How to contact the securely

Technical options for people who want to get in touch with journalists in a way that protects both security and anonymity Design

Last modified on Wed 14 Aug 2019 09.11 EDT

Some of the most important stories published by the have come from whistleblowers. Their disclosures have been vital in exposing stories of huge public interest, sometimes with global ramifications. Our pledge is to protect our sources ‐ and not to disclose their identities, or our communications with them, unless their approval has been given. If you want to get in touch with us in a way that protects your security and anonymity, there are a number of technical options that may help – although, of course, none of them can be 100% guaranteed.

Messaging apps

Phone apps do little to hide who and where you are, but if your priority is confidentiality rather than anonymity, there are a number of apps that offer “end to end” encryption. They include Signal (from the Open Whisper Systems not-for-profit organisation) and Threema. (These are examples. We don’t endorse any particular security app.) The investigation teams can all be contacted using Signal:

End to end encryption means ‐ theoretically ‐ nobody else will be able to see the content of any message you send. To get started, you need to share mobile phone numbers with a reporter. That’s not difficult to do; you can ring the head office from a landline (preferably not from work or home, which could be easy to trace) to get put through to the reporter concerned, and then share details. Or you can do so using one of the following methods.


If you plan to write an email to a journalist about a sensitive matter, look into PGP encryption. It’s more complicated than using apps, but is probably more secure in practice, and email is much easier for sending longer messages and attachments. Used properly, PGP should make a message or document unreadable to anyone except the person who sent it and the person for whom it was encrypted.

How does it work? With PGP, you will use a “public key” that belongs to the person you are writing to, but is freely available on the internet. This key turns your message into an unreadable jumble. Your recipient – and no one else – has a corresponding “private key” which can unlock messages that were encrypted by their public key.

Public keys for journalists can be found on /pgp and on many writers’ profile pages.

Two popular PGP encryption software packages are Gpg4win for Windows and GPG Suite for Macs. If you use a browser to access a webmail service, such as Gmail or Yahoo! Mail, you may want to look at Mailvelope.

PGP can be a bit fiddly. It’s best to play around with it first by sending an email containing relatively innocuous content.

Although there’s no easy way to break PGP codes, it does have shortcomings. An encrypted email message can still reveal the identity of the sender. One way to reduce that risk could be to create an independent email address solely for contacting the You may want to use computers that aren’t associated with you when setting up and when using such an account. Going to an internet cafe is one option ‐ just be careful about who can see your screen and whether there are CCTV cameras nearby. And think about the information you provide while signing up to a new account. Does any of it link the new address back to you?

If you’re using a shared computer, remember that email and browser software normally retains a history of what you’ve been doing, unless you clear it or use a private browsing or incognito option. And consider the times at which you send messages. Could that information help prove that you sent them?


Even an anonymous email address doesn’t conceal the IP address from which a message has been sent, and an IP address could be traced back to you. To help avoid this you could use the Tor network, which bounces your message through a series of relays to hide the source location. To access the Tor network you will need to install Tor software. Tor browsers can be configured to discard your browsing history and to minimise the amount of information you share.

As with email, if your computer is being monitored at source, Tor does not protect you from that.


Tails, which is short for “The Amnesiac and Incognito Live System”, is a computer operating system designed to preserve security. It connects to the internet using the Tor network; it helps guard against local monitoring; and when you log out, it wipes any unencrypted content. It is far more secure than using a normal computer or phone.


The best way to contact the securely is through our SecureDrop document portal.

The SecureDrop site is only accessible over the Tor network. All submitted messages and documents are automatically encrypted. We download those encrypted files on to Tails computers and then decode them in a secure environment on a computer that is completely offline. SecureDrop does not record where things came from: all we can see is what has been sent to us, the time it arrived, and a randomly generated code name for whoever submitted it.

For maximum security and anonymity, contact us via SecureDrop from a computer that you are confident is not being monitored.

You don’t have to provide us with a means of contacting you but it can sometimes be useful for us to be able to do so. It can also help us if you are able to provide some background about what is in the documents and why you think they might be of interest to us.

We previously mentioned WhatsApp in the Messaging Apps section of this page. In view of concerns over its implementation of encryption, we have removed it.