Don’t panic! Download “A First Look at Digital Security”

Last updated October 2020: New resources added.

We have shared the entire project on GitLab. Feel free to comment, fork, or contact us there!

The U.S. elections and subsequent transition period have brought to the fore a number of fears for many people and organizations. For some of our new clients at the Digital Security Helpline, it’s the first time they’re taking steps to increase their security online.

Say you know that you want to protect yourself online, but you don’t know where to start. Or maybe you’ve heard about a best practice or tactic to use, but you don’t know how to implement it. Well, you’re in luck! Check out A First Look at Digital Security.

We know that keeping up with the constant swirl of new technology can feel intimidating, but the consequences of doing nothing can be dire. Take it from us, you can do this.

Our booklet starts where digital security begins: understanding what you want to protect, or your “threat model.” This booklet provides a friendly and personable first look at digital security for people at risk — activists, journalists, human rights defenders, and people in marginalized communities.

This document, born out of our experience at Allied Media Conference in the summer of 2016, introduces four user personas. Our metaphoric characters draw on numerous conversations and interactions with our Helpline clients, and we’ve created a general overview of their situation.

Meet the gang:


Each persona may have characteristics that you share or worries that you recognize. You may even be a blend of these personas and concerns. Our hope is that these characters illustrate how to think through your personal approach to digital security, giving you a stepping stone to solving some of the problems you may confront.

Remember: you’re not alone. Our booklet represents only the beginning of a conversation about digital security, giving you a place to start. We hope it helps you map out your priorities or frame questions for improving your digital security. If you need any help implementing a solution that you identify, or you want to ask questions related to your personal context and challenges, please feel free to contact our Digital Security Helpline at [email protected]. We’ll get back to you within two hours. You can also use the resources listed on the back of the booklet.

Finally, please share the booklet, and help us improve it. We have shared the entire project on GitLab. If you have suggestions for us, want to help distribute this book in your community, or would like to translate it into other languages, drop us a line at [email protected] and [email protected]. We want to hear from you!

A printable version of this booklet can be found here.