COMPUTER AND INTERNET SAFETY
Computers and the internet have become a part of every day life for many of us. We have come to rely on them for many of our daily activities and queries. They have also become tools for stalkers and batterers to track and torment their victims. The programs and methods used to stalk are easily searchable, accessible and affordable. With no special training, a stalker can:
- monitor your internet and computer activities
- see screen shots of every site you have visited
- log every keystroke made on your computer
These tools can be installed directly onto your computer or sent via email in a seemingly harmless attachment. With this kind of access, a stalker/batterer can:
- find out where you are or are going to be
- where you live
- access your email and personal accounts
- impersonate you
- steal your identity
- cause you financial or legal trouble or ruin
The best way to protect yourself, your computer and your personal information is to be informed. There are several ways to help increase your safety on your computer and online.
ADVISORY: If you are in an abusive relationship, you should consult with a victim advocate before making any changes to your computer, internet or account settings, programs or routine as these changes can place you in further danger. It is also best to allow law enforcement to investigate any suspicious behavior/activity so that they can preserve any evidence that could help build a case against the stalker/batterer.
- Look for patterns in the information the stalker knows. It could reveal the type of technology being used to monitor your activities.
- If you suspect your computer has been compromised, consider reformatting your hard drive. Contact your computer manufacturer for information on how to do so.
- Password protect your computer.
- Install and run anti-virus and anti-spyware programs as well as a personal firewall on your computer. Set these programs up to update automatically.
- Set parental controls on these programs if you have children in the home.
- Be aware of signs that your computer may be infected:
– Slower performance
– Pop ups
– Error messages
– A change in your browser’s home page
- Run a full virus scan at least once a week and whenever you suspect your computer may be infected.
- Scan any external drives as they may also become infected.
- Check for updates or patches available for your operating system or other software on a regular basis. Set these programs to update automatically as well.
- Control what software is installed on your computer by adjusting your security settings on your operating system and internet browser.
- Your Wireless (WiFi) Connection
– Password protect your computer and your wireless router/base station/hot spot.
– Be sure to change the manufacturer’s default password.
– WPA encryption offers the more security over WEP encryption.
Only visit websites that you trust and are familiar with.
– Create unique passwords for all of your accounts, your computer and your wireless connection.
– Include a combination of symbols, numbers and upper and lowercase letters.
– Do not use the same password for all of your accounts.
– Do not use birthdays, social security numbers or other phrases that someone who knows you can figure out.
– Research all software before downloading. Many free programs are bundled with additional software than can be bothersome or damaging. The most common of these are free wallpapers, emoticons (smileys) and screen savers. Peer to peer file sharing sites are also a risk for downloading viruses.
– Read all licensing agreements and privacy statements for all software you download.
– Do not open any email or attachments from people or organizations you don’t know or trust.
- Social Media/Discussion Forums
– Be mindful of what you post on social media or discussion forum profiles such as phone numbers, addresses or any information that could be used to stalk, harass, monitor you or steal your identity.
– Set your profile/page to “Private”. Accept friend/follow requests only from people you know.
– Use caution when conversing on social media sites or discussion forums. Do not share information that could reveal where you are, where you will be, places you frequent or other information that can make it easy for a stalker to locate you.
– Avoid polls, quizzes, games or other applications that ask for personal information.
– Use caution when linking your phone to your accounts and when “checking in” to places you visit.
– Use caution when sending RSVPs to invitations online.
– Use caution when subscribing to fan pages or groups.
- Remove yourself from reverse directories
Reverse directories allow anyone with your phone number or your birth date to find out where you live. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has a list of online information brokers you can contact to find out if your information is listed as well as information on how to opt out. The following sites also offer valuable information on computer and internet safety:National Network to End Domestic Violence – Computer and Internet Safety
National Center for Victims of Crime – Stalking Resource Center
National Cyber Security Alliance
Safety Ed International
Get Net Wise
If you feel you are being stalked, speak to a victim advocate who can help assess your situation and advise you on the best course of action. Contact a coalition in your state or any of these organizations that may apply to your situation:
The National Domestic Violence Helpline 800-799-SAFE (7233)
The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 866-331-9474
The National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE (4673)
ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453)
You can also find more information about stalking at: