I’ve been answering tech and digital-lifestyle questions on my national radio show and podcast for many years. At this point, I’ve heard it all. I also notice trends. Sometimes, everyone wants to know about app privacy. Use these steps to stop companies and people from tracking your every move.
More and more, I’m hearing from people who are being stalked online — or who suspect they are. Here’s how to tell if you’re being paranoid or being watched.
For those being stalked or digitally harassed, it’s a terrifying experience and one to take very seriously. Here’s my guide to protecting yourself online.
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A note about stalkers and digital spies
One of my listeners, Rhonda from Boston, called because a hacker had been tormenting her for seven years. They disabled her home security system, broke into her car, and changed her passwords. Jill from Phoenix said she’s been dealing with similar invasive issues for two years.
One family’s issues ended with an arrest after a stalker tricked the college-aged daughter of a caller to my show. Find out how my team and I helped her out here—scary stuff.
In my experience, these stalkers are almost always people who are or were close to the victim.
If something strange happens — your passwords are hacked, someone is logging in to your accounts, you find an AirTag on your car or in your bag — consider who in your life could be behind it.
I don’t say this to scare or make you question your friends and loved ones. Instead, finding out who is behind these invasions can often take a long time, and you need to think logically from the start.
PRIVACY SMARTS: How to catch anyone spying on your text messages
Start with your router
I like to start here because so many people forget about just how much info someone has if they know the login to your router. Theoretically, they can see what you do online and what devices are connected.
That, in particular, can be dangerous. It allows a stalker to see if you’re home and using the internet from your phone, for example.
If you’re concerned that someone is accessing your devices or knows too much about your life, get a new router. Be sure to reset the default password as soon as possible.
No idea where to start with router shopping?
- Best router on a budget for a small home.
- An affordable option for a medium-sized home.
- Best budget mesh system for medium and large homes.
- Powerful mesh option for a lot of users in large homes.
Change your passwords
Are you recently divorced? You need to do a lot of work to untangle your digital life from your spouse. Start here with my guide to breakups in the digital age.
Whether or not the person harassing you is your ex, they may have found their way into your accounts, and that’s a big problem. Start with your most important logins — like your email, cloud storage, and bank — and change the passwords.
No repeating passwords, and don’t use anything easy to guess. Consider using a password manager to keep track of them.
Use stronger two-factor authentication
Add an extra layer of security to your accounts by enabling two-factor authentication. Yes, you can do this via text, but it’s not the safest way. I recommend using an authenticator app. These apps generate one-time login codes. You need the username, password, and code to get into an account. Here’s a primer on how they work.
Be on the hunt for malware
Check your monthly data usage, look for unexplained charges on your bill and take sudden pop-ups as red flags. Use antivirus software to scan your devices for any malware or spyware that may be installed. My pick is my sponsor TotalAV. For a limited time, it’s only $19 a year for five devices.
When the issue is with your phone, a full factory reset is the easiest way to start fresh. Scroll to No. 2 for the steps to do this for an iPhone or Android. Be sure to back up your photos, videos, and messages first.
Update your software
Make sure all of your devices are running the latest versions of their operating systems and software. This patches security vulnerabilities that hackers may have exploited.
Consult a cybersecurity professional
When I hear about a sure case of cyberstalking, I highly recommend reaching out to a cybersecurity professional. You should contact your local authorities, but someone specializing in digital forensics may have time and resources your local police department doesn’t.
Need help? Send me an email here. I read them all myself.
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