Leak without a trace: Anonymous Whistle blowing

Instructions on how to leak data without getting caught

  1. Don’t leave digital traces while copying data.
  2. Write stuff down on a pad which belongs to you, and take it home.
  3. Photograph your screen. Don’t create files with copies of the data you are planning to exfiltrate on your work computer.
  4. If the data is on an internal web server, try to access what you are planning to leak in the form of multiple partial queries over a period of time, instead of as one big query.
  5. If you have large volumes of data, save it on a never-used-before USB drive and bring that home. Don’t ever use that USB drive for anything else again.
  6. Don’t use work-owned equipment to post from. Many employers have monitoring software installed, and will easily be able to see who posted what.
  7. Don’t use equipment where you’ve installed employer-supplied monitoring software to post.
  8. If you just read this, on equipment which might be monitored, wait a while before posting anything sensitive. Don’t give somebody who is watching a chance to correlate your seeing this with a post right after that.
  9. Install tor. You can get it at http://tor.eff.org. This is a special browser which is slow, but provides strong anonymity. It will prevent anybody at your ISP (if they’re watching) from knowing what sites you visit with it, and it will prevent any sites you visit from knowing what the IP address of your computer is. This will make it much harder for either of them to identify you.
  10. Use the Tor browser for posting your leak.
  11. You must follow these instructions to make sure tor really works: https://tor.eff.org/download/download-easy.html.en#warning.
  12. The instructions about never opening a downloaded file are vitally important — things like .doc and .pdf files can contain software which will expose who you are.
  13. The instruction about using an https version of a web site instead of the plain old http version is also very important. This is because while tor provides very strong anonymity, it doesn’t provide a secure connection to the web site — the https connection to the site does that.
  14. If you’re posting to a social site like twitter or reddit, or using an email account for it, you’ll need to set up a new account for posting your leak.
  15. If you’ve got an account which you have used when not on tor, then Google, twitter, reddit, etc. can identify the IP address of your computer from previous sessions.
  16. If you’ve ever posted anything on an account, there’s a good chance you’ve leaked information about yourself. Don’t take this risk, and just use a new account exclusively for leaking.
  17. Do NOT post files from standard editors, like Word, Excel, or photos from your camera. Most programs and recording equipment embed metadata in their files, like the identify of the creator, the serial number of a camera, and the likes in their files which can be used to identify you. Plain old .txt files are ok. Pretty much anything else risks your identity.
  18. When posting photos, be sure to use a metadata stripping tool like jhead for photos. Turn off photo syncing (e.g., iCloud).
  19. The secure drop systems used by some news outlets like ProPublica and the New York Times may be able to strip this kind of thing, but ask a journalist about your specific file format first.
  20. After posting the leak, you need to NEVER use that account for any purpose not directly tied to the leak, since you may make the mistake of giving away your identity.
  21. If you want to leak to the press (which may get broader coverage, but may also decide not to publish at all) organizations like ProPublica and the New York Times have special drop boxes set up to allow the posting.
  22. Details here:
    http://www.niemanlab.org/2017/01/how-easy-is-it-to-securely-leak-information-to-some-of-americas-top-news-organizations-this-easy/
    https://www.nytimes.com/newsgraphics/2016/news-tips/#securedrop

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Estelle Weyl

My name is Estelle Weyl. I am a consulting web developer, am writing some books with O'Reilly, run frontend workshops, and speak about web development, performance, and other fun stuff all over the world. If you have any recommendations on topics for me to hit, please let me know via comments. If you want