

There are many different aspects to using computers securely: You can set-up the computer to run more securely and reliably; Using access controls, such as passwords, you can prevent disclosure of information; By organising the information on the computer, and keeping regular copies, you can prevent the loss or corruption of information; and Using various means, you can secure your use of the Internet, and prove the authenticity of your communications.

Using computers more securely is a mixture of learning a little more about how the computer works, and undertaking certain tasks on a regular basis. The vast majority of the risks to your use of your computer come from mistakes in your own use or storage of information, or from the failure of the equipment it is stored on. Surveys in industries dependent on computer technology have found that 75% of data losses are due to internal errors, not from external factors such as computer viruses or deliberate damage. You don’t have to organise your information according to a strict formula. But it must be done in a way that everyone who needs to use it understands how data is stored and used. It’s also important to organise things to make it easier to keep copies of information, and to store those copies in such as way that they cannot be damaged or destroyed.

The other issue to deal with are the external threats to your work and computerised information. This comes from a variety of sources. There are the everyday risks from bad software and computer viruses. But increasingly we are becoming subject to directed risks; this can be the intrusion by the state or corporations who seek to frustrate or prevent our work taking place, or those seeking to defraud or steal information or computer equipment. The careful management of information, and the use of access controls to data and equipment, can help reduce the impacts of any attacks on you or your organisation. But it is important to realise that you can never completely prevent damage or data loss from external influences.

Overall, the purpose of these briefings is to help you make a qualitative improvement to the security of your computer and communications.

Variously formated (html/pdf/doc) briefings include:

  • Introducing Information Security
  • Backing-up Information
  • Living Under Surveillance
  • Passwords and Access Controls
  • Using Encryption and Digital Signature
  • Computer Viruses
  • Using the Internet Securely

Download free from the Free Range Activism Website

Knowledge is power, your ignorance is their bliss.

The Masque of Anarchy

In August 1819, a gathering of 20,000 working people assembled in Manchester to listen to “Orator” Hunt. The meeting was to have been entirely constitutional in character, and the workers brought their wives and babes as hostages for their good behaviour. The meeting had but fairly started when a regiment of cavalry charged down upon it, trampling and killing men, women and children. The magistrates who ordered the massacre – The Battle of Peterloo is its working class name – were exonerated by the Government (Source: Vigilant, Westralian Worker, 8 June, 1917)

The poet Shelley, in Italy at the time, heard the news of the Peterloo Massacre and wrote The Masque of Anarchy, which ends:

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep has fallen on you
Ye are many – they are few

The poem can be read in its entirety in the Anarchy Archives, an online research centre of the history and theory of Anarchism

Revolting Students!

I intended to start this log on the fifth of November, Guy Fawkes Day, for several reasons. Firstly, it’s possibly the most widely-known of sociopolitical dates in the British cultural calendar, a lonely pride of place in the relative desert of national sociopolitical consciousness. Secondly, it’s the first anniversary of the launch of Psyclone, released a year ago on that day for the reason just stated.

I may post it anyway. In light of recent and current events around the world, the questions and lessons it contains are worth going over often.

Meanwhile, it’s with great pleasure that I open with the subject of this first post, revolting students.

Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP

As will always eventually happen, possibly through the principle of some well-known Law of Thermodynamics or other, the tightening of the thumbscrews…, sorry, lid has produced a buildup of pressure that’s led to a reaction. Actually, that’s a rather good analogy, given that until late last night police were still ‘kettling’ students who were protesting against the proposed government cuts in education funding.

For those of you who haven’t yet exercised their democratic right to protest and thus had a taste of being kettled, kettling is an increasingly used police tactic of herding hundreds of people, usually the democratically acting types, into confined spaces, penning them for hours, refusing to let anyone leave or have access to water and/or toilets, and periodically attacking the people at the edges.

On hearing the news, about the protest not the typical police heavy-handedness, my heart soared. Sat at the kitchen table I shook my fist once and gave a jubilant hiss, ‘Yes!’

You don’t know me yet, so can be excused for thinking that you’re reading the meandering rantings of an anarchist malcontent. You’d be partially right, but I’m going to try to stay on-topic and not meander too much.

Now there are all sorts of details to consider, each of which have already stimulated a variety of mental responses, but my instant overall feeling was one of joy, and relief.

For years the youth of this country have been slowly and steadily depoliticised. Whatever the reason and whatever the detail, I’m so glad and relieved that they’ve found their voice again.

It’s also a buzz to witness modern technology being used in a socially important and valuable way, with students present at the various events relaying information and images, including video, to news agencies via email from their phones, and chants like ‘you’re going on YouTube’ being heard in reaction to the police brutalising teenagers. Excellent!

See Laurie Penny’s report in yesterday’s Guardian, and her New Statesman article here

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I leave you with a quote from Chapter 10 of Psyclone:

Repressed for so many years, distracted with seductive and hypnotic media conditioning, students had rediscovered their political voice. It was their world too. Practical solutions were discussed at length in lively, emotional meetings where Marxist, Surrealist, Situationist, and Zapatista theory and history were brought out and aired. More than anyone, young people felt the disillusionment of the voting process. Government was so far away and concepts made too complex to consider except as an isolated curricular module. Now their investigations and actions put them in touch with sincere depths and creative, inspiring visions, which in turn resulted in some creative and inspiring action.