If you or someone you know is in danger please contact 911 or the hotline below to seek help.
Assaulted Women’s Helpline: https://www.awhl.org/about-us
Services safety plans, referrals to services and immediate counseling run throughout Ontario.
- GTA: 416-863-0511
- GTA TTY: 416-364-8726
- Toll Free: 1-866-863-0511
- Toll Free TTY: 1-866-863-7868
How Are Smart Devices Linked to Domestic Violence?
We live in an era of technology which has its many pros and cons. While we can access information at fast rates and connect with family and friends, there is also a harmful side. A common pattern within many domestic violence cases is the use of control through social media and smart devices connected to one’s home. Continuing to hold the power in these relationships is the main goal of the abuser and these forms of technology have made it easier to intimidate survivors. Thankfully, there are many ways you can still protect yourself.
But first, let’s understand what you should look for if you feel a spouse, ex partner or current partner is using technology in an abusive manner. Remember, everyone has their own unique experience and even if not all these ideas resonate with you, the steps to protect yourself can still be beneficial. Sometimes, the signs are discreet while others are more overt.
Signs may include:
- Obtaining control over your passwords.
- Having access to your private accounts such as email, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat against your will. Pressuring you with threats and violence to hand over these pieces of information.
- Using your cellular device to track your location. Oftentimes, there are apps on smart devices to track location. You may not realize your partner has gone onto your phone and shared your location with themself. This tactic can be used for stalking, and showing up at unwanted places.
- Perhaps your cellphone or computer was recently “fixed” by this person. Is there a new update, or app you don’t recognize?
- Hidden location tracker which can be attached to your car in order to monitor your whereabouts.
- Baby monitors which can be used to eavesdrop or in some cases watch your private moments.
- Smart devices within your home such as Alexa, or doorbells with a hidden video camera.
- Pet food dispensers with hidden cameras
- A foreign device you don’t recognize in your home
- Smart home speakers which can be hacked, along with lights that dim on their own. These can be used to harass the survivor by blaring music or flickering lights to inflict fear.
- In some cases, smart plugs can have hidden cameras in them.
This information is in no way meant to make you scared. We just want you to understand the signs. The next steps in this article will better teach you how to protect yourself against these types of scenarios. Here are some steps to take in order to keep your privacy safe.
Use Two Factor Authentication
Two factor authentication is an app you can download on your cell phone that will connect with whichever social media sites you want it to. For example, if you want your Facebook account to be better protected, then you can connect it to two factor authentication. Any time a new user tries to log into your account they would have to use the code that’s shown in the two factor authentication app, or texted to your chosen number. This in turn makes it harder for hackers to access your private accounts.
Turn Off Default Geo Tracking
Geo-tracking is a feature on our cellphones that many people are unaware of. This setting collects location data that can tell details about private places one may have visited. When we post a picture on social media, our geo-location can sometimes tag the location of where that photo was taken without us realizing it. Don’t put pictures that update followers on your whereabouts or make your location obvious. This can make it easier for your abuser to know when you’re out, and where you spend your free time. Access your cellphone’s system settings and disable the geo-tracking icon. If you have an iPhone or Android, the links provided below will guide you on how to manage this feature and turn it off.
If you’re a Snapchat user, check the app to ensure your location isn’t being shared with your followers. Disable this feature by clicking the location icon that leads you to the Snapchat world map. The location icon can be found on the bottom left corner, when you open the Snapchat camera, homepage, and conversations. Then access your settings which are located in the top right corner of the map. Once you’re in settings, you will have a feature called “ghost mode” and there you can easily disable others from viewing your location.
Here’s what you should consider doing to ensure your online safety…
- Covering the webcams in tape can prevent an abuser from monitoring the survivor if their computer has been hacked. It also stops the abuser from being able to listen in on private conversations as the tape muffles sounds.
- Change your passwords to something strong by including at least eight characters, contain both upper and lowercase letters, add at least one number, and finally one special character i.e @#$%.
- If possible, use fingerprint access for bank accounts, and cell phone access.
- Use a key to access your home rather than a keypad or an automatic key that grants access through connecting with an app on your phone.
- If you suspect spyware is being used on your phone or computer, update your software, and install an anti-spyware app on your device. These can be used to detect and prevent spyware being used on your device. If you still feel as though your privacy is compromised, save all important files and reset your device.This will erase any spyware being used (be sure to scan any files for viruses before backing up onto another file).
- In the meantime, make any private internet searches, especially ones related to your safety, on a public computer, trusted friend, or family member’s device.
- Inspect which devices are connected to your home network by examining your router online (information on the side of the router includes password and admin URL used to check this feature).
- Install firewall software program, in order to prevent your internet network from receiving threats from hackers, and authorized connections that could steal data.
- Ensure the router is less than three years old as it will confirm security features are up to date.
- Disable remote access to the home alarm system.
Here’s what you shouldn’t do…
- Avoid online gaming where your location could be shared.
- Don’t go on others’ social media where you work, or location can be tracked.
- Avoid writing your password down. Instead use a password manager. Instructions on how to use one can be here found here https://www.howtogeek.com/141500/why-you-should-use-a-password-manager-and-how-to-get-started/ .
- Don’t turn your baby monitors WiFi on, as it will be more susceptible to hackers.
- Don’t click links from suspicious email addresses, and numbers. This is often a tactic used to hack peoples devices by sending malware through these links which are also referred to as phishing emails.
- Never share personal banking information.
Written by: Taryn Herlich
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