Information Security Essentials: A Guide for Reporters, Editors, and Newsroom Leaders by Data Science Institute associate research scholar Susan McGregor is an indispensable guide for protecting news writers, sources, and organizations in the digital era. McGregor provides a systematic understanding of the key technical, legal, and conceptual issues that anyone teaching, studying, or practicing journalism should know.

Philip Di Salvo reviewed Information Security Essentials for Surveillance & Society, the international, interdisciplinary, open access, peer-reviewed journal of surveillance studies.

Excerpt from Di Salvo’s Review

Digitalization has brought a series of new issues and threats that journalists need to be aware of and ready to cope with. Surveillance through various tactics and technologies, together with practices like doxing and online harassment, have all extended online the already wide domain of pressure, intimidation, and attacks that journalists may be forced to face while doing their jobs. The 2013 Snowden revelations, in particular, have sounded an unprecedented alarm about the need for adopting information security (infosec) strategies in order to protect sources and investigations from the digital powers and abuses that state actors have given themselves through signal intelligence surveillance or legal prosecutions of whistleblowers. Almost a decade later, the revelations about the widespread abuse of spyware technology, such as Pegasus, to target journalists have raised the bar even more about how devastating sophisticated digital surveillance can be and how severely its physical and psychological consequences can hit the lives of those covering the news. Whereas the number of infosec-savvy journalists has definitely increased in the past years, and the use of encryption tools has spread in newsrooms and beyond their pioneering application (such as WikiLeaks), journalism is still a field scarcely protected from digital threats and abuses and also limitedly skilled when it comes to information security.

Information Security Essentials: A Guide for Reporters, Editors, and Newsroom Leaders by Columbia University’s Susan E. McGregor comes to fill this gap, providing insights and best practices about information security for various journalistic figures of different kinds, from investigative reporters in national and international news brands to local reporters, freelancers, and newsroom leaders and managers. The book, which is grounded in McGregor’s pioneering research, teaching, and writing about infosec and journalism (see, for example, McGregor and Watkins 2016 and McGregor, Roesner, and Caine 2016), while having a tactical and hands-on approach, is also insightful when it comes to making sense of, mapping, and discussing journalists’ potential attackers, risk scenarios, and available responses from a theoretical point of view, especially in relation to internet surveillance. As such, beyond the guidance it can offer to practitioners, the book is also a much-needed contribution for journalism studies, where the literature about infosec, surveillance, and related issues is still limited (Di Salvo 2022), and for surveillance studies, as the book offers a wide and systematic overview of how surveillance can interfere with the work of journalists in various contexts (see, for instance, Chapter 13, among others). Susan McGregor’s book gravitates around a holistic perspective of information security that looks beyond a mere instrumental conceptualization. Following this attitude, information security in a journalistic context cannot be intended as the mere adoption of certain tools or software capable of solving complex issues per se. Contrarily, as McGregor argues, good information security applied to journalism (and beyond) is always based on the understanding of the actual contexts, realities, and risks potentially involved and requiring intervention. In two words: it always has to be connected with thorough “threat modeling.”

Read More: Review of McGregor’s Information Security Essentials: A Guide for Reporters, Editors, and Newsroom Leaders