LONDON -- A mobile phone app that provides human rights activists, humanitarians and journalists with all the latest tools and advice on how to operate securely was launched on Monday. The app, Umbrella, was developed by London-based organisation, Security First, as part of mounting efforts to make it easier for activists to work safely.
This 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're arrested. Lessons give simple step-by-step actions of 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 Security First, "We're basically building the tool we wish we had ourselves."
One Iranian journalist and trainer who must remain anonymous for security reasons said, "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. Based on my own experience it can help my students effectively learn how to protect themselves - from whatever may threaten them."
The sad truth is that human rights activists are more at risk than ever. The past few years have been some of the worst in recorded history for their harassment and human rights groups are now facing a global crackdown not seen in a generation. 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.
Yet security is hard. Bahraini human rights lawyer, Mohamed al-Tajer, who was imprisoned and beaten by security forces during the Bahraini Uprising, said, "It's hard to know what tools to use, it's hard to use a lot of those tools, and it's hard to know what to do about physical security."
Umbrella's aim is to greatly 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," said Matt Timblin, who is Director of Security at Human Rights Watch. "The prospect of an easily accessible 'one stop shop' app, such as Umbrella, 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."
The Umbrella app is free and currently available for Android only. To download the Beta version visit the Google store now. The developer is in the process of fundraising to support development for an iOS version as well as translation into different languages.
About Security First
Security First was established in 2013 with the aim of making it easier for human rights defenders to work safely. As well as building Umbrella they provide security training to groups ranging from the largest human rights, media and aid NGOs in the world to individual LGBT activists on the ground. It was co-founded by Rory Byrne (CEO) and Holly Kilroy (Head of Org Development), two young human rights workers who wanted to solve the security challenges they encountered. Bios available here.
SOURCE Security First