3. Your adversaries’ capabilities

What are likely threats I might face over the course of this project?

_INTRODUCE ORDER INTO YOUR THREAT RESPONSE by enumerating your adversaries’ capabilities given how much time, money, and technical skill they can possibly use against you. This will help you anticipate the tactics they’ll most likely use to disrupt your work.

We can use an example from Lyric Cabral’s work on 2015’s (T)error to illustrate how assessing adversarial capability can help distinguish the threats you’re likely to face in the field.

In (T)error, we knew that we were following an FBI informant who was actively receiving communications from active FBI agents. Because we knew the FBI’s capacity for surveillance and that this informant was working for the FBI, [we presumed] that he too was surveilled. By extension, if we were speaking to him, our communications were monitored.

As the filmmaker working with this source, Cabral assesses what she can gather about the time, money, and technical skill that her adversary possesses. The goal of this exercise is to pick and choose the ideal components of her digital security plan based on the tactics her adversary is capable of.


Take a look at your list of adversaries and the groups you used to categorize them.


Based on an assessment of the time, money, and skill each adversarial group has at its disposal, list the tactics they’re likely to use to get at your assets. Draw from the example above.

Ed Ou, on facing sophisticated adversaries in the field

“[During the Arab Spring], Bahrain had facial recognition software in their security cameras. Every phone and every SIM card you bought had to be registered with your passport. At that time there were not that many people in Bahrain, [...] it was a small enough place that you couldn’t disappear.”

more ways to understand your risk:
Risk Assessment

1. Your assets

What do I have to protect?

Footage, transcripts, messages, contacts - all of these pieces of data make up the vast collection of your digital assets.

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Risk Assessment

2. Your adversaries

Who am I concerned about?

Some adversaries are immediately obvious: a border agent, or a legal threat. Others may be less obvious, hidden from view or behind a screen a continent away.

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Risk Assessment

4. Your capabilities

What can I do now to limit the negative impact of these threats?

At this point, you know who you’re concerned with, and have an idea of what these actors are capable of. In light of your concerns, how far can you go to protect the data you value?

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