Zimbabwe is still going crazy over the new Cyber Security Ministry headed by Hon Patrick Chinamasa. While we are yet to know how much money this ministry will get in the next budget, which will determine how advanced their surveillance infrastructure will be like (assuming they don’t have cutting edge technology already), its important to know that the government will be monitoring your communication, especially on social media.
While there is more to cyber security than just the social media use (or rather abuse) in Zimbabwe, the government will be more interested in social media hence the need for all social media users in Zimbabwe to be more vigilant in their postings and communication, lest you be left regretting.
By Pearson Mbendera
Right now, you have to be wary about your social media usage as it may be misconstrued as social media abuse and get you into trouble. The government will be closely monitoring social media usage in Zimbabwe.
Putting someone with a legal background to head this new ministry means that the government will device some new laws to govern social media usage in Zimbabwe, which might just spell out trouble for the people of Zimbabwe. Gone are the days of enjoying the freedom of expression on social media. But there are ways you can try to protect yourself from the possible threat of government snooping on your social media.
Secure your devices
This is the most important thing. There are a lot of softwares online that will help you secure your devices so that they won’t be compromised and open to attack. Make sure you are well protected, with up-to-date antiviruses on your machines, strong passwords and don’t just log on to social media sites using public computers.
Sometimes threats to your online communication may not necessarily come from those social media websites but from the compromised security system on your devices. Make it secure, and you will stand a chance.
Don’t just connect to any wifi network
Wifi users are at risks from hackers and the more wifi networks you connect to, the more you will place yourself and your devices at risk. With some free wifi networks out there, there may be some price you will have to pay for that free connection and it won’t be money, it will be in compromising your online security. Connect to only those networks you trust, and if you are desperate enough for internet connection, then make sure you turn off sharing, keep your wifi off when you are not browsing and make sure your devices are well protected so as to minimise the inherent risk associated with the use of such networks.
Keep up to date
Application updates usually come with better security protocols thus, upgrading the security and safeguarding your online privacy. The longer you stay with some application after a new one has been introduced, the more the chances you face of having your security compromised. Over time, hackers and governments alike learn how to navigate the old system (time and practice will better their chances) So always keep on updating your softwares, that includes your antivirus softwares and social media applications.
But since most people don’t have a good technical background that will help in making sure that they are protected, and may have less they will have to resort to some other ways of protecting their privacy and these are:
Be wary of your group members
Since WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption, meaning that the government cannot intercept your messages, and even WhatsApp can’t even get access to your communications, the only people who can betray the confidence of your messages are the people you are talking to, thus you have to be wary of them.
Not everyone in your chat group is your friend, some are there to fish for information or may simply take screenshots of your conversations, post them somewhere and get you into trouble. So ask yourself this question, do you trust the people you are talking to online?
Think before you post
This one is probably the best way to protect yourself. All the security protocols you may employ may not be good enough for the government’s snooping, so the best way to protect yourself would be by not posting anything that may get you into trouble. You already know the material the government will find to be damaging, don’t engage in posting it on your social media pages or chats, ignore it at all costs and should it find its way to you, quickly delete it and keep your devices free of such media.
I know it is hard to resist the urge to post something that has the potential of going viral or forwarding that viral post to a number of your friends, but will the price (should it get you into trouble) be worthy it? If it is, then go ahead and post whatever you like
Disclaimer: This article is not meant to teach people how to deceive and manipulate the system, but simply to protect themselves and their online privacy. While the government has every right to enact any laws it deems necessary to protect itself and the people alike from the abuse of social media, the people too have the right to protect their online privacy and exercise their rights to freedom of speech as stipulated in the constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe.