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Why Email Encryption is a Vital Tool for Activists

April 8, 2015

Activism, regardless of what cause you champion, can be dangerous. Activists are frequently the target of government surveillance, hacktivists working against their cause, and troublemakers who are just looking to stir the pot. More than anyone else, activists have to be careful about how they communicate, as a single leaked document could lead to their safety being compromised, to say nothing for the causes that they fight for.

This is especially true for email, which is often an easy target for those looking to sabotage activist operations — just ask the Tibetan and Chinese human rights activists that had their email accounts hacked by the Chinese government. At the same time, it isn’t feasible for activists to ditch email completely, as often it’s one of the only reliable methods of communication that they can use on a global level.

Luckily, there is a solution: email encryption. Encryption protects your email, making sure your communication stays secure, even if it falls into the wrong hands.

A World Under Surveillance

If you’re an activist, chances are good that you’re being watched. Just within the last year, Bahrain, Kenya, Ethiopia, China, and the United States have all been accused of hacking, or spying on activists. Although that might not seem like a long list, it’s because these are only the governments that have gotten caught — it’s likely that many more governments keep tabs on activists, even if they don’t necessarily disagree with their causes.

Email encryption can protect you from surveillance by obscuring your messages, preventing them from being read by even the most tech-savvy governments. Encryption just doesn’t protect your messages from being seen by the wrong people, it also prevents them from being seen in transit, securing them as they travel from server to server.

Counter-Hacktivists

When it comes to activism, there’s no such thing as a universally accepted cause. Activism today doesn’t just mean knowing how to change minds and spread ideas, it also means knowing how to protect your digital assets. Email accounts are a frequent point of attack by hacktivists, as they often contain important documents, secrets and financial information that could cripple your organization.

Email encryption completely nullifies this threat, making it impossible for hacktivists to dig their claws into your organization. If they can’t read your messages, then there’s nothing to release, and there’s no chance they can slow down your operation.

Protecting the People Behind the Message

As many activists know, a single leaked email or hacked account isn’t just a threat to the cause itself, but the people behind it. The unfortunately reality is that while activists are allowed to peacefully protest in some parts of the world, not everyone is so lucky. Frequently, activists are forced to operate in hostile territory, where their cause, and their very presence, is seen as something that needs to be eliminated.

In cases like this, email encryption isn’t just a suggestion, but a requirement. Strong, reliable client-side encryption is something that could potentially be the difference between life and death.

A Hassle-Free Email Encryption Solution

Chances are, if you aren’t already using email encryption, it’s likely due to how complicated it can be to setup and use. Traditional methods of client-side email encryption, like PGP and S/MIME, require a significant time investment, with key exchanges and digital certificates. For activists, this is deal killer, as it isn’t practical to expect those in the field to be able to juggle keys, or to be able to deal with complicated setup procedures.

Luckily, there is another option: Virtru. Virtru is a simple plugin that enables true client-side encryption for any email account, including Gmail, and Outlook accounts. Likewise, Virtru works with iOS and Android, meaning that you don’t have to be near a computer to send encrypted email.

Email encryption isn’t an option for activists, it’s a requirement. Try Virtru today, and see how easy it is to protect your email from anyone trying to sabotage the cause that you fight for.