Digital Security First Aid Kit for Human Rights Defenders (2nd. edition)


Digital security has become synonymous with the use of the internet for activism. The internet is an important and potentially transformative public space. For those with access, it can enable and facilitate contributions to social justice and participatory political processes. It’s a space for creativity and connection.

The internet “is an extension, reflection and continuum of our movements and resistance in other spaces, public and private” (Feminist Principles of the Internet, #2). Therefore we need strategies and tools that enable us to be safe and to use digital tools and spaces with as much confidence and creativity as possible.

The internet is also a space and tool that is political, complicated, gendered, biased and increasingly surveyed and policed. It is a stage for violence familiar to many, particularly women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and sexual rights activists living and resisting both offline and online.

Digital tools and spaces have profoundly magnified the threats faced by WHRDs and have simultaneously broadened the kind of surveillance and harassment to which human rights defenders, both men and women, are being subjected. Just as offline, women are often more at risk online, and attacks against them are invariably sexualised. These are major factors for why women leave online spaces or choose to use pseudonyms as a way of remaining anonymous. Transpeople and those who identify as lesbian, gay or gender-diffuse and those who work in sexual and reproductive rights and justice are particularly under attack in online spaces. Digital insecurities seriously compromise activists’ freedom of expression and association, their privacy, and their right to participate actively as citizens. This happens in different ways online, from traffic monitoring to malicious attacks to censorship. Offline, confiscation of devices and corruption of document archives are as vicious and damaging as online attacks.

If we are to claim the internet as a public space, we need to take control of our technology and secure ourselves online. This kit is a contribution from activists for activists to help us be more secure in our digital practices. It’s designed to help activists deal with the most common security issues that might jeopardise the integrity of our devices and communications. Any at-risk user who encounters security-related problems can use this kit to mitigate the immediate consequences and find guidance to address ongoing security issues.

The kit is simply written for computer non-experts. Since security is complex and simple answers might not always be sufficient, this kit also provides links to more exhaustive resources for additional support. The work on this kit has been guided by APC’s many years of work in the area of digital security, particularly its work with human rights defenders, those who deal with digital dangers most frequently as a matter of course in their work.

How to use the kit

To access the content of the kit, click on each of the links or icons in the diagram. Comments and observations? Write to


This kit has been developed with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the European Union under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS).

Content in the first and second editions of the kit was authored by Jennifer Radloff, Karel Novotný and Mallory Knodel, with external review and contributions by Ramy Raoof.

Go to Kit