With the evolution of technology and the almost world-wide use of personal computers, computer tablets and smartphones, has come some pretty serious concerns over personal security and digital privacy. Today’s extensive use of Internet and Social Media has helped compound the problem. When two people are happily involved in a committed relationship it is common practice for them to share Email addresses, financial accounts, computerized devices, and even computer user names and passwords. However, when couples first become aware of an affair, embroiled in a contested divorce action, or child custody dispute, there is no better time to be conscious of one’s privacy and digital security.
A Relatively New Problem
Family law attorneys across the globe are reporting having an alarming number of cases involving evidence that was gleaned by the opposing party via the monitoring of some form of digital communications, such as Emails, text messages, and chats. They are also extremely concerned by the revelation that many of their clients are reporting having their confidential communications with the attorney monitored by the estranged spouse.
“..clients are reporting having their confidential communications
with the attorney monitored by the estranged spouse.”
There are several laws, both Federal and State, that make the interception and/or retrieval of electronic communications between others, including Emails and text messages, illegal without the party’s knowledge and consent. Therefore, the use of computer and cellphone spyware programs to read another person’s electronic communications, unless the person using the device is their minor child or employee using a company owned device, is illegal. It is also illegal to hack into a person’s locked computer, cellphone, or Email account, either by using a key-logger device or computer program, or by attempting to guess the person’s password. We strongly caution anyone from attempting to learn about another person’s activities by using one of these methods. Instead, we would encourage you to speak to a licensed professional investigator, or an attorney, about what legal methods may be used to obtain the information you seek. If you suspect that someone may be using one of these tactics against you in Virginia or Maryland, please contact us immediately from a secure phone or computer.
Digital Security Assessment
Due to a the sharp rise in instances of clients reporting being hacked or monitored by a former partner, we developed a program to help clients regain control over their personal security and digital privacy, our Digital Security Assessment.
The first step of this process is to meet with the client to review their individual digital security practices. This consultation includes discussions in the following areas:
- The client’s background to identify a possible motive of an offender
- The security of the client’s current living environment
- The client’s use of telephones and smartphones, computers, shared accounts, online activities, as well as vehicles.
Based on these discussions, we then prepare a list of suggestions for the client on ways that they can help reduce their exposure and the risk of being monitored.
The second step is to examine the client’s electronic devices; including computers, tablets and cellphones. This is done to ensure that the devices are secure; that their software is up-to-date; and that each are free of any surreptitiously installed monitoring software programs. We will also perform a scan of the client’s computer network to ensure that there are no unknown devices accessing it, such as wireless hidden cameras.
The third step is to review the security settings of the Client’s Email, financial, and social media accounts. This will ensure that there are no gaps in the client’s protection against being hacked and having their communications monitored.
The forth and final step in this process is to examine the client’s vehicle for any Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking devices. It is currently legal for a private party to track the location of a vehicle electronically in most states, especially if they have an ownership interest in the vehicle.
If after this four-step process there are still concerns that the client may be being monitored, we will then discuss the option of having a full Technological Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM) Survey, or what is commonly referred to as a “Sweep,” of the client’s home and/or office. A TSCM survey uses advanced electronics to check an area for hidden cameras and listening devices.
A Few Tips
Here are a few basic tips if you believe your digital communications are being monitored:
- Password protect all of your devices and personal accounts
- Enable Two-step Authentication on all Email accounts and specify authorized devices
- Use complicated passwords
- Keep device software up-to-date and utilize virus and malware protection
- Change passwords often and use different passwords for every account
- Create a new Email account and only use for communicating with your attorney and investigator. It is crucial not to link this Email account to your smartphone or access it from any shared or potentially compromised computer or device
For more information about the investigation of privacy intrusion, or to schedule your own Digital Security Assessment, please contact us using a secure telephone or computer utilizing the contact information listed below.