TUTORIAL | SAFEBOX NETWORK
You are a journalist, threatened for your work, and you want to protect your information with the SafeBox Network? This page will guide you step-by-step.
Forbidden Stories created the SafeBox Network for threatened journalists to keep their sensitive information safe by sharing it with our global network of journalists. If they are prevented from doing their work, Forbidden Stories will continue their investigations and publish them worldwide. Learn more about the SafeBox Network here.
STEP 1. Contact us via Signal
before you start
Do you have the Signal messaging app? If not, download it for free from the Play Store (Android) or AppStore (iOS). With Signal, text messages, images, videos and phone calls are end-to-end encrypted. You can install it on your cell phone as well as on your computer.
Important: If you want to protect your information without making your network membership public, do not identify yourself on Signal. Proceed directly to step 2 and only use SecureDrop to stay in touch with us.
- Launch Signal.
- Enter our phone number:
- Activate the “Disappearing messages” option for more security. You can find it by clicking on the arrow at the top right (on a computer) or on the contact name at the top (if you are on a cell phone). To verify that the option has been enabled, it should say: “You set disappearing message time to [selected duration]”.
- Send us a message to this number. Introduce yourself and your situation. Ask us questions if you have any.
- Do not send sensitive information on Signal. Use SecureDrop instead, which is the most secure way to communicate with our team.
STEP 2. Secure your sensitive documents with SecureDrop
before you start
Do you have Tor browser on your computer? Install it here. It’s the only browser that can access the platform
where you can deposit your information. It won’t work with Google, Firefox, and other browsers. Once Tor is
installed, you won’t have to do it again the next time you want to connect.
SecureDrop is a secure, open-source communication system. It is developed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
- On your computer, copy the address of our SecureDrop, which ends with .onion: http://forbiddenstories.securedrop.tor.onion
- Open the Tor browser.
- Paste the address into the URL bar. Hit “Enter” on your keyboard.
- Welcome! You’ve arrived on Forbidden Stories’ SecureDrop interface. If the page isn’t displaying, it’s probably loading. It may take a while if your internet connection is bad. But it is usually fast.
- Click on “Get started” under “First submission”.
- Your codename will appear on the screen. Memorize this codename (you can also write it down and keep it in a safe place). You will need it to log back into your account and read the answers from our team. The next time you log in, if you can’t find your codename, no problem! You can of course submit your information again by clicking on “First submission,” which will generate a new codename.
You can now submit your information! To do so, click on “Browse“. Two important things:
- Only one document can be sent at a time.
- This document may not exceed 500 MB (for security reasons).
Be sure to send as much information as possible. There are three types of items that can be dropped on
- Investigative material, i.e. all the evidence of your information (documents, photos, videos, database, interviews, transcripts, article drafts, etc.). Your notes can help contextualize these documents. Put yourself in the shoes of journalists who may have to pursue your work: what information is essential to help them?
- Instructions to guide the pursuit and publication of your work through the SafeBox Network, if necessary. Fill out this downloadable form and send it to us via SecureDrop.
- Any evidence of the threats you face.
- Add a comment in the field on the right: “Write a message.” This will be very helpful for us to understand what the documents you are about to submit are. Take this opportunity to sign the message with your name.
- Click on “Send“. If your document is large, this may take a few moments. Before leaving the page, wait for a green message to appear.
- Forbidden Stories receives your information. We store it securely.
- We’ll let you know if anything essential is missing to be able – if necessary – to pursue your work. We don’t touch that information afterwards, unless you are silenced by enemies of the press.
- Update the information you have shared with the SafeBox Network. Remember to document any new threats against you, to secure your investigative progress, or to change your instructions. If you send us material related to a new investigation you are working on, please specify what it is about.
- Go to a place with a public network with lots of traffic, such as a busy café you have never been to.
- Never connect from your home or work.
- Make sure your screen is not in the reach of surveillance cameras.
- Don’t use a computer if you think it is monitored.
Faced with these two limitations, there is a workaround zipping a folder that contains your files. This
allow you to send several documents at once rather than one by one. It will also allow you to compress the files
thus reduce their size.
This 500MB limit should allow you to send us the majority of your files. If a folder exceeds 500MB, divide the files into several folders.
However, it is possible that a single file (such as a video) exceeds this limit. In this case, let us know via Signal We will provide you with another secure way to send the file to us.
How to zip a file ?
It is usually enough to right-click on a file or folder. Then select “Compress,” “Zip” or some other similar word (it may vary depending on your computer). If you can’t do this, send us a message, we will help you.
Don’t worry if you don’t have all three. Drop off what you have on the platform. Instructions are essential, but investigative material is not needed if you don’t have an ongoing (i.e., not yet published) investigation. The same is true if you have no evidence of threats. However, feel free to summarize them or explain why you fear that you may be threatened.
To know everything about how the SafeBox Network works, read our FAQ.
Important: If you want to protect your information without making your membership public, take precautions to remain anonymous on the web.
STEP 3. Stay in touch via Signal
Once your sensitive information is secure, please feel free to keep us updated on a regular basis. Let us know when you have successfully published a protected story.
STEP 4. Make it public that you have protected your information
Sharing your information with the international network of Forbidden Stories can deter those who threaten you from attacking you. Make your membership in the SafeBox Network visible, both on the internet and in the public space.
- On social media:
- Consider publishing a tweet, post or video to warn that your information is being shared with Forbidden Stories’ international network in case you are prevented from publishing your work.
- You can add this phrase in your bio: Member of the #SafeBoxNetwork @FbdnStories.
- You can also use our dedicated SafeBox Network banners. We will send them to you upon request.
- On your website:
- You can indicate this in your bio or in your signature.
- We can adapt our visuals if you wish to integrate them into the layout of your website and thus make your membership more visible.
- Let us know if you want to be listed in the official directory on our website. This is the only way to ensure that a journalist claiming to belong to the SafeBox Network really does.
- Follow Forbidden Stories on social networks. Let us know and we can follow you back with our official accounts.
- The Forbidden Stories team is at your disposal for any other idea to make your membership in the SafeBox Network visible in your region. We can discuss it together.
Screenshot of the Twitter account of Gilberto Ruiz Díaz, a Paraguayan journalist who protects his information with the SafeBox Network and makes it known on social networks (with the banner provided by Forbidden Stories and specifying it in his bio).
Screenshot of the Twitter account of the media outlet of Pinsen Mora, a Colombian journalist who protects his information with the SafeBox Network and makes it known on social networks (with the banner provided by Forbidden Stories and by specifying it in his bio).