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Tech Safety for Domestic Abuse Victim and Survivors

Main topic:         A Comprehensive Guide to Tech Safety for                                  Domestic Abuse Victim and Survivors.
                              Prepared by

Digital abuse is now a thing, and if you are here, chances are you know that already.
Domestically violent partners have now stepped up their lust for power and control so much that they call on technology for their sinister works.

While you are not responsible for the actions of the abusive partner, you will be affected by the things they choose to do with the technology at their disposal. 
But then, you don’t have to take things lying down either.
How about some tips to help combat digital domestic violence with technology on your own?

Protecting Yourself

The first step to protecting yourself is understanding the channels of digital abuse so you can plug the leaks. 
That way, you can use your knowledge of the technology being employed against you to cripple the abuser and live a perfect life – just as you deserve.

We discuss this under the following headings.

Securing your devices
You should be able to trust your everyday devices for seamless use without the fear of being monitored through them. This includes all of your phones, laptops, other computers, cars, smartwatches, and related gadgets.
By taking the extra step to ensure these devices are secure and do not leave a backdoor to you for the abuser, you can rest assured that they don’t betray you at any point in time.

Securing your devices becomes even more important if you have the feeling that they might have been used against you.
 While there is no template to knowing if someone has your devices bugged, here are some observations you can make for a start:

Was your device ever taken away from you for a period of time? That might have been done under a ploy to get something repaired for you, or under the guise of a punishment – but it could really have been aimed at installing tracking software or hardware on/ in the phone.

Is your device misbehaving?

Your abusive partner is usually against leaving your device at home when you’re going anywhere?

You get notifications about access to your account (email, social media, bank, etc.) without your knowledge, etc.?
Chances are that your observations mean something. To secure your devices, here are a few tips:

Leave them behind – When leaving the relationship, just leave the affected devices behind, especially if they were bought by the abusive partner.
 On top of every other thing that could be going on, you don’t want them reporting you for theft which could open up a new can of worms.

Reset the devices to factory settings – When software bugs are installed, resetting your devices to factory settings will get rid of most bugs of this kind. For PCs and Android devices, we recommend installing a new version of your OS and flashing a new Android ROM onto the device respectively. 
That gets rid of clever software bugs which could still be hiding in the system even after a complete wipe.

Get your units scanned – Hardware bugs and trackers might not be easy to discover on your own.
 A computer system could be bugged with a keylogger and a phone could have a beacon placed inside it.
 To be sure, get an expert IT specialist and have them check your units for physical signs of tampering. 
Let them know what you are looking for too so they know how best to go about their search.

Use a safe computer – Safe computers are those the abusive partner does not know about.
 It is recommended to use these till you can ascertain the trust level of your devices for sure. For phones, get burner phones and use them till you know the status of your primary phone. For computers, you don’t have to buy new ones outright. You can simply use the computers at the local library, internet cafĂ©, or your workstation.

Encrypt your files – Even if your computer was being monitored, encryption will still do you a lot of good. You can either encrypt them locally, or have these files stored on USB sticks that can be encrypted too (you can do this easily on both Mac and Windows). We prefer you go for the latter.

Connected devices – Your smart lights, digital locks, thermostat and such other connected devices make your life easier, but they can easily be turned against you too.
 Reset all of these units and change their passwords. Keep to a strong and secure password that the abusive partner won’t guess so they don’t break into your home with your digital units. Likewise, run the connected devices on encrypted Wi-Fi networks for improved security.

Check your car – Cars with GPS systems run the risk of being tapped. The car’s GPS could then be used to know the abuse victim’s location at all times. In other instances, the abusive partner could have put a tracking beacon in the car. If you don’t know much about cars to begin with – which is about the same as the average driver – you should totally get a specialist to check out your car. Again, tell them what you are looking for so they can help you better.

Read more blog post here please

Securing your files
The reason many people stay in abusive relationships because they might literally have nothing, no one and nowhere to go when they do leave. Abusers can make sure of that by taking away important files and sensitive documents such as drivers’ license, international passport, academic certificates, etc.
Likewise, it is not uncommon for abusers to find out about their victims’ escape strategy. It needs no telling what happens at such points.
Again, a proper application of technology will get you where you need to be.

