Umbrella for NGOs: Security Tips for Lower Risk Users

For some people, security is a matter of life or death. That’s why we created Umbrella. It’s a free, open-source Android, iOS and web app with the latest security advice for NGOs.

If you urgently need information for your security situation, we hope you use the Umbrella app to find what you’re looking for right away, whether it’s a lesson, a tool guide, or a link to emergency support.

Get the app from Google Play, iOS Store, Amazon, F-Droid or use the online web app.

Then there’s the rest of us. Security doesn’t feel like life or death, it just feels inconvenient. If you work for an NGO, you already have enough demands on your time, and exploring a new app may not be top of your list.

We don’t want Umbrella to be just another task. We want it to be relevant and useful, even if you consider yourself to be low or average risk.

That’s why we put together some challenges to get you using Umbrella in your daily life. Use these to learn more about how Umbrella works, and cross something off your personal to-do list at the same time. You’ll set yourself up with the right tools and the right mindset to use Umbrella for your next work challenge, too.


All you need: A device connected to a reliable network, Umbrella, and some time to catch up on some chores (from 10 minutes to 1 hour).

If organising all your files and devices feels overwhelming, start with something easy and feel confident that you’ve taken one small step towards feeling more secure.

  1. Disable or uninstall 3 apps you don’t use. In Umbrella: Communications –> Mobile Phones –> Beginner –> 9. Protection from Malware

    • Apps eat battery and memory, so they’re not great for your device’s performance. Some are also insecure, undermine your privacy, or even carry malware. (And do they really bring you joy?) Tidy up so that the apps taking up space on your phone are ones you really need.
    • Bonus: Add a reminder to your calendar to repeat this in a few weeks. If you make digital cleanup a part of your routine, you’re more likely to think twice before downloading something new that could compromise your safety.
  2. Update, update, update. In Umbrella: Information –> Malware –> Beginner –> 4. How can I avoid getting infected?

    • This is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your digital security. But it doesn’t feel important, so it’s easy to ignore. If you hit snooze on your updates to avoid shutting down your device, or delay because some headline said some update was annoying, or skip updates because you’re running unregistered software, you’re missing out on the latest protections. Take the time now to review your operating system and pending downloads from your app store to make sure everything is up to date. Don’t forget to download software from official sites on a reliable home or office network.
  3. Identify something that you should get round to backing up—and actually do it. In Umbrella: Information –> Backing Up.

    • We recommend starting with your personal cell phone. If you lost it, do you know how to recover your contacts? What about your photos? If there’s a gap in your personal backup strategy, commit to filling it.
    • Read Information –> Backing up in Umbrella. If you can’t complete a backup in one sitting, customise the checklist so that you have a roadmap to follow and make sure you finish next time. For example, while newer versions of Android automatically sync with the Google account you signed in with, if you’re backing up an older phone or want to keep some information out of the cloud, you might still need to dig out a cable to connect the device to a computer.
    • Even if your data is backed up in the cloud, make sure you’re clear which email account the device is synced with if you use more than one. Look for Settings inside your Contacts app. There may be a default account for new contacts, so find out if you’re saving numbers to your device or somewhere else.
    • Is your data locked into one service or company? In other words, do you have to keep paying in order to maintain access to your backup? Does the company make it easy for you to back up data in a format that you can transfer to another service or device? Look into it if you want to keep your options open. For example, Google Takeout lets you download a data archive for any of its services. Not all companies make it this easy, so take advantage if they do.


All you need: A device connected to a reliable network, Umbrella, and some time to research emergency contact info (30 minutes).

Umbrella’s travel security memo prompts you to capture your itinerary, emergency contacts, and procedures for staying in touch with home base, all in one secure location. You can carry this information with you in the app, or export it to share with others.

But there’s no need to wait until your next travel booking to explore this feature. Do you have a list of contacts in case of emergency? Have you shared it with close family? If not, or if yours could use a refresh, try adapting the memo in Umbrella. Click on Forms —> Travel Security Memo.

  1. Name/Travel Date. If you want the option to export and share your form with a partner, parent, or childminder, enter your name. If “travel dates” isn’t relevant, you could always enter the date as a reminder of when you last updated the form.
  2. Destination/Purpose. If you don’t have an immediate destination in mind, adapt this section. What’s a destination it would be useful to note in case of emergency? You could enter the evacuation/meeting point for a disaster plan here.
  3. Itinerary/Travel. Ignore this, or get creative!
  4. Immigration/Phone Numbers. What important phone numbers could be useful here? Consider your doctor, insurance, driver breakdown, bank, or local police station.
  5. Organisational/Procedures. Note professional or institutional contacts (boss, secretary, colleague, teacher) for you and your family here.
  6. Personal/Medical. Note personal contacts (parents, close friend, housemate) here. Do you or a family member have a medical condition that needs specific medication or treatment?
  7. Physical/Digital. Ignore this, or get creative!
  8. Key Contacts/Other. Challenge yourself to put something you haven’t thought of here. What information could really help in an emergency? Here are some examples to get you thinking:

TIP: Any information you input into a form in Umbrella is encrypted. That means we can’t see it, and it will stay private if you use a strong password. (Go to Set Password under the Account option in the navigation menu. To learn about strong passwords, read the Information –> Passwords lesson in Umbrella). The form is not encrypted when you share it by email, but should be reasonably secure if the person you’re sharing it with has a strong password and uses two-factor authentication (the Passwords lesson has more information about two-factor authentication). However, if you want to input really sensitive information, like credit card details, read the Information –> Protecting Files, and Information –> Safely Deleting lessons and think carefully about the risks of unauthorized access before exporting the form.


All you need: A device connected to a reliable network, Umbrella, and a USB flash drive, ideally with 1-2GB of space (1 hour).

If you want to improve your digital security, it helps to up the stealth factor. Here’s how to prepare a USB key for more secure internet browsing and file storage. Make it a part of your everyday carry kit by adding it to a chain or a keyring.

  • Download a portable version of a popular web browser, like Firefox. Follow the prompts to install it, selecting your USB drive as the location you want to install it. For detailed guidance, see support ( or search for a tutorial. Next time you need to use a public computer which may be loaded with spyware, open the browser directly from your USB drive instead.
  • Create an encrypted folder (“volume”) using VeraCrypt.
    • In Umbrella, read Information –> Protecting Files and the Tools –> Files –> VeraCrypt tool guide.
    • Follow instructions in the Tools –> Files –> VeraCrypt tool guide to download VeraCrypt, and create a standard volume. Select your USB drive as the location you want to save your volume. If you don’t need to store large files in the volume, try starting with a volume size of 500MB. Add an .mp4 extension and give the file the title of your choice to make it look like a small video file.
    • Practice opening and closing your folder (“mounting” and “dismounting” the volume).
    • Drag and drop a file that you’d like to keep secure into the mounted volume, and dismount to make it inaccessible.

You’re all set! Carry your USB key with you so that you always have the tools you need to cover your digital tracks.


Thanks for using Umbrella! Please let us know what you think and share it with your contacts. See something missing or outdated? You can help keep Umbrella content up to date by emailing or through our GitHub repo. View our tutorial on contributing content on GitHub here.