Six Easy Tips: Essentials of Digital Security for Targeted News Organizations

Below is a quick reference, distilled list of six easy tips for any news organization employee at risk of being targeted by malicious adversaries. These tips come the Safe Travels Online campaign that the Tibet Action Institute has been developing over the last two years, to assist Tibetan exile human rights organizations, and it has proven effective in reducing the amount of successful “cyberattacks”, and minimizing impact of successful attacks to only a single infected machine (instead of the entire organization).

The recent story on cyberattacks against the NYTimes indicates that email attachments infected with malicious code was likely the source of the infiltration. These types of attacks have been a common pattern that the Tibetan exile of community has experienced for years, and I am happy to now to share of their painfully-acquired wisdom with all of you. With each tip, I have also included a link to a short public service announcement video on the TibetAction YouTube channel.

1. Use HTTPS to Stay Secret, Safe & Secure: You should always keep your network traffic secure to online services and applications, whether at the office, home or traveling abroad

httpS Keeps You Secret, Safe & Secure!

Keep your secrets safe using HTTPS

2. Detach from Attachments: Email attachments are a plague on the information age. There are many better, safer and more effective ways to share files in the 21st century

(this is one of our most popular tips, so I’ve embedded it for easy viewing!)

Detach from Attachments!

3. Keep Your Enemies Out Of Your Inbox: Google provides the best set of tools for defending against intrusion, or at least knowing when you may have been compromised

Keep your enemies out of your inbox!

4. Don’t Share Drives: The culture of sticking a USB flash drive in any old USB slot, must end; it’s like having sex without protection; again, there are better ways to share files

Don’t Share Drives!

5. Strong Password (keep you safe online): You must use better passwords, enable features like Google’s two factor authentication, and use services like LastPass or KeePass

Strong Passwords!

6. Think Before You Click: Hyperlinks have revolutionized our lives, but when they come inside an email message, they can lead to a whole world of hurt.

(this is our latest tip, and as it is quite relevant here, I’ve embedded the video)

Think Before You Click!

… and here is just one of the great posters available for printing and posting at your workplace, available at Yes, it has Tibetan writing on it, but that makes it even more legit, doesn’t it?


Tashi Delek!

Another small step for a Tibetan keyboard on Android

There has been a lot of excitement this week about the robust support for the Tibetan written language in Apple’s iOS 4.2 for iPhone and iPad. This is a fantastic achievement that many contributed to, and that Apple should be loudly applauded for.

Unfortunately, the state of Tibetan on Android is still poor, but not hopeless. While Tom Meyer has provided a great starting point for rendering text properly, I still am not aware of any means for inputing Tibetan characters. With that in mind, I set out to investigate the ability to create a new Tibetan “Input Method” (as Google calls it) for Android, and quickly realized that one could just write a Language Pack add-on for the open-source AnySoftKeyboard project. This solution still requires you to root your phone and install the Dzongkha”རྫོང་ཁ font, but is still a step in the right direction!

You can find the open-source code for my new project, the Tibetan AnySoftKeyboard Language Pack on Github. If you would like to try it out, you must have a rooted device with the Dzongkha”རྫོང་ཁ font installed, then install the “AnySoftKeyboard” from the Android Market, then you can install the first test Add-on APK file, and the Tibetan option should come up in keyboard settings.

Below you can see a screenshot of the initial keyboard writing text into the OI Notepad app. It appears to be properly stacking characters as well, but I may be wrong. Also the current implementation does not yet support the SHIFT key or other modifiers. I would love to have some help setting up the rest of the QWERTY mappings in this XML file. Otherwise, any other comments, feedback, advice or pointers to other Android Tibetan keyboard work would be much appreciated!

The “Took”: Tibetan-enabled Nook eReader

Thanks to amazing work by Tibetan font experts Tom Meyer and Chris Fynn, as well as the Barnes and Noble Nook eInk reader device hackers at, I have modified my $199 Nook  ($149 if you get the wifi only model!)  to support proper rendering of Tibetan characters. This is dynamic rendering of Unicode text, and not just static pre-rendered images.

