How to be Digital During a Revolution

Fight the power! Update your Facebook status!

Feature by Alex Cole | 03 Mar 2011
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Wouldn’t you know it, that cheap holiday you’re taking has dropped you smack dab into the middle of a socio-political revolution. How terribly inconvenient for you, what with your regular Bargain Hunt habit on iPlayer. What you need is a game plan for getting to your interwebs without government interference or, if you’re bored, organising a massive revolution to topple an oppressive autocratic regime. The digital section is here to help.

Encrypt everything: If your revolution HQ is raided, or you need to pass through customs, your flimsy Windows account password won’t stop the men in dark suits from going through all your subversive files. You can hide all your stuff in a hidden disk drive with free software TrueCrypt, which encrypts your secret files with code so powerful the FBI can’t crack it. You can even make a fake hidden drive that has junk files, to make it look like you’re cooperating. Just don’t forget the password: once it’s locked, it’s locked.

Pole-vault firewalls: Some authoritarian countries don’t share the tolerant view we have of stupid ideas, and block certain websites outright while you’re using their internet. Fake them out by making your computer look like it’s connecting from a more liberal country with a VPN connection. Universities have ‘em for free while you’re a student, but even a free service like proXPN will fool any geographic restrictions, as well as encrypting your internet data in transit (useful when spies are snooping the free wifi you get at the café).

Hide in the cloud: You can keep all kinds of files, emails, settings and passwords saved in the cloud (online storage like Gmail’s inbox) and never need to carry around a laptop that can be compromised. To make best use of a public computer, use the browser’s private browsing mode, which won’t leave any trace of your history or passwords. Also try using a disposable email service like 10 Minute Mail, where you can make uber-temporary email accounts that vanish before they can be read by the baddies. Just beware of keyloggers, which record what you type behind the scenes.

In the blackout: Sometimes the man comes down hard, and the ISPs cut off the internet outright (right when the new Corrie is on, naturally). There’s only so much you can do on your own to get the word out, but last month Google, Twitter and even France stepped in to lend a hand to Egypt during its little fracas. A slew of special-purpose telephone numbers were made available for revolutionaries to speak any messages they had, which would be translated and posted into special Tweets, while others were toll-free lines for dial-up modems (remember those?) to connect to.

Viva la revolution!