Tech Safety: General Tips for Being Safe Online


Whether for work, personal use, or both, technology has become an integral part of our daily lives, helping us plan our day, access information, or simply keep in touch with those we care about. However, technology is also another tool domestic abusers, stalkers, and other dangerous individuals can use to perpetuate their crimes, especially in situations where the person they’re abusing and/or harassing isn’t as technologically fluent as them.

Below are a few handy tips and strategies you can employ to keep yourself safe while using your phone, laptop, or any other technology devices. These strategies can apply to anyone who spends time online, but they can be especially helpful if you suspect your partner is exhibiting controlling behavior and monitoring your online activity without your consent. If your partner (or the partner of someone close to you) is exhibiting behavior in line with technology abuse, domestic abuse, or domestic violence, you can call REACH’s free and 100% confidential hotline at 800-899-4000.

Browse the Web in ‘Incognito’ Mode

When you use a web browser like Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome to access the internet, the browser keeps track of every web page you visit. This can be helpful if you want to revisit a particular website at a later point without manually tracking it down or remembering its address, but it also means that you’re essentially leaving a “digital trail” of all your online activity that anyone else who also has access to your device can look up.

If you want to browse the web without leaving a digital trail, most web browsers have a built-in “incognito mode” which hides your online activity and disables tracking for any websites you visit. The specific features and limitations of incognito mode (also sometimes referred to as “private browsing” or “privacy mode”) vary depending on the specific browser you’re using, but in most cases it will at least ensure that websites you visit aren’t being tracked and that the browser won’t “remember” any forms you fill in (like a Google search or password field).

You can find out how to enable incognito mode for most major browsers by consulting the following Business Insider article:

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Consider the Risks of Saving Passwords or Credit Card Information in Your Browser

If you regularly use a web browser to access the internet, chances are you’ve made an online account somewhere or shopped online at a site like Amazon or another retailer. These days, most web browsers provide the option to “save” or “store” personal information that you would manually enter like account passwords, phone numbers, home addresses, or even credit card information for personal convenience. After all, if you know you’ll be accessing a particular online account or shopping at a certain online retailer more than once, it can be frustrating having to manually enter your information every single time.

However, as you might have already guessed, there’s a dark side to the convenience that storing such information offers. If you save stuff like passwords and credit card information to enable ease of access, you’re enabling it both for yourself *and* for anyone else who might have access to your device. Not storing your passwords and other sensitive data on web browsers is a good online practice in general, but it’s especially important if you think someone is trying to access your device without your knowledge.

Don’t Share Personal Information

If someone with malicious intent is trying to access sensitive information that could be used to harm you…they might simply ask for it. An abuser may ask for something innocuous like the passcode to your phone or your work email address, framing the request in a way that seems beneficial to you (like in case there’s an emergency). Just remember that there’s no good reason for them to have access to such information. Modern smartphones have built-in functionality for making emergency calls without needing the passcode, and there are free email platforms a person can use that negate the need for disclosing work email addresses.

If another person wants to access an account or device of yours that requires a password, take a few moments and enter it yourself, don’t just give them the password. By that same token, pay attention if your partner or someone close to you asks for information that could be used to track or identify you (even seemingly harmless stuff like your parents’ home address or your social media usernames).

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What to Do If You Suspect Technology Abuse

If you strongly suspect your partner is tracking and/or monitoring your online activity, there are more targeted steps and strategies you can implement to keep yourself safe. It might be best to call the police if you’re at all worried your partner might escalate to physical violence, but the person who knows your situation best is always you. Trust your instincts and pay attention if your partner does something that sets off any internal alarm bells.

  • Use a device you don’t normally use (an old phone, a friend’s laptop, a computer at your local library, etc.) to ensure your communications and activity aren’t being monitored
  • Document any incidents or activity you think might be signs of technology abuse (this can help you spot signs of escalation and serve as evidence for police or court hearings)
  • Report more serious incidents to local authorities, even if the harassing behavior is strictly online (just remember to document them first since an online provider’s response to abusive behavior sometimes involves removing the relevant content)
  • If you can still access your online accounts, change your passwords and/or usernames

Additional Resources

If you want to learn more about technology abuse and how you can protect yourself in an increasingly technology-dependent world, be sure to consult the following resources: