Tips to protect your devices from your abuser

Based on an article in the New York Times

Domestic Abusers Can control Your Devices. Here’s How to Fight Back.

Wirecutter – Kaitlyn Wells and Thorin Klosowski

We are all familiar with shared clouds, in which one spouse can see every person that the other spouse contacts, by phone, by email or by text. Location history is also a big problem, enabling stalkers and abusive partners. Ruth Darlene, founder and executive director of WomenSV, a research center serving the Bay Area of California, said “You don’t have to reach out and touch someone in order to control and terrorize them.”

Their advice was to make a note about every time you feel that you were being stalked, spoofed, followed, or when odd things don’t make sense. They also recommended that you make a list of any shared accounts, make a list of every account and device you have, and secure everything you can with two-factor authentication and a password manager. Do not use details that the other spouse/boyfriend might have any knowledge. For those in a long-term relationship, their knowledge is vast, so you will need to be creative. They also recommended a password manager with a single password. There is no back door for these, so it seemingly cannot be hacked. The downside is that if you forget or misplace the access code, you will not be able to get back in. Also two-factor authentication is another tool to use to keep other people out of your account. You can receive a text with a code, but the app to receive a code is more secure.

Also, they recommended a review of privacy settings on social media. Review your lists of friends and remove any that do not seem familiar. Make sure that shares cannot be seen by friends of friends.

The article also recommended steps to improve your smartphone’s security privacy. They recommended that you remove the fingerprint or facial imaging on the device, since it could be used while you are sleeping. Change the notification options so that previews of message are not shown on the lock screen. Check the location services and disable them. Check all your apps and consider removing anything you don’t recognize or use. Make sure that your operating system is up to date.

How you use your phone can also make you more vulnerable. Avoid clicking links, change your passwords often, and consider using a secure messaging app, like Signal. It works like Whatsapp or Apple Messages, but it has additional features that make it more secure.

If you suspect stalkerware, it will probably take a pro to find it. You might consider getting a new device and not having it repopulate from the last backup or doing a factory reset.

One note of caution – any of these attempts could notify the stalker. Reaching out to 311 or 211 for resources, or 911 if you are in immediate danger are options that can save your life.

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