Guardian launches secure way for whistleblowers to share files

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

June 11, 2014

The Guardian is known for being one of the principle newspapers to have the balls to publish Edward Snowden’s shocking relations. For this it has suffered government demands to remove all files relating to Edward Snowden from its UK servers (and was even forced to destroy hard drives and memory cards under the supervision of intelligence agents, despite the fact that everyone knew the data existed elsewhere, making the entire episode a rather bizarre pantomime), and threats of investigation by the government.

On Friday, exactly a year and a day after it published the first Snowden revelations, the Guardian announced its launch of SecureDrop, a platform designed to allow wistleblowers to securely and anonymously (if desired) submit documents to the Guardian without being tracked.

SecureDrop is an open-source platform originally developed by Aaron Swartz, a privacy campaigner and developer of the RSS web feed platform, who committed suicide in 2013 after being charged with fraud and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The platform was completed after Swartz’s death, and is now maintained and promoted by the not-for-profit Freedom of the Press Foundation. ProPublica and The Intercept already use the platform, and it can now be used by those wishing to contact the Guardian securely. Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the Guardian explained,

Protecting sources is at the core of journalism, and as the Guardian’s revelations from the Edward Snowden documents over the last year have shown, it’s getting ever more difficult. We’re pleased to be able to use the best technology available to make sure we’re doing everything we can to let sources talk to our journalists securely, and hope as many other outlets as possible do the same.

securedrop onion

SecureDrop is based on Tor technology, and the server used (hosted outside the UK, and separate from the rest of Guardian’s website and the regular ad tracking technologies it uses) can only be connected to as a Tor hidden service (i.e. it is an .onion site).

Potential users are invited to download the Tor browser bundle, or (for even greater security) download and use the Tails LiveCD Linux distro.

Trevor Timm, director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, explained that SecureDrop was developed as a way for newspapers and journalists to resist increasing pressure from governments around the world,

SecureDrop is designed specifically for news organizations so they can receive tips and documents in a much more anonymous and secure way than email or phone calls.

securedrop onion 2

Although SecureDrop was given an in-depth independent security audit in 2013, and has been updated to deal with the Heartbleed OpenSSL debacle, the official webpage does offer this warning,

Does SecureDrop promise 100% security? No, and any organization or product that promises 100% security is not telling the truth. SecureDrop attempts to create significantly more secure environment for sources to get information than exists through normal digital channels, but there are always risks.

For more information on contacting the Guardian using SecureDrop, visit

Update 11 June 2014: No sooner had we posted this article, than we learned that The Washington Post has also started to use the SecureDrop platform ‘to offer even more security and anonymity to sources.’

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