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Technical abuse in the domestic environment

By Simon Lincoln | 08 Apr 2022

Technical abuse in the domestic environment

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Technological advances have allowed ‘intimate-partner-violence’ to take new forms, including access to private information, control over online accounts, and the use of electronic devices to track one’s whereabouts.

If you are seeking information about domestic violence and ways to get help, it is possible for your partner to track your actions. It is vital to protect your online activities and understand the ways in which technology may compromise your safety. Your online activity can be monitored through a number of ways, including spyware, hacking, and keystroke loggers, so be conscious of what you post online. Even if you are careful about deleting your browser history, it is still possible for someone to gather information about what you are doing with your computer. Whether or not someone has direct access to your computer, it is still possible for them to remotely access your computer.

Abusive people are often controlling and want to know your every move. You don’t need to be a computer programmer or have special skills to monitor someone’s computer and Internet activities—potentially anyone can do it and there are many ways to monitor with a variety of programs available.

If you think you may be monitored on your home computer, be careful how you use your computer since an abuser might become suspicious. You may want to keep using the monitored computer for innocuous activities, like looking up the weather. Use a safer computer to research an escape plan, look for new jobs or apartments, bus tickets, or ask for help.

Email and Instant/Text Messaging (IM) are not safe or confidential ways to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life. If possible, please call a hotline instead. If you use email or IM, please use a safer computer and an account your abuser does not know about.

Abusers are finding increasingly more sinister and diverse ways to intimidate their victim’s technology, including smart locks, thermostats, WiFi hubs and home hubs. The charity ‘Refuge’ (For women and children against domestic violence), reports examples of recording and listening devices being concealed in furniture and household items, some so small you wouldn’t see them, and with battery lives of up to six months. They’ve also seen tracking devices attached to cars or installed on mobile phones.  When I first became a detective, I worked in the field of domestic violence and worked closely with Refuge.  I can’t put into words how important and essential Refuge is for many people.

Victims have reported having their Wi-Fi compromised to remotely lock doors, effectively imprisoning them in their own homes; perpetrators changing the temperature on smart heating to cause discomfort or controlling other aspects of the house remotely such as switching lights on and off. The problem has evolved and become that common in recent years that Refuge now have a dedicated tech advice page on their website.

Although this type of abuse wasn’t common when I was a police officer, domestic abuse was, and can be extremely stressful on the victim, dangerous and many times the victim feels isolated and trapped. Valkyrie has seen a rise in domestic issues involving technology and is giving potential victims advice on how to best combat this threat.

Please refer to our post of 30th March about emergency relocation procedures.  If you need advice, please email security@valkyrie.co.uk or telephone 02074 999 323.  In an emergency, always call 999.

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