Protect Yourself Online
If you’re looking at our site, you may be contemplating divorce, separation, child custody, or experiencing domestic violence. The reason we have the Quick Exit button is to allow a user to jump to a new website if their partner, child, or other person enters the room. Below we discuss ways to protect yourself online. This includes communicating and researching while planning your escape to your New Normal.
If you think the device you are using is being monitored – use a safer device that the person cannot, and has never been able to, physically or remotely access.
This can be a safe computer at a trusted friend or family member’s house, or public library or domestic violence shelter. If you think your computer is being monitored, Operation Safe Escape has a thorough secure communications guide. Operation Safe Escape focuses on the tech and security aspect of escaping domestic violence. They have a wealth of information and resources about staying safe while escaping abuse, including security guides. OSE’s goal is to help victims learn security concepts so that they can set up safe methods of communication to use while planning their escape.
Safer Browsing While Accessing Resources
One of the first steps to being safe online is adjusting your browser settings, which depends on which one you use to access the internet. For more information about specific internet browser settings that can increase your privacy and safety, visit TechSafety.org.
Use Private (or “incognito”) browsing mode whenever you are researching information relating to domestic violence or planning your divorce or custody matter.
Regardless of your browser settings or whether you diligently clear your internet history – this will not hide your activity if spyware is installed.
If spyware is installed – keep in mind that your attempts to investigate whether it is installed or remove it can be seen by the person who installed it. Talk to a technology professional before doing this – and also consider going to law enforcement, who may be able to help preserve evidence on your device. Spyware creators work hard to make their programs blend in and be undetectable. Running anti-spyware software has varying levels of accuracy, depending on the sophistication of the spyware. It may have been installed when another person had access to your device, or when you clicked on a link sent to you. Sometimes spyware can be disguised as a game, perhaps one allegedly downloaded for your child.
Possible Explanations for Security Changes
If there is a chance your partner will find out about new any security practices – whether it be using two-factor authentication to access accounts, changing your browser settings, or installing anti-spyware security – think about plausible explanations for why you implemented them. Perhaps you’re concerned over a recent data breach you heard about in the news, had security training at work – whatever makes sense for your situation.
If you fear for your safety, one of the last things you want to do is tip off your abuser to the fact that you know he or she is spying on you.
It is easier and cheaper than ever to spy on a partner – spyware and tracking software (also called “Stalkerware”) has become ubiquitous. Often this type of software allows a person to do a wide range of things – including track your phone’s location, view your messages and listen to your calls. In many states, installing spyware in order to track and/or monitor an ex without their consent is illegal, but you may not know a person has done so until something tips you off. These types of apps are designed to be invisible to the user, so they normally do not show up in your list of applications.
Warning Signs of Hacking/Spyware/Malware
Operation Safe Escape has a guide for detecting and removing stalkerware;
According to OSE, the following are signs that there may be stalkerware / spyware on your device:
(1) The person you suspect may have installed it always seems to know where you are
(2) They know information you’ve only shared via email or text with other people
(3) Your phone battery drains unusually fast
(4) Your iOS phone refuses to update
(5) You received suspicious emails or texts with links that you clicked on, or were told to download apps from sources other than the official app/play store
(6) Someone else had access to your computer, tablet, (or other device)
What to look for on your phone to determine if it has been jailbroken (modified to allow the installation of unauthorized software):
(1) Presence of an app called Cydia
(2) For iOS, an app like Neptune Security and System can tell whether its been jailbroken
(3) For android devices, check if any of the following settings are turned ON;
a. “Unknown devices”
b. “Allow installation from unknown sources”
c. “Install from untrusted APKs”
(4) The presence of apps you don’t recognize when you look at the device administrator settings