Digital Security and Privacy for Human Rights Defenders


Backdoor – in a computer system, a method of bypassing normal authentication or securing remote access to a computer, while attempting to remain hidden from casual inspection.

Bcc – Blind Carbon Copy. Refers to the practice of sending a message to multiple recipients in such a way that what they receive does not contain the complete list of recipients.
There are a number of reasons for using this feature:

  • To send a copy of your correspondence to a third party (for example, a colleague) when you do not want to let the recipient know that you are doing this (or when you do not want the recipient to know the third party’s e-mail address).
  • When sending an e-mail to multiple recipients, you can hide their e-mail addresses from each other. This is a sensible anti-spam precaution, because it helps to avoid compiling a long list of e-mail addresses available to all the recipients (which is what happens, if you put everyone’s address in the To: or CC: fields). For this reason, it often makes sense to use the Bcc: field for mailing lists. Some viruses harvest e-mail addresses from users’ cache folder or address book, and large CC (Carbon Copy) lists may further the propagation of unwanted viruses, giving another reason to use Bcc.

BIOS – stands for Basic Input/Output System or Basic Integrated Operating System. It refers to the software code run by a computer when first powered on. The primary function of BIOS is to prepare the machine so that other software programs stored on various media (such as hard drives, floppies, and CDs) can load, execute, and assume control of the computer.

Blog – a website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse chronological order. Blogs often provide commentary or news on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. Popular blog engines include,,
Many journalists and human rights defenders use blogs as to communicate vital information, not otherwise available in mainstream media, to the Internet community. This has been labelled ‘citizen journalism’ - an increasingly popular method of obtaining genuine information on an event or a country.

Control Panel – a Microsoft Windows feature that gives you access to modifying the system settings of your computer, including user management, power features, network access, system drivers and much more.

Circumvention – in this book, circumvention relates to the bypassing of Internet website blocks. This is achieved by using technology which ‘goes around’ the given obstacle.

Cryptanalysis(st) – studies of methods of obtaining the meaning of encrypted information, without access to the secret information. A cryptanalyst is a person carrying out such studies

Cryptology – a study of mathematical, linguistic, and other coding patterns and their histories.

Cyber-dissident(s) – a person or people who actively opposes an established political structure and gives voice to their political concern through the medium of the Internet.

Denial of Service attack (DOS) – A DOS attack is carried out by repeated computer connection attempts to a website. The purpose of the attack is to overload the web server by making millions of same requests in the shortest possible time. A Distributed DOS (DDOS) attack involves specially pre-programmed computers to attack a single website.

Device drivers – computer code that allows specific hardware to function on your computer.

Digital divide – a gap between those with regular and effective access to digital technologies and those without. Digital divide is related to social inclusion and equality of opportunity. It is seen as a social/political problem and is becoming increasingly topical as industrialized nations are getting more and more dependent on digital technologies.

DSL access – refers to data communications technology that enables faster data transmission over a copper telephone line than a conventional modem can provide. It stands for Digital Subscriber Line (with variants of aDSL - Asymmetric and sDSL – Symmetric).

ECHELON – the name to describe a highly secretive world-wide signals intelligence and analysis network run by the UKUSA Community (otherwise known as the “Anglo-Saxon alliance”). It has been reported by a number of sources, including the European Parliament. According to some sources, ECHELON can capture radio and satellite communications, telephone calls, faxes, e-mails and other data streams almost anywhere in the world. It includes computer-automated analysis and sorting of intercepts.

Encryption – the process of obscuring information to make it unreadable without special knowledge.

Firewall – a piece of hardware and/or software that functions in a networked environment to prevent communications forbidden by the security policy.

Internet Service Provider (ISP) – a business or organization that offers users access to the Internet and related services. In the past, most ISPs were run by phone companies. Now, ISPs can be started by just about anyone. They provide services such as Internet transit, domain name registration and hosting, dial-up or DSL access, leased line access and collocation (keeping your own server at the ISP’s premises).

ISP – see Internet Service Provider

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) – a cryptographic protocol which provides secure communications on the Internet for e-mail, internet faxing, and other data transfers.

Open encryption standards – methods or encryption algorithms whose code is open to the general public for review and improvement. These are considered the safest type of independently tested encryption algorithms. Closed encryption algorithms may have major flaws (unnoticed by its developers), or specially made ‘backdoors’ that could leak all your information to a third party.

Partition (disk partition) – creation of logical divisions upon a hard disk. Allows the creation of several file systems on a single hard disk and has many benefits: allowing for dual boot setup (for example, to boot Microsoft Windows and Linux), sharing swap partitions between multiple Linux distributions, and protection or isolation of files.

PKE – see Public key cryptography

Proxy server – a computer that enables clients to make indirect network connections to other network services (websites).

Public key cryptography (encryption) – a form of cryptography that generally allows users to communicate securely without having prior access to a shared secret key. This is done by using a pair of cryptographic keys, designated public key and private key, which are related mathematically.

SORM-2 – (Sistema Operativno-Rozysknykh Meropriyatii, literally “System of Operational and Investigative Activities”) - a Russian law, updated in 1998, that allows the FSB (Federal Security Service) to monitor Internet communications.

SSL – see Secure Sockets Layer

SSL Certificate – is generated for every website that wishes to operate on SSL. It serves as a unique identifier proving the website’s authenticity and providing necessary information for an encrypted channel between the host and client.

System registry – a list of all software applications, hardware devices and system settings on your computer. Every installed program and component of your computer has to have an entry in the registry. This usually happens automatically. Sometimes, when a program is uninstalled, it does not remove its entry from the registry. This could be a potential security concern. Viruses often attack and corrupt the registry and could damage the functionality of your system. Also known as ‘registry’ or ‘Windows registry’.

Webserver – A computer that hosts one or a number of websites. Also web host, host.

Wiping (file wiping) – the process of overwriting a file, sometimes multiple files, to ensure that all information is deleted. Wiping a file is akin to shredding a document in a paper shredder.