Umbrella, launched yesterday, is currently in beta and only available on Android – but Security First, the organisation who built it, plans to bring it to iOS within the next 12 months.
"I think one of the biggest worries [for journalists] is secure communication with sources and how they can make sure they can communicate with a source, meet with a source and basically find information from other people without putting those people at risk themselves," said Holly Kilroy, co-founder of Security First.
The organisation decided to built the app after noticing a lack of resources that bring together digital security tips and safety advice for journalists, especially on mobile devices.
Umbrella includes advice and check-lists to help reporters, human rights activists and others who are worried about surveillance or work in dangerous areas manage their communications, travel arrangements and on the ground operations.
It also offers contacts for emergency support in case users find themselves in a situation where they require additional assistance.
"It's definitely aimed at people who don't necessarily have training and who are using it for the first time to try and figure out their security needs," she said.
Screenshots of Umbrella, images from Security First.
The app's tool-guides, developed in collaboration with organisations such as Security in-a-box and Electronic Frontier Foundation, are also classified according to experience: there are beginner, advanced and expert options.
Umbrella only needs an internet connection to work when users first download it from the Play Store – the tool-guides and check-lists remain available when a device is offline.
But the app also includes a dashboard that alerts journalists to potential safety risks in a selected area, which does need an internet connection to source the information.
In the current beta stage, the dashboard pulls in the alerts from various organisations such as UN bodies or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, notifying users of floods or earthquakes for example, but also of protests or other breaking news events.
"We're also working on incorporating social media feeds into that later on as well," explained Kilroy.
"This stage is for really extensive, in the field testing, so for people to use and give us feedback, improve what's there, make sure it's really user-friendly.
"We want to make the dashboard even more responsive and even more useful, and we're also looking to get [the app] translated into a couple of different languages starting with Arabic and Spanish," she added.
Free daily newsletter
- Tool for journalists: Auto Futures, the free digital hub for reporting on the automotive industry
- App for journalists: Shapr, for networking with other media professionals
- Tool for journalists: Mix, an online portfolio for sharing and curating your favourite articles
- Crowdsourcing, engagement and 360-degree video: Here is your weekly journalism news update
- How Overcapture can help journalists get the perfect shot in breaking news situations