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How To Keep Computers and Smartphones Safe from Spying Spouses

A common problem couples experience during marital discord particularly when they are going through a divorce is the issue of spying. A few decades ago, one spouse being suspicious of the other may have resulted in hiring a private investigator to do the snooping. In today's tech-savvy world, however, spying is as easy as logging in to the family computer to rifle through email and social media accounts, checking a spouse's smartphone for recent texts, or employing easily-downloaded spyware and key-logging software for round-the-clock cyber surveillance.

Even with knowledge of what's "right" and "wrong" when it comes to collecting electronic evidence, it's a given that some spouses are going to try to snoop on one another no matter what. Even if they don't plan to use the evidence formally in court or for divorce proceedings, digging for questionable texts, emails, and social media activity — any way they can — may be used to confirm their suspicions, or provide a way to threaten or intimidate the other spouse.

While we can't tell you how to completely safeguard your computers and phones from the prying eyes of an upset or suspicious spouse, we can provide you with some spy-savvy tips to help reduce the likelihood of this happening to you.

Tips for Protecting Your Computer or Smartphone:

  • Passwords: As a first line of defense, set your computer so that a password must be entered before accessing your laptop or desktop. Strong passwords contain a minimum of 8 characters, including numbers, upper and lower case letters, and special characters. Likewise, create strong passwords for all email accounts and other online accounts, including Facebook and Twitter. Whatever combination you come up with, try not to fall into the trap of using the same password for all accounts. Create different passwords for each log in, and keep password information in a secure place.

    Also, be aware that when you log in, your computer may be set to ask whether you would like to save your username and password information. As convenient as it can be to already have user information entered for a particular site, if you are at all concerned about a snooping spouse trying to gain access to your private accounts, click "no" when presented with this option.

  • Anti-Virus Software: Spyware can do everything from tracking every keyboard key you press to capturing screen shots of everything you are doing on your computer — all without you knowing it. To help protect your computer, configure an industry standard anti-virus/spyware package along with anti-logger software. The anti-virus/spyware software will protect you from malware and the anti-logger software will stop someone from trying to access your private information, which includes financial information, tracking your computer usage and even stop someone from being able to hijack your computer camera and microphone.

  • Connecting to the Internet: Use an industry standard firewall/router, rather than the one issued them by your ISP (internet service provider), and have it configured by a professional. Routers can still be vulnerable to spyware attack as evidenced by a recent case in which all of the victim's web traffic was routed through servers controlled by the spyware, and thus all web activity was open to monitoring.

  • When You Are Away From Your Computer: Always logout when leaving the computer. Never leave it unattended in a logged in state, even if it's just to jump up and answer the door.

    Physically protect your computer by keeping it in a secure area. If you are a laptop user, think about buying a travel case and bringing it with you when you leave the house.

  • Safe Smartphone Use: Do you have screen after screen of smartphone apps? Go through and delete any that you don't use, or ones that you don't remember adding. You can also check your account to see recent apps installed. When using social media from a mobile device, consider disabling the "geo tag" or GPS option that pinpoints your exact location when posting Facebook updates, tweets or others.

  • Use Common Sense: Remember, in this day and age, anyone can walk up to a computer and gain access to everything on it using tools and detailed instructions widely available on the Internet, even if you are very carefully and follow all the steps above.

When in doubt, if you suspect any breaches, work with a computer professional to examine your computer for unwanted software. Also let your lawyer know what is going on, since spying can be a violation of the law, and legal action may need to be taken.

For more information on spousal snooping and ways to protect yourself from cyber spying and video monitoring, read our blog post: Spying on Your Spouse During Divorce: How Far is Too Far?

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