This is a guest blog from the staff at TechWarn, an organization dedicated to keeping people at risk from domestic violence safe on-line. October is Domestic Violence Month. As we’ve learned from the many #MeToo stories in circulation recently, when people are abused or threatened with violence, others too often either do not believe them, or dismiss the seriousness of the threat. If you know someone in danger from domestic violence, share this blog with them and encourage them to keep the Domestic Violence hotline number handy. (800) 799.7233.
Tech Safety for Domestic Violence Survivors
These days, you don’t have to be an expert to monitor a person’s computer or phone activity. Someone can use software like Spyware to monitor all your activities and even access passwords. It is for this reason that there has been a rapid increase in cases of domestic violence. Therefore, you must know how to stay safe from being a victim of such. If you are already a victim, then you have even more reason to prevent that from happening again. Here are the things that help to ensure you stay safe when using your various tech gadgets.
Check Whether Your Devices Are Bugged
Your phone and computer are two things that can be bugged very easily, especially if other people use them too. There is no specific way that you can use to detect whether a phone or computer is bugged. However, here are some warning signs to look out for:
- Your gadget starts behaving abnormally
- Someone you don’t trust had your device for a long time
- You receive notifications quite often showing that someone had access to your account, for instance, your Gmail account.
If you notice these signs, then take immediate action, especially if you keep being notified that someone logged in to your account. It’s a sign that the person has the password(s). The best thing to do in such a case is changing the passwords. The next time the person tries logging in with the old password, he’ll have difficulties accessing your accounts.
Also, if you miss your phone for some time and suddenly recover it out of nowhere, that could be a sign that someone has already bugged it. Using the phone after the bugging can even make it behave unusually. When this happens, the best thing to do is to restore the factory settings of the device. Chances are that the person installed spying software on your phone.
For computers, it might be hard to secure them compared to smartphones. However, if you think that someone might have placed a keylogger on your desktop computer, then you have to open it up. Look for a small device that resembles a USB stick on the cable running from the keyboard to your computer. If you find one, then it might be a keylogger, and someone might have been monitoring your activities. So, remove it and change all your passwords in case the person got access to any.
Take the Necessary Steps to Secure Your Vital Files and Data
Storing crucial information on a smartphone or laptop can seem like a great way to secure them, but it’s not. If someone bugs any of them, then he/she can access passwords hence leaving even your bank account at high risk.
Using a USB stick is an excellent method of keeping data secured as no one can access it without your knowledge. The best thing to do when using a USB stick is to store the data and files in hidden partitions. Doing so enables your data to remain secure even when the USB stick lands in the wrong hands. Encrypting the USB stick will also help you to keep the data more secure.
Additionally, make copies of the crucial data stored in your laptop or phone and keep them in a different place, like a cloud storage account. Doing that helps you to recover the data easily in case you lose it. Also, remember to secure the online storage account with a strong password.
Secure Your Phone Metadata
One thing that most people don’t know is that your phone data, such as the number you often call, usually appears on the bill. So, the person paying the phone bill, if it’s not you, can access lots of detailed information such as the numbers you called and the duration it took. In some cases, the person can even check what your location was at the time of a certain call.
So, if the person trying to monitor your activities is someone closer, he/she can even forward the security confirmation texts of your online accounts to another number. That way, the person can log in to any of your accounts easily. To avoid that, request a high-risk flag to be added to your account by the mobile provider. So, you will be notified anytime they see any suspicious activity in the account. Better still, get a prepaid SIM card. Doing that helps you to pay the phone bills secretly and have full control over your account.
Avoid Online Banking and Keep Your Credit Cards A Secret
Online banking can seem like an exciting way to manage money from the comfort of your home, but it can make you vulnerable to tech-based domestic violence. Anyone can try to fake your identify and access your funds, especially if your password is not strong enough. Asking your bank to deactivate any internet banking service linked to your account helps to keep your account safer since only you can access it from the bank.
Credit cards are something else that can put your finances at high risk of theft. The only things that an abuser needs to forge your card are at the number at the back and front of your credit card. Having these numbers gives them enough information to provide the bank with and cancel a card or even withdraw money. So, avoid storing these numbers in your online banking account as it might be hacked and the information used by your abuser. By storing these details safely, nobody can see those vital numbers. If someone has accessed your online banking account, call the bank immediately and inform them. That way, that card can be canceled and your money will be safe. Additionally, consider accessing your online accounts through a secure VPN connection. That way, your data will be encrypted and secured from online hackers.
Secure Your Laptop Activity Using Tails
If you have doubts that a computer might be bugged or want to keep your computer activity safe, then use TAILS. This system enables you to keep all your computer activity secure when browsing hence preventing hackers from accessing the passwords. However, the only pullback about this method is that if you misplace the TAILS stick, then you lose all the files inside.
These are the major ways you can avoid being a victim of tech-affiliated domestic violence. Make the most out of these tips to ensure your safety when using your gadgets such as phones, laptops, desktop, or even your car.
About the author: Jack Warner is an accomplished cyber security expert with years of experience under his belt at TechWarn, a trusted digital agency, to world-class cyber security companies. A passionate digital safety advocate himself, Jack frequently contributes to tech blogs and digital media sharing expert insights on cyber security and privacy tools.
Thank you for stopping by to read about how to be safe on-line. I’m hosting this blog as a service to TechWarn, to help people be alert and safe in Cyber-Space. They reached out me when they found one of my earlier blogs on line. If you have an organization you think deserves a little extra publicity, contact me about who they are what they are doing for the common good. Information for this blog was provided by:
If you found this blog helpful, you may also appreciate an earlier blog about domestic violence: Profile of an Abuser
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