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Online and Technology Safety is about extending our personal safety and security to include how we use the internet and technological devices.
What is Online and Technology Safety?
While this type of safety control can take many forms, a few examples of places where victims can increase their protection of private information include:
- Password maintenance
- Identity control
- Telephone security
- Computer security
- Documenting security breaches and safety concerns
How can I take control of my online safety?
1. Password Maintenance
Below are some tips to help you take control of your online safety through stronger password maintenance.
- Itemize all the most important online accounts that you have. Think about things like email, bank accounts, social media, utilities, etc.
- Choose a password manager program (there are free and paid options) Some options include: LastPass, Dashlane, 1Password
- Setup a password manager with a very strong, unique master password. Consider using a passphrase, like BananaCameraAirJohn1993
- Try to make sure it is something that you will remember!
- You can write down this password and save it somewhere, like a home safe, safety deposit box or secret place in your home.
- Go through your accounts, one by one, resetting the passwords using a random password generator and save them.
- Most password managers have built in password generators or you can use an online generator.
- One you generate the random password, create an entry in your password manager with the website and the new password.
- If you need help with this, how-to’s are available online for each password manager.
- If there is ever an indication that one of your accounts has been compromised, immediately change the password with a new random password, change your email password and reset your password manager’s master password.
- Where possible, enable 2 Factor Authentication with your cell phone! Most major websites will allow you to do this, and, while it is a small inconvenience, it is a significant means to protect your accounts.
IMPORTANT NOTE: NEVER allow your browser to save your passwords. If you have passwords saved in your browser, delete them. You can find instructions for how to do that here.
2. Identity control
There are ways you can control your identity online and make it challenging for others to connect your real identity to your online persona.
- Choose an online pseudonym. Use this on social media, and other sites with publicly or semi-publicly available information about you. Make sure you share this pseudonym only with trusted friends and family.
- Discuss how to manage your identity with your employer. If you work somewhere where you have an email and a public identity, discuss options with your employer. Many HR departments have seen this before and IT teams are happy to facilitate you using a pseudonym for your email and other public information. However, sometimes employers need a bit of educating, especially if there is no HR department. Work with your employer to create a plan that works for you and your job. Here is one resource to assist you in having a conversation with your employer.
- Consider changing your phone number and opting to have it be unlisted. Don’t give out your phone number to people you do not know.
- If needed, get a Voice Over IP (VoIP) number to provide to others (eg. Viber, Google Voice/Hangouts, and Skype).
- There is no need to get a new cell phone. If you believe your actual phone is compromised, conduct a complete factory reset. For instructions, contact the manufacturer, or consult the manual.
- If you are receiving phone calls that are making you feel unsafe, contact the police and also reach out to your phone provider to discuss options.
If you believe your computer is compromised, you can complete a factory reset on your computer. Then, take the following steps:
- Ensure you are running a high quality antivirus and firewall suite(s). For example, BitDefender or Windows Defender.
- Download an antimalware tool, like MalwareBytes and regularly scan your system for problems.
- Don’t install programs that you aren’t extremely familiar with. Check with your IT department at work, or avoid them all together if possible.
- Don’t download attachments in emails that you were not expecting! Get comfortable with the idea of contacting the sender via phone/text to confirm that they sent the email.
It is important to continually document things that happen, including incidents online and with technology. This can assist in updates to court orders and will help your lawyer advocate for court orders to include online contact and interaction with technology.
- Remember to keep Law Enforcement informed, even if they don’t seem to be listening or acting. In order to provide your lawyer with more leverage in court, police reports and other interactions with law enforcement will help solidify your case.
- Additionally, make reports to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). This can be done online without having to meet with a police officer and counts as a report to law enforcement.
6. Ongoing Maintenance
When combating stalking online or other forms of harassment online it can feel like you are running from incident to incident. Block out 1 hour a week to do preventative maintenance and checks on your internet presence.
- Check your accounts to make sure there was no unexpected access (ex. Google will give you login location history).
- Run scans on your computer.
- Check your phone logs.
- Reset passwords you have concerns about.
- Tidy up your documentation.
Taking the steps above to maintain your online and technology safety can help you to feel less like you are scrambling every time there is an incident and allow you to have more control over your situation.
Contact the DC Victim Hotline by phone at 1-844-443-5732 or by chat for more information or assistance in locating services that can help with online and technology safety