Freedom of the Press Foundation and USC Journalism School announce partnership on digital security

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Promoting press freedom in the 21st century

Elisabeth Woldt. CC-BY-NC 2.0

Freedom of the Press Foundation and the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism are excited to announce an innovative partnership to develop comprehensive digital security education for journalism and communication students. Additionally, Yubico, a leading provider of hardware authentication security keys, will be providing YubiKey devices to support the education initiative.

At a moment when newsrooms are besieged by sabotage, intrusive governments, legal intimidation and information warfare, journalism education programs across the country have yet to build the capacity to fortify students with skills to defend themselves once they leave school. Sadly, few schools offer dedicated or mandatory training to teach would-be reporters how to protect themselves and their sources online.

Annenberg and Freedom of the Press Foundation will develop a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive course that will teach journalism students how to stay safe in the digital age by understanding the threat environment and developing the mental habits — and using the right hardware and software tools — to exist safely in it.

USC Annenberg will invest significant resources into improving the digital security knowledge for journalism students.

"Spy firms tracking journalists on the trail of predatory movie executives, governments using secret letters to track sources' contracts with reporters, wholesale theft of IP, foreign adversaries mocking up Facebook profiles to gather personal data on editors — and these are headlines from one month," said Marc Ambinder, a journalist who is leading Annenberg's initiative. "The longer we wait, the more the arms race will favor those who want to do harm."

Freedom of the Press Foundation has been working with newsrooms to develop digital security know-how through educational materials and in-person trainings for years, and will leverage this experience to create and assess a large-scale security education curriculum alongside the Annenberg school. This effort is part of ongoing research into security education at journalism programs.

“Freedom of the Press Foundation couldn’t be more excited to work alongside Annenberg to contribute to this innovative program,” said executive director Trevor Timm. “We’ve seen growing demand among newsrooms for reporters with security skills and knowledge, and we hope for this effort to set an example for other journalism and communication programs to follow.”

Through Yubico’s support, the YubiKey will allow USC Annenberg journalism students to easily secure all of their major electronic services — such as email, social media, password managers, file storage, and more.

"Yubico is happy to work with USC Annenberg and Freedom of the Press Foundation to help educate students on the importance of two-factor authentication," said Ronnie Manning, Chief Marketing Officer, Yubico. "We not only want to safeguard these students as they head into major newsrooms across the country, but in their daily lives as well. The YubiKey will be able to help with both."

Media contacts

Trevor Timm
Executive Director
Freedom of the Press Foundation
[email protected]

Marc Ambinder
Security Expert in Residence
Annenberg Digital Security Initiative
University of Southern California
[email protected]

Ashton Miller
Director of Global Communications
650 862 9439
[email protected]

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