Why journalists should use a VPN

Last updated: October 27, 2020
online security for journalists

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Gone are the days when journalists would discreetly call their sources from obscure payphones to retrieve all the spicy tidbits that they would use in their articles. Instead, everything is online now. There is no need to waste your precious time when all the required information can be delivered to your office.

However, the new technologies bring with them tons of security concerns as well. It is easier than ever for someone to retrieve all the confidential information that you have. It is also possible for people to identify your sources through your internet history and correspondence.

We will take you through some of the basics of online security for journalists. We will mention various ways through which your online anonymity may be under threat. We will also take a look at anonymity vs confidentiality and how you can account for both. Lastly, we will mention how a VPN can protect you from these potential hazards and recommend one for you.

Anonymity vs. confidentiality

Anonymity and confidentiality may seem like the same thing, but there is a slight difference. Anonymous Data is sent in such a fashion that the sender conceals his or her identity from everyone. Confidential data, on the other hand, usually has some code in it to identify who sent the information.

Anonymous data could have information which is way more explosive (potentially dangerous), but it might also be bogus since it is not possible (or at the very least extremely difficult) to identify the source. Confidential Information is much more reliable and is sent to you by a source which you may have had previous correspondence with.

We will take you through some threats which Confidential Information being sent to you may be open to. There is not a lot to worry about though, as we will also give you tips on how to protect yourself from these threats.

Protection of sources

Protection of sources

Any reputable journalist manages to build a list of confidential sources throughout their career. Some of these sources are in high positions and have a lot to lose if their identities are revealed. The new method of internet communication might have a lot of advantages, but they come with a cost when it comes to protecting your identity.

There are specific security measures that the source can take on their part such as ensuring they do not use a work computer or an office network to transmit information. It is also a good measure to use codenames rather than their actual names to have an extra layer of protection.

Sources usually have multiple security measures in place, as you should too. However, one of the things that the both of you can do is to use a VPN. A VPN is one of the best ways to ensure online anonymity on both ends of the connection.

How a VPN guarantees you anonymity online

A VPN is a server hosted in a remote location through which your entire internet traffic is sent. It is effortless for anyone to tap into your browser history including your ISP. Your ISP may very well be selling your browser history to third parties.

Other government agencies and government-hired agencies may also want to tap into your communication to identify your sources. For that reason, a VPN can guarantee security by encrypting your data and routing it through a secure server. We recommend you use ExpressVPN as it has all the security features necessary.

Protection of information

Your sources are not the only entity that can be compromised through cybersecurity risks. It is also possible for the information that you have to come under threat. There are potentially many people including other journalists who can benefit from tapping into your files.

Just imagine, if someone can get access to your private files, they can see all the projects that you are working on. Nowadays, it is customary for people to store their data on a cloud and be able to access them from anywhere. If the files are kept on a company server, there might be people who can access the research and other private data of your entire organization.

In certain countries, you also need to be aware of governments as they have strict control over their internet (e.g. China) and they might not allow you to perform proper research. This not only restricts your access to a world of information but trying to access it may bring you into legal trouble.

Using a VPN for uncensored internet

Uncensored internet

A VPN will protect you from all the problems that you may encounter in regards to protecting your information. We have already mentioned how a VPN can encrypt your traffic and prevent hackers from accessing your data. You can also use a VPN to gain unrestricted access to the internet.

Since you will not be connecting directly to any of the websites that you are not allowed to access, and will be connecting to a remote server instead, you’ll be able to browse the internet uncensored. What is even more amazing is that although authorities will be able to determine whether or not you are connected to a VPN, they will not be able to determine which websites you are visiting.


We have outlined some of the ways journalists can be held liable and may lose all of their hard work. We also took you through some of the reasons why you need to protect your sources and how they could be exposed.

If ExpressVPN is not suitable for you, you can also give TorGuard a go. TorGuard also provides you with a lot of features and will protect your online anonymity. Whichever VPN you end up choosing, it is a good idea also to have your sources utilize a VPN as it will only help further protect both of you.

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  1. DieterGartner

    I can’t imagine spending several months or even years on research only to have it stolen by someone and publishing it before I even knew I was hacked. But this seems completely plausible without having a VPN service to protect my data. Very interesting article, thanks!

  2. Merlin129

    My main goal is to prevent hackers from stealing my personal information while I’m on a pubic WI-fi. It makes sense that if I connect to a remote server, my identity is secure. As long as the VPN doesn’t store my data, right? I’m not sure how authorities can determine that I’m connected to a VPN, but it’s not illegal to use one so I guess it doesn’t matter.

  3. CalebMartin787

    VPN is essential in handling anonymous data. A good way to conceal your identity from everyone else. Sending out those sensitive or explosive information without a trace to the source is made easy. All you have to do is to simply protect the source

  4. thumper234

    Protecting confidentiality is main concern for Journalists. Privacy is also no less concern.

    Confidentiality matters when you need to protect your sources. Confidentiality also help you beat the competition to the post and prevents them from stealing stories from under your nose.

    Journalists also need to visit some shady/protected/banned sites for information. VPN helps there.

  5. Justice Carter

    One of the primary challenges I have faced for ten years while working as a digital Journalist was protecting my source. However, after going through this article I discovered that VPN does more than just encrypting my location, it is also the best way to ensure online anonymity on both ends of the connection.

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