Technological abuse is also referred to as ‘Digital Abuse’. Unfortunately it is common with the United Nations releasing a ‘Wake Up Report’ in 2015 that estimated that 73% of females worldwide have endured online abuse. The report also urged countries to recognise that online abuse can be just as damaging as physical violence.
What is technological or digital abuse?
Technology-facilitated digital abuse or technological abuse is when someone harasses, threatens, monitors or impersonates another person continually using technology. This type of abuse can occur between strangers, but most often occurs alongside other types of abuse in domestic and family violence. Technology is not the problem, the abuser’s behaviour is. However, it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re being the safest you can while using technology.
Signs of technology abuse
There are four main areas of technology-facilitated abuse:
- Harassment – leaving constant phone messages, texts, emails, social media comments.
- Monitoring/stalking – tracking a person’s whereabouts using mobile apps, tracking via online banking, hacking into a person’s accounts (email, social media, bank accounts), limiting access to technology.
- Impersonation – posting false information about someone online, pretending to be someone else to monitor a person.
- Threats – threatening to share intimate photos/messages image-based abuse, “revenge-porn”, getting other people the threaten via calls, messages or social media.
Technology Safety & Privacy Toolkit
Our friends at Safety Net Australia Project (WESNET) have created an extraordinary Technology Safety & Privacy Toolkit that we highly recommend you look at. The toolkit is for people experiencing technology abuse so they can learn how they can increase their technology safety and privacy. The toolkit includes resource guides such as Tips for Survivors of Technology Abuse and stalking, How to deal with harassing calls/texts/messages. Technology Safety Planning and so much more. It is definitely worth checking out.
eSafety Women’s Technology Check-up
Also, you might like to use eSafety Women’s technology check-up to see how you can be safer using your technology.
Tips for increasing device security
You may also want to check out some of the tips below from 1800RESPECT.
- Ensure that you have anti-virus software on all your devices and keep this up to date
- Only download or install apps and attachments that come from known and trusted sources
- Make sure all your devices are password protected
- Use a strong PIN or password, and keep it secret
- Do not let anyone else use your devices
- Always sign out of your online accounts
- When a site offers to remember your logins or passwords, always say no
- Regularly check all apps and software installed on your devices and search online for information about ones that you do not recognise
- If your device has a camera fitted to it and you worried that someone has installed spyware to monitor you, it may be safer to cover it with dark tape until you can remove the spyware
- If your laptop or computer has a removable camera, turn it towards the wall or remove it, particularly if you do not use it.
Has my device been tampered with?
‘Device’ is another way of saying mobile phone, tablet, laptop or computer. When we talk about devices being ‘accessed’ or ‘tampered with’ here, we mean a person using your device without you knowing or without your permission. Usually they are doing this to get private information about you; for example, what you are doing online, where you go, and who you are speaking to.
It can be hard to know if someone has accessed your device without your permission. You may need to trust your instincts. Remember that a person doesn’t need to have the device in their hands to access it. Someone can install spyware that lets them see what you are doing on your device even when they don’t have it. We explain how spyware works in the next section. This section explains some of the signs that another person may have access to your device.
If someone suddenly knows a lot of things about you that they shouldn’t know, you might want to check your device security. Some signs of device tampering might include a person knowing things they could only find out by:
- Reading your emails or text messages
- Seeing your bank accounts
- Reading your messages on social media
- Looking at your GPS or a maps app on your phone
- Knowing where you have been – it is possible for someone who has had access to you phone to install software or apps (like Find My Friends) that tell them where you are
If you think someone has accessed your device, it may be safest to use a computer at a public library, school, community centre, work or internet cafe.
If you think that there may be spyware or other harmful software installed on your phone there may be ways to remove it. One way is to restore factory settings. You can watch the video at the top of this section to find out more about restoring factory settings. If you choose this option remember to back up all of the personal data stored on your phone such as photos and phone numbers. Restoring factory settings will erase these.
Search online to find out how to restore factory settings or back up data. Use Google or other search engine and look for ‘How do I back up data on…’. Include the name of your device like ‘Samsung Galaxy’ or ‘iPad’. Use YouTube to search for videos that show you how to ‘restore factory settings’ or ‘back up data’ on you device.
It’s important to think about your safety when deleting spyware from your device. If you think the person who is monitoring you may become more violent or abusive if you cut off their access, you may need to look at other ways of increasing your safety.
Automatic downloads between phones, computers and tablets
There is a security risk that apps will automatically download between your different devices. This can be done through syncing between your phone and computer, for example. This could mean that a person could have access to the synced information from another device and use it to monitor you.
Search online for information on automatic downloads between devices. Use Google or other search engine and look for ‘what is automatic download’. You can also include the name of your device, like iPad or iPhone, for more information. Use YouTube to search for videos that show you how to ‘turn off automatic downloads between devices’.