Online abuse is rising steadily, especially against vulnerable groups such as women and children. Disturbingly, cyberstalking tools are also becoming more popular amongst abusers, as more women and children spend time indoors and online during the pandemic. Husbands, ex-partners, stalkers, and predators are all using such software to spy on women.
What is spyware?
Spyware is a type of malicious software (also known as malware) that allows a threat actor to spy on their target. You may not know that your computer or mobile device has spyware because the malware runs quietly, often disguised as another program. Abusers either trick their targets into accepting spyware or secretly install it themselves.
The malware can allow an abuser to monitor your physical movements, watch you through your webcam or camera phone, take screenshots, or read your emails, text messages, and social media messages. The brand of spyware that abusers use to target women and children is called stalkerware.
How do I protect my online privacy from abusers?
Abusers are using increasingly sophisticated tools to invade your privacy. Thankfully, you can stay safe by using the right cybersecurity software and modifying your practices. Here are some quick tips that can help you:
1. Antimalware Software
You probably have some kind of antivirus software on your system. But what you need is antimalware software that can defend you against all types of malicious software. For example, not only does the anti-malware software by Malwarebytes stop computer viruses and worms, but it also shields you against privacy-invading software like adware, spyware, stalkerware, keyloggers, and Trojans.
2. Pay Attention to Symptoms of Spyware
Does a potential abuser in your life know more about you or your friends than they should? Did this person recently send you a message with an attachment, ask you to download something, or had access to your computer or device? Perhaps they gave you a device or software as a gift? To be safe, use a spyware removal and scanning tool to look for privacy breaching threats.
Additionally, check the apps on your computer and devices. Remove any programs that you don’t need or ask for unnecessary permissions. For example, a painting app shouldn’t need access to your camera, microphone, or GPS.
3. Use Social Media Privacy Tools
Whether you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media platform, you must adjust your security settings with the following steps:
- Turn off location monitoring services.
- Limit all future sensitive posts to trusted friends.
- Limit all past posts to trusted friends.
- Limit pictures and videos to trusted friends.
- Change the visibility of your friends’ list to private.
4. Click Carefully
Malware that invades privacy usually tricks you into installing it. Don’t automatically open emails, text messages, and social media messages unless you trust the source. Stay wary of unknown attachments, links, and websites.
5. Change Your Passwords
Consider changing your passwords if you feel like someone is breaching your accounts. On certain social media and email platforms, you can also check to see the locations of your logins. A long and complex password that’s devoid of common numerical patterns or words can shield your privacy.
6. Enable Two-Step Verification
Two-step verification requires someone logging into your account from a new device or location to follow a second verification step before gaining access. For example, if your ex-partner tries to access your Facebook from their computer with your password, they’ll need to enter a unique code sent to your mobile device or email.
7. Verify New Contacts
Unfortunately, it’s relatively simple for someone to create a new social media profile. Verify new contacts before sharing intimate details or adding them to your friends’ list because they could be abusers in disguise.
While taking steps to secure your online privacy is essential, it’s also critical to seek assistance when you need it. Find the right resources and get help if you’re the target of an abuser.