Panama Papers: How did it probably happen?

We tried to figure out how these journalists managed to cover up all of their tracks, although they were communicating together with emails  to keep everyone involved up-to-date. Even the leak that started the Panama Papers investigation was sent via the internet, so in a world that controls almost every online activity, the achievement of these journalists is even greater than we think.

What are the Panama Papers?

The Panama Papers are already recognized as maybe the biggest single leak of information in the history of journalism. World leaders, athletes and celebrities around the globe have been implicated — and there’s more to come. Such a historic document dump also required a matching journalistic effort, one that would end up as one of the broadest and most technologically challenging journalistic endeavors ever. More than 370 journalists from over 100 media outlets in almost 80 countries around the world worked on the massive document which has exposed the movement of money through shell companies in a variety of countries.

How did no one else know?

At Avira, part of our mission includes data security, so the achievement of the 370 journalists involved in the Panama Papers project is especially valuable. It shows us that securing valuable information is not impossible – if you are using the adequate online protection. Until this moment, these methods of covering one’s tracks are primarily known for being used by felons or terrorists, but now it’s time for good guys to use them. At least, that is how this group of investigative journalists appears at first sight.

The work of all these journalists is a lesson in internet privacy. While we don’t know how this was achieved, for something of this magnitude to be accomplished, the persons involved must have followed at least these three steps:

1. Use secure apps

While this may seem like a no-brainer to some, the Internet is full of outdated apps with lots of bugs and/or security holes.

2. Antivirus protection

This endeavor could have been easily shut down without proper protection against Internet threats. For this massive document to see the light of day, top-notch computer protection also had to be in place to avoid any viruses, Trojans or malware that could have put a stop in these journalists’ plans.

3. Virtual private network (VPN)

A virtual private network is essential in having a secure environment to exchange information. Without the use of a VPN – like our Avira Phantom – information can be easily accessed, corrupted and/or hijacked by those with suspect purposes in mind.

Beyond the political impact, the Panama Papers project is a sign that privacy measure aren’t an unreachable goal, but an achievable fact. So, every one of us should learn that if we secure our online connections as we should, our  emails and  simple chats will also involve only us and the people we want to communicate with.