Over the years, domestic abuse and violence have evolved to span the digital world as technology progressed. While it is meant to improve the way we live and interact with one another, sadly, technology has also become a tool of domestic violence. With just a basic knowledge of what’s going on, though, abuse victims can break the cycle anytime they want. Here’s what a victim should look out for to protect themselves from digital stalking and harassment.
Technology and Domestic Violence: What is the confluence?
There have been reported cases of abusive partners demanding email login information, account details and such from their victims. Even if the abusers were willing to offer theirs up in exchange, it is still the right of the said victim to choose if they want such an agreement at all. More times than not, though, these abusers will hold on to their own autonomy while trying to rid their partner of theirs.
That is just one of the ways technology is currently being abused in relationships. Unfortunately, we have not even scratched the surface.
- Location Tracking – A commonly reported problem is that of abusive partners showing up on the abuse victims, even when they (the victims) hadn’t told such a partner where they would be.
This would not also be a coincidence since it happens more times than once. The situation becomes more serious in that it is very likely to continue even after the victim has escaped the relationship. After all, they never did seem to fix the problem which allowed their location information to be vulnerable.
- Conversation tracking – Besides getting passwords to emails and other accounts for communications, abusive partners will go to lengths to bug their victim’s devices so they can listen in on their conversations. This bugging could be in the form of hardware or software modifications to the communication devices, but it works the same.
- Impersonation – It is just logical that anyone who has access to your account information could well pretend to be you and get away with it. After all, there is no way to establish who is behind the account at all. Thus, it becomes easy for an abusive partner to alienate the victim by sending out strategic messages which could damage their relationship with a potential support network.
When the abusive partner is irked (maybe on the occasion of the escape of the victim), they could even use their accounts to spread rumors and lies on the internet, send poorly worded messages to employers and co-workers, etc.
- Harassment – If you think harassment could only be physical, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Connected devices (such as your digital bulbs, the remote-controlled dishwasher, etc.) are there to make our lives easier, but they can also be used as tools of harassment.
Abusive partners could hack into the home camera feed to record intimate moments of the victim and leak these online. They could even take control of some smart home system (e.g. lights, sounds, etc.), messing with them so much that the victim starts to think they are going crazy or being stalked.
Using Technology to Win the War
Fortunately, technology itself provides an out of all the cases of abuse which could be. Well, not technology per se – but the understanding of it.
Survivors of domestic abuse need not feel powerless against their abusers but stand up to them and regain the autonomy that has been taken away from them.This can be achieved by:
- Resetting all devices to factory settings – Doing this will remove all parental control apps or any other software-based monitoring measures installed on your device. For Android and Windows devices, we recommend installing a new version of the OS to be sure.
- Leaving the device behind – If the said device was bought by the abusive partner, you should leave it behind after resetting it. That way, they can’t report you for theft
- Scanning your units – Have a tech specialist scan your phones, computers and even car for possible signs of physical location tracking beacons. These could also be used to always know where you are.
- Changing all passwords – Apply this tip to all your connected devices, phones, computers – basically anything that can use a password. Don’t forget to do the same for all your online accounts (banks, email, social media, websites, etc.) as they might be compromised already. It is recommended to enable two-factor authentication when you are done to ensure a higher level of security.
- Reset all connected devices – This is important if the abuser was the one who set up the devices in the first place. That means they can abuse the security settings they put on it to get a backdoor into the home, which is something you don’t want.
Unlike physical abuse, cyber violence is a lot less apparent and does not always call for immediate response. If you suspect that you are a victim of digital abuse, stay vigilant and check your apartment, devices, accounts, and vehicle for any signs that they’ve been tampered with. Speak to a life coach or approach a subject matter expert, and take all the necessary precautions to shut your perpetrator out.
Jack is an accomplished cybersecurity expert with years of experience under his belt at TechWarn, a trusted digital agency to world-class cybersecurity companies. A passionate digital safety advocate himself, Jack frequently contributes to tech blogs and digital media sharing expert insights on cybersecurity and privacy tools