A common problem couples experience during times of 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 into the family computer to rifle through email and social media accounts, checking a spouse’s smartphone for recent texts, and employing easily-downloaded spyware and GPS tracking apps for round-the-clock cyber surveillance.
Even with knowledge of what is “right” and “wrong” when it comes to collecting electronic evidence, it is a given that some spouses will 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 and smartphone so that a password must be entered to access. 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 personal bank/financial and social media accounts. Whatever combination you come up with, avoid 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, you may be prompted to save your username and password information. As convenient as it can be to have user information stored for a particular site, if you are at all concerned about a snooping spouse gaining access to your private accounts, click “no” when presented with this option.
- Anti-Virus Software: Spyware and key-logging software can do everything from track every keyboard key you press to capture screen shots of sites you visit and hijack your computer camera and microphone — all without you knowing it. To help protect your computer, install an industry standard anti-virus/spyware package and anti-logger software. These are often bundled together and can be purchased in a computer store or downloaded online
- Connecting to the Internet: A router takes information that arrives via the modem, deciphers it, and delivers it to your computer. Routers can 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 spyware, and thus all web activity was open to monitoring. To prevent this, use a quality router with industry standard firewall, rather than the one issued them by your internet service provider, and have it configured by a professional.
- When You Are Away From Your Computer: Always log out when leaving the computer, even if you are just jumping up for a minute to answer the door. Physically protect your computer by keeping it in a secure area. If you are a laptop or tablet user, buy a travel case and bring your device with you when you leave the house.
- Safe Smartphone Use: Is your smartphone filled with screen after screen of apps? Go through and delete any that you don’t use or don’t remember adding. You can also check your account to see recent apps installed. In today’s high tech world, there are even smartphone spy apps that send GPS signals to drones, which then perform video and photo surveillance. To help thwart GPS stealth apps, consider disabling the “geo tag” or GPS option that pinpoints your exact location when using map apps or posting to Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites.
- Use Common Sense: Remember, in this day and age, anyone can walk up to a computer or smartphone 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?