Domestic Violence and Your Digital Safety

Breaking up is hard to do, but managing account security concerns and disconnecting from your ex’s technology when there has been domestic violence involved can be downright scary. 

With the aid of technology, abusers today have additional platforms to easily control, monitor, and abuse their victims. Digital abuse is abuse that occurs through technology and includes the use of texting, social media, and networking to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate. Often this abuse occurs unknowingly. If your abuser has had access to any of your devices they can easily install apps and other software that allow them to spy on you. 

If you are a victim of domestic violence you should be extremely careful about what actions you take. Whether it is posting on social media, making phone calls,  sending emails, or even carrying a device with you that tracks your location. If you have found any kind of stalkerware, or have a concern about stalkerware being installed on any of your devices, you will want to proceed with caution.  Disabling any type of stalkerware could anger the abuser and further endanger you or your children.  

If you believe that you are being spied upon by your abuser, you need to safely elude tracingsafeguard your devices, and protect yourself by doing the following: 

    1. If you have found stalkerware please seek help, especially if you fear for your safety or the safety of your children. Help is available from various domestic violence services and hotlines such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-SAFE), or the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE). These services can help you develop a safety plan to remove the software, because once it is disabled the abuser will know. 
    2. Identify how you are being spied upon. Make a list of all your devices, and your accounts including accounts you share with your abuser.
    3. Update your cell phone privacy settings. Enable a passcode.  Update the operating system and review all installed apps and software on your phone.  
    4. Disable GPS tracking and location services on all your devices. You will also need to disable your location sharing through your provider and all apps, such as the “Find My” app. If you have a joint account with the abuser you need to separate the account and obtain your own service so family location sharing can’t be used. If you have shared your location with someone you have messaged, you will need to delete the conversation to stop sharing your location. Don’t forget the GPS on your car if your abuser has access to it. 

Disable your camera and microphones on your devices. These can be used to spy on you.

  1. Purchase a prepaid “burner” cell phone to use when you don’t want your activity tracked. It is recommended that you don’t completely stop using your old devices as that would tip off the abuser, but rather to gradually use the burner more and more until you’re ready for a clean break with a safety plan in place. 
  2. Create a new email to begin using with an entirely different password. 
  3. Reset all of your devices. This includes your phone, tablet, computer, your wireless router, your car if equipped, Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and other connected devices at your home, such as speakers, tv’s, door locks, and even garage door openers. You may either reset these, or wipe them entirely by resetting them to factory settings to  ensure all spyware has been removed. 
  4. Update Account Security settings and revoke access to unknown parties. Change your passwords to all your accounts, such as emails, bank accounts, Amazon, cloud storage accounts, etc. Be sure to use a strong password that your ex won’t be able to guess, or use a password manager to create generated codes for you.  
  5. When possible enable two-factor authentication or 2FA on your accounts. This will enable two ways of proving your identity when logging into your accounts. 
  6. Update your social media privacy settings. Sometimes social media will share your location without you even knowing. In addition, you will want to ask friends and family not to post or tag you in any of their social media posts. 
  7. Always clean your internet browser history. Anyone with access to your devices can see what you have previously looked at if you don’t clear your history. 
  8. File a police report to report any suspicious activity and stalkerware that you have discovered on your devices. 

Everyone has a right to feel safe both offline and online. If you have been a victim of domestic violence and believe that your abuser is digitally abusing you, you need to seek help to immediately protect yourself. At Stroud and Panetti we are sensitive to the issues of domestic violence and understand the delicate and swift action these cases require to ensure your protection. 

At Stroud & Panetti, P.C., we have over 30 years of experience in representing and protecting our clients’ interest in the Winston-Salem area. Domestic Violence issues are serious and require the prompt attention of a dedicated and knowledgeable family law attorney. If you have any family law issues that you need assistance with, our family law attorneys can assist you in addressing your concerns and creating unique solutions. Call us today for a consultation at 336-724-2600.

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