You might have seen an earlier post I wrote about this here, and I’ve essentially done the same thing this time, but with an important addition of code from Tom that properly stacks the characters (a critical feature often not available in an OS font library), and a new Tibetan font (actually Bhutanese) from Chris which is small, lightweight and efficient enough to be used on Android. All together this provides support for reading Tibetan text on web pages, and within full application user interfaces, eBooks and more.

With up to 32gb of storage possible via the tiny micro SD Card, this one device could probably store and serve up the majority of Tibetan Buddhist texts, not to mention literary, poetic and historic works, that exist, all in a lightweight, energy-efficient device. Since the device is also networked, you can use it to pull down the latest Tibetan language online news and blogs.

And yes, this is all possible because the Nook is based on the free, open-source Android operating system. Yay for freedom in all forms!

This is support for both web pages, as well as full applications on the device.

The Droid's Dharma: Supporting the Tibetan Language on Android

DISCLAIMER: I am by no means an expert in this issue – I am just an an enthusiastic hacker with a dream. Also I don’t read Tibetan, but I enjoy looking at it!

Thanks to the open-source movement and the hard work of many Tibet supporters and typography experts, I am happy to announce that  rendering of Tibetan characters is now supported on the most fantastic of mobile smartphones, Google Android!!!

Tendor’s Yarlung Raging blog viewed on a T-Mobile myTouch3G Android Phone

While it only has a small alphabet of characters, the Tibetan language has been notoriously difficult to support on Mac, Windows and Linux due to some complexities in how one character can modify the next. Dedicated academics, volunteers and software engineers have stayed focused on solving this and the most recent versions of all major operating systems are able to render Tibetan and provide Tibetan character input tools. Google Android is based on Linux, and fortunately is able to support the use of the GPL-licensed Tibet Machine Unicode font.


However, by default Android only has a small number of fonts built-in, and doesn’t support the easy addition of new fonts or locales. It does however have something called the “fallback” font, which is used to render any encoded text it comes across that it doesn’t quite know what to do with.

What I realized is that you could replace this font with a Tibetan unicode font compatible with Linux, and that this would then enable Tibetan support in all applications on Android, including the web browser, email apps, instant messaging, and short messaging (SMS), among others.

The steps below outline the technical how to for Android users.

WARNING: This is not for novices. However, it isn’t rocket science either. Your average neighborhood mobile phone enthusiast should be able to figure out how to do this, and potentially help their friends do it too. Down the road, I hope we can make this process easier and/or Google will allow for the addition of any font to the system.

Step 1: Get Root on your Android device. You don’t need to mod your phone with a custom firmware, you just need root access to change system fonts. Here’s some places to start looking on how to (this changes weekly, btw, and differs for each type of Android phone):

Step 2: Download Tibet Machine Unicode font. You can learn more about the variety of Tibetan fonts available here.

Step 3: Make the system font folder writeable and backup the existing font
This can be done using desktop ‘adb’ tool from the SDK or the Android terminal app on the device

# su
# mount -o remount,rw -t yaffs2 /dev/block/mtdblock3 /system
# chmod 777 /system/fonts
# cd /system/fonts
# mv DroidSansFallback.ttf DroidSansFallback.ttf.bak
# exit

Step 4: Write the Tibetan unicode font as the new fallback font:
Using ADB Desktop tool with Android connected via USB

adb push TibMachUni-1.901b.ttf /system/fonts/DroidSansFallback.ttf

Using on-device terminal app:

#cd /system/fonts
#wget -o DroidSansFallback.ttf /system/fonts/DroidSansFallback.ttf

Step 5: Reboot your Android phone

Step 6: Point your Android browser at, or to verify the Tibetan font support is properly installed.

What’s Next

Two big steps from here… this is a call to action for Android developers out there:

  • Develop a one-click app that can install Tibetan (or any other third-party language) font for any rooted device
  • Port an existing Java-based Tibetan input utility into Android as an Input Method Editor so that you can have a way to write Tibetan character emails, SMS messages and blog posts.

Many thanks to the authors and developer behind the following posts upon whose work this effort was based: How to change fonts in Android? Mounting /system partition in read-write mode in Android Adding Additional Language Fonts to Android