How to Set Up a Secure Phone

A How-To Guide for Whistleblowers, Journalists, And Privacy Advocates

David Koff
9 min readMay 17, 2019


For those who are always being watched…

The Highest Stakes…

This post’s been brewing for a while now. It combines almost every approach I’ve researched in regards to security, privacy, and maintaining anonymity in our world of corporate and government oversight. It dawned on me as I was writing my Firewall series on Medium that the most vulnerable among us needed a simple how-to guide on setting up a safe and secure communication device. This post is the culmination of that idea.

Some of you, who are NOT the most vulnerable will think some of the recommendations on this list are extreme. You’re right: they are. Please keep in mind, that while many of the items on this list are smart for any digitally aware citizen, the list is — truly — designed for whistleblowers, journalists, dissident citizens living in oppressive countries, and the strongest of privacy advocates.

First, it’s worth reminding ourselves why this guide is 100% necessary:

There are those among us whose desire for free and unmonitored communications results in arrest or imprisonment. There are those among us who are imprisoned simply for speaking out against their government. Hundreds of journalists who attempt to share vital information with the public have been imprisoned recently. Or outright murdered. With life and death on the line, the stakes are very, very high.

Preparing for Battle

To begin, we’ll need to understand that a truly secure communication device not only requires specific hardware and software, but it also requires specific guidelines for when how, when, and where users should attempt to use that device. That means changing your behavior which is far harder than changing your operating system: it takes discipline, focus, and determination. Just know: you’ll need to use and treat your secure communication device VERY differently than you would your normal, everyday cellphone.

Next, we’ll want to assume that our adversary has the time, intelligence, and money they need to get what they want from our communication device. Our goal is to make that mission impossible or as difficult as possible for them. To do so, we’ll…



David Koff

I’m a tech writer who focuses on digital privacy & security. Subscribe to my easy-to-read tech newsletter to learn more!