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This module will not provide an exhaustive look at this topic, but will instead provide the starting point for students to know how to investigate their digital security questions as needed.

This lecture and activities will briefly introduce several foundational topics on digital security, including the basics of threat modeling, authentication safety, device safety with full-disk encryption and password practices, safer browsing, and communication security. It will also provide some details on additional resources they can investigate to learn more. At the end of the session, consider also sharing this chat safety handout to help keep them investigating security basics after the module ends.

If time permits, instructors can have students set up and send each other some test messages with Signal. Note that having a second instructor or assistant (perhaps even a student who fancies themself security savvy!) will help expedite the Signal installation and test.



Estimated time

90 minutes (120 minutes to allow for the Signal messaging activity)


  • Upon successful completion of this module, students will be able to identify factors in conducting a threat analysis.
  • Students will understand the importance of encryption on the web and telecommunications systems for privacy when communicating online, or connecting to websites.
  • Students will be able to identify a few contemporary communication encryption tools used in newsrooms, and understand the relevant security properties that distinguish them.
  • Students will be able to identify a phishing email.
  • Students will understand best practices for authentication safety on the web.
  • Students will have a basic understanding of how to strengthen the security of their computing devices.

Why this matters

This lesson intends to help students begin gestating on the basics of digital security, and learn about strong practices. Because it is so abbreviated, this lesson is best treated as an "opener" for continued conversations and assignments that integrate digital security tools and practices.


(After class)

  • They will be asked to send a message to the instructor to confirm they were able to do so successfully.
  • (Optional, if not done during class) Students will install the Signal app and send you a message.

Sample slides

Digital Security 101 (Google Slides)


  • If time permits, have students install and use Signal to send you a message, or if they feel comfortable, send a message to one another. Freedom of the Press Foundation provides detailed instructions on setting up and using Signal: "Signal, the encrypted messaging app: A guide for beginners"

    Note: Signal currently requires users leverage a phone number as an identifier, and not all students will feel comfortable sharing their phone number with one another. Likewise, if you don't feel comfortable using your own phone number for Signal, you can use any phone number in your possession to register Signal (e.g., a free Google Voice number). It doesn't have to be your cellphone number. Here is a detailed guide on setting up Signal with a secondary phone number.

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