Staying safe in an online world
We live in an increasingly inter-connected world. And while social media may be great for keeping in touch with friends and family around the world, sometimes it can be used against you, particularly during a relationship breakdown. Cyber-stalking is domestic violence and is sadly a common complaint among women who have experienced coercion and control in their intimate partner relationships.
All too often it’s also reported in criminal proceedings following the death of a domestic violence victim, such as Hannah Clarke and her three children, who were murdered in February 2020 by Ms Clarke’s estranged husband. The tragedy occurred just weeks before the husband was due to face court on charges of breaching a domestic violence order.
New research from the Queensland University of Technology has found that 100 per cent of survivors of domestic abuse reported that tech abuse, or cyber-stalking, began or escalated at separation.
The most common types of abuse are repetitive texting or emailing, constant monitoring by the ex-spouse on Facebook or other social media platforms, and also GPS tracking.
This was especially an issue for those navigating arrangements for their children post-separation.
It’s a good idea to frequently check the privacy settings on your devices and social media, organise replacement devices if need be and prevent hidden tracking – there are apps out there which can be installed on your phone, without your knowledge, that track your location.
So what can you do to protect yourself from cyber-stalking? Steps include:
- Have a data security professional assess your network and devices. If necessary, get a new device.
- Encrypt all your data, laptops, external drives and portable devices.
- Use encrypted messaging apps such as Signal or WhatsApp and ensure you have multi-factor authentication on your devices.
- Set up a new email account and do not access it on shared devices.
- Ensure your phone account is not accessible through online accounts detailing call history and location.
- Change all passwords on all social media and devices. Put a passcode on all phones.
- Check privacy settings on devices and social media.
- Turn off Bluetooth and GPS when not in use. Turn off location sharing on devices too.
- Ensure devices are not linked through Apple ID.
- Ensure photos uploaded to social media are not geo-tagging your location.
- Delete unknown apps on your phone and keep an eye out for for excessive battery use.
- Having one separate device, used solely for communicating with your ex-spouse, can also be a good idea.
As always, if you are feeling unsafe, contact police.
If you need help negotiating a relationship breakdown, contact Michael Lynch Family Lawyers on (07) 3221 4300 for trusted, confidential and personalised advice.