People are more connected to their technology now than ever before. Our credit card information is saved on our phones and laptops. All of our social media accounts are just a tap away. But as convenient as it is to have access to a smartphone and computer, these devices are potential stalking gateways if not protected.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month and we want to help broaden your grasp on possible stalking threats. So first thing’s first — let’s take a look at your iPhone.
Stalking via phone has become much more advanced than sending threatening texts or serial calling. Take for example the “Find My Friends” iPhone feature, which allows you to see the whereabouts of other iPhone users. Whether you signed up for the feature yourself, or someone signed up for you by gaining access to you phone, your location could be easily traceable through the app. Luckily, it’s simple to tweak the app’s settings so potential threats aren’t able to follow you from their own device.
But if someone has access to your Apple ID information, they may be able to install a parental lock on the Find My Friends feature, thus making it nearly impossible for you to deactivate it. If this happens, Jacqui Cheng from ArsTechnica.com suggests restoring your phone to its factory settings to set it up as a new device. From there, immediately change all your Apple passwords.
In 2016, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned that that potential stalkers who have access to your phone could be able to install a surveillance app, or spyware, onto your device. According to NPR, spyware can be purchased as a subscription service like Netflix or Amazon. Once the stalker has signed up for the software, all they need is a few minutes alone with their target’s phone to install the coinciding app. The companies even explain how to hide the app within the phone so it stays undetected.
These spyware softwares don’t just stop at tracking location. They can pick up text conversations, passwords, websites, and anything the target types into the phone. A stalker can even block other numbers from contacting their target and listen in on phone conversations.
Always keep a watchful eye on your smartphone, especially if a potential stalker is frequently in your vicinity.
Social media sites and apps are also incredibly useful tools for cyberstalkers. Tagging yourself at a location on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, or even posting a photo with a recognizable background, can open you up to being stalked. You may even be unknowingly tagging your location when you post if an app is connected to you phone’s GPS.
Go into your phone’s Privacy settings and either disable all location services or toggle them on and off for selected apps. Also, check your in-app location settings often and refrain from including specific location-related details in social media posts.
The FTC also notes that Bluetooth can be used to track people. When not in use, turn off your Bluetooth on both your phone and computer.
If you’re under suspicion that someone is stalking you, do your best to stay away from social media altogether. Change your passwords for social media and banking accounts, email, and anything else you can think of frequently. Do not accept any new friend requests and privatize your social media profiles. Remove as much personal information as you can from these sites.
Always feel free to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. And if you ever feel in immediate danger, dial 911 right away.