Digital abuse and online stalking

Technology is a wonderful tool for finding out information, advice and building social networks. However, it can also be used to abuse.

Digital abuse can include:

  • Monitoring your social media or emails,
  • Sending abusive or threatening messages
  • Using GPS locators or spyware
  • Intimate image abuse

There are a number of steps you can take to keep yourself safe online.

Change your online accounts/passwords

Even if you don’t think your abuser knows the details it’s better to be cautious.  When you choose new passwords make sure the abuser won’t be able to guess them.  

Create different passwords for different accounts, and download free ‘password manager’ software to generate complex passwords, and store them securely.

Your email password needs to be secure, especially if you use email to request links to reset forgotten passwords for other sites. If someone hacks into your email address they will be able to reset your passwords to other services.

GPS trackers / locations settings

Some social networks use ‘location functionality’ to pick up where you are and automatically display your location, but you can turn it off. 

When posting from a mobile make sure the Bluetooth is off.

Friends and Family

Remember that other people may accidentally give away information about your location, personal life and activities. Make sure your children, friends and family are equally cautious about anything they put on the internet. Ask your friends and family not to ‘tag’ you into images or mention you in comments.

Spyware

Spyware is malicious software that anyone who has access to your phone, could install on your computer that collects information on everything you do online as well as recording passwords; all without your knowledge. You won’t know it’s been installed and antivirus software won’t work against spyware/monitoring products. Go to www.safer-networking.org and download and run their free software Spybot ‘search and destroy’ programme.

Once your computer is clean, change your passwords and security questions on all your accounts.

Work Intranet

Be aware of information about you that is available through your employer – do you have an intranet? Are your contact details available online? Are details of meetings you attend available online and include you as an attendee? Do they give dates of future meetings?

Email

If an abuser sends you threatening or harassing email messages, they may be printed and saved as evidence of this abuse. Any email you have previously sent will be stored in Sent Items. If you started an email but didn’t finish it, it might be in your Drafts folder. If you reply to any email, the original message will probably be in the body of the message – print and delete the email if you don’t want anyone to see your original message.

When you delete an item in any email program (Outlook Express, Outlook, etc.) it does not really delete the item – it moves the item to a folder called Deleted Items. You have to delete the items in deleted items separately. Right click on items within the Deleted Items folder to delete individual items.

For more tips and practical guidance to keep yourself safe digitally and online visit: www.womensaid.org.uk/onlinesaf...