Android app Umbrella trains users in digital and physical security

In today's world, managing one's digital and physical security can be difficult. This is especially true in conflict areas or in areas with conditions that threaten activists, human rights defenders, and journalists, among others.

Fortunately, there's an organization – Security First – that developed an application which seeks to train people to maintain both their digital security and their physical safety.

It's called Umbrella, and while it isn't a new application, its use and importance today cannot be understated.

'Risk encyclopedia'

Umbrella is what one could call a "risk encyclopedia." If your base assumption is that there is risk in going about your daily activities, then Umbrella seeks to lessen that risk by providing information on how to prevent or otherwise manage those physical and digital risks.

For example, the app provides a detailed guide for information security topics, such as managing and securing information a user gets, as well as safely deleting and backing up information so it isn't picked up by other people.

You'll also be able to find a list of downloadable apps that aid in securing yourself digitally or otherwise protecting and preserving data.

For the average user, Umbrella has guides teaching secure social media usage and communications. There are also guides for stress management and even for packing a grab bag – bags filled with the survival essentials in case one needs to move quickly in an emergency scenario. 

Umbrella also has tutorials prepared for activists and journalists facing very specific risk scenarios.

The app has guides for kidnapping, particularly for prevention as well as what to do in case you or someone you work with has been kidnapped. There's also one for arrests – how to prevent arrest and what to do if you've been arrested.

Also of note are tutorials for counter-surveillance – such as spotting when you're being watched digitally, in your home, or while walking or driving – as well as tutorials for protests – whether you're covering a protest as a journalist or are part of the protest yourself.

Security First also wanted to make an app that gives mobile users, which is to say most of us on an Android smartphone, the tools necessary to stay safe especially if there's a lot going on in your part of the world.

To that end, the app has Emergency Support pages for physical and digital threats. These include resources that would allow users to find immediate support in case their security or safety has been compromised, such as listings for the embassies in various countries, as well as numbers a journalist or activist can call if they're being threatened with imprisonment or violence by other people or repressive governments.

Umbrella packs a lot of hard wisdom in a 54-megabyte download. But all of it is practical advice, a reminder that while most of us live in relative comfort or safety, there are people who need an app like this because the world isn't as comfortable or as safe as our lives make it out to be. –

Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.