Get a cloud account – Cloud accounts will usually require an email address to associate with, but you don’t want to risk using one of your usual email addresses. Create a new one with minimal links to your personal self, and use that to create a cloud account (Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, etc.). This cloud account should serve as the home for your sensitive files, important documents, and information.

Get 2FA – Even if an abuser guessed or hacked your password, two-factor authentication makes it such that they still don’t get access to that account unless they had your authentication token. This gives you an extra layer of security on accounts that could have otherwise been compromised.

Scan your documents – Recall how we said an abuser could take away some important documents? You can anticipate and kick against that by scanning these documents. Keep the scanned copies on your cloud storage so you can access them from anywhere at any time.

Use encrypted USB sticks – When planning an escape, get specialized USB sticks and encrypt them after each use. We have linked to a resource that informs on how to do so above, no matter what operating system your computer is running on.

Account recovery options – When setting up secure accounts, the account recovery options are as important as the account details themselves. For one, lie on some of the details: name, email address and password recovery answers. If prompted to enter backup accounts, use that of a trusted friend rather than one of yours.  inspire me

Social media protection – You might want to take down your main social media accounts unitl you leave the relationship. You can set up anonymous accounts to reach out to your support network on social media, but no one else. If you must keep your real accounts, it is just logical that you put 2FA on them too.

Securing your communication
Securing communications is very important at this stage. Either to facilitate an escape or keep you in touch with your support network, it is one thing you cannot do without.
You should, however, take extra measures to ensure security.

Use encrypted channels only – Apps like WhatsApp and Telegram have done a great job of encrypting your messages on both ends of the conversation, making it impossible for anyone to access them if they do take over your accounts. Telegram also has a neat feature which allows you to set messages to self-destruct after a while, not to mention its allowance of passwords on your account.      mute story

Secure phone calls – Anyone paying your phone bills has access to all the numbers you have contacted in a specific timeframe, no matter if these have been wiped from your phone or not. Even if they were not paying the bills, having family ties/ close contact could make phone service providers give them such records.
One way to go about this is by asking your phone service provider to add a ‘high risk’ flag to your account so just anyone doesn’t have access to this data. Our preferred way of handling this is getting burner phones – and paying for them in cash.

Securing your finances
Finances are very important to the escape journey, and they should be treated with utmost care. We’ve got a few tips on how to make finances work to your advantage without raising suspicions:

Pay with cash – Because anyone with access to your credit card report can see what transactions you have made on that account. This doesn’t bode well for you if you were paying for services to aid your escape, burner phones, encrypted communication devices, etc.

Don’t operate joint accounts – At the end of the day, your access to such an account is limited. Putting your funds here might mean never getting out of the relationship at all. Open a separate bank account of your own to stash some funds away

Use online wallets – Recall that email you created above? You can use that to create safe online wallets that no one will know about.

PayPal, Payoneer and Skrill are legally-backed companies providing such online wallet services in different countries. You can add cards from a trusted friend so they fund the online wallets without having it show up on your transaction history. You can then work out a repayment plan for the involved person.

Disable online and SMS banking – Ask your bank to remove options for online and mobile banking from your account. This instantly limits impersonation attempts at stealing your money, securing the funds for when you need it.

Try other forms of money – You don’t always have to hold money in cash. You can invest the same funds in gold or other assets which you can convert for cash later.

The same can be said for bitcoin – a form of digital currency. What we love about bitcoin is its acceptability in a lot of places these days, ensuring you can make anonymous payments for good and services without your name or other personal details ever coming up.

Final Words

In one breath, all we have covered includes:

Making sure your own devices and gadgets are not used against you,

Ensuring your documents, files and personal information are not at risk of being seized or manipulated in any way,

Keeping control of your finances so you never get stranded when you exit the relationship and

Having secure communications all through the process.
That said, we can never reiterate the importance of a safety network enough. Should you feel controlled, threatened or powerless against your partner, reach out to someone you can trust and seek help as soon as possible.

Thanks for reading dearies and of course this is a guest post, all credit goes to

Ophelia Johnson


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