Devocate

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Rachael Tatman
Rachael Tatman

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Personal security tips for dev rel folks

I've been in dev rel for almost five years now and it's a career that has some pretty specific challenges. One is that it can require being a public individual, and this comes with some degree of risk; the threat of harassment is part of our profession. While it is not your fault if you do get harassed, there is a lot you can do to help protect yourself.

A sad looking sauropod on a yellow background. Text next to it reads "all my friends are dead", but "are dead" has been erased and replaced with "have been harassed".

I've picked up a lot of personal security tips over the years--mostly from word of mouth and mentors--and I thought it would be helpful to share some of them, in no particular order. And please do feel free to share your tips in the comments below, there's a lot I haven't covered here and even more I'm probably not aware of.

Protecting data

  • If you wear glasses, make sure you get a non reflective coating on them
  • Use 2FA everywhere (ideally not via SMS)
  • Get a PIN from your telephone provider to prevent other people changing your number/forwarding your 2FA codes
  • Try to do demos in a dedicated demo account you can completely delete with no negative consequences in case you accidentally reveal passwords/SSH keys, etc.
  • Don't type passwords with your mic on
  • Avoid sharing your whole screen & choose a specific window instead (ideally with only the relevant tab/file open in it). Do any possibly sensitive things on another screen/window.
  • Use an ad blocker
  • Avoid connected/IoT devices as much as possible, especially in your home

Protecting yourself from harassment

  • Services like Deleteme (full disclosure: that's a referral link) or Removaly will remove information like your home address from data brokers.
  • Don't put your phone number or address on your resume, CV or LinkedIn
  • Cover or unplug your camera and mic when you're not using it
  • Password protect your meetings to avoid Zoom Bombing
  • If you're using a VPN, pay for it and make sure they have a very restrictive data reuse policy (if you're not paying for a security product protecting your security probably isn't actually their top priority)
  • Avoid branded swag in public (especially if you work for a smaller company)
  • When traveling, avoid motels (where doors open onto the street or outside of the building so anyone can see what room you're in)
  • Also, if you travel often a travel door lock might be a good idea

Things to avoid in photos/videos :

  • Note: adding a sticker over the relevant part of the photo may not actually hide it, better to crop it out or just not share the photo
  • Automatic location tags (this is in the file metadata)
  • Windows (either seeing through them to the outside or showing distinctive window treatments)
  • Outsides of buildings (especially avoid: photos of the outside of your house or the street you live on. NEVER share Ring recordings, and maybe get rid of your Ring entirely while you're at it).
  • Reflective surfaces (mirrors, bowls, cups, chrome buttons), especially convex ones, can unintentionally reveal more information that you anticipated
  • Open documents (either on a screen or on paper)
  • Mail. If you're doing an unboxing, completely cover any address information with a dark colored sticker or peel it off entirely.
  • Anything with your phone number (especially on pet id tags)
  • T-shirts/mugs that reveal affiliation (groups, clubs, churches, businesses you frequent)

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