Ensure your privacy and safety on the Internet

Hiding your internet activity

When you visit a website, some information may be saved on your computer, by your browser or your search engine. If you want to make sure that the wrong people don’t know that you have visited this website, or any other website related to domestic violence and abuse, here is some advice on how to cover your tracks.

The first thing you need to figure out is the type of browser that you are using to make your internet search. If you do not have this information, you can find out by clicking on “Help” or “?” in the toolbar on top of your screen. A list of options should appear, including one stating “About Firefox” or “About Google Chrome”, “About Internet Explorer”, or whatever your browser’s name is. See the example below: the browser used is Mozilla Firefox.

 

Once you have this information, follow the instructions below.

 

With Mozilla Firefox

 

In the toolbar, click on History, then Clear Recent History.

Alternatively, press down keys Ctrl and H on your keyborad simultaneously.

The following window should appear:

Tick all the boxes, then select the relevant period of time you want to clear the history of, and click on the button titled “Clear Now”.

 

With Google Chrome

 

Copy and paste the following address in your address bar: chrome://settings/clearBrowserData

(If you can’t figure which one’s the address bar, just press F6 ; that should take you right to it.)

Alternatively, you may press down on Ctrl and H keys on your keyborad. You can also click on the following button (top right of your screen) and then select History in the list:

Then click on Clear browsing data:

The following screen should appear:

Tick all boxes, select the relevant period of time that you would want to clear the history of, and click on the “Clear Browsing Data” button.

 

With Internet Explorer

 

Press down on Ctrl, shift and H keys on your keyboard simultaneously. A sidebar should appear, displaying all the addresses you have visited. Find any entries that say http://chayn.org/, right click on them and choose “Delete”. Do the same for every other website related to domestic violence that you have been visiting.

 

With Netscape

 

In the toolbar, select Tools, and then click on Clear Private Data.

The following window should appear:

Tick all boxes and click on the “Clear Private Data Now” button.

With the method described above, it is not possible to choose the time period you want to erase the date from. If you do not wish to erase all of your browser history, you can choose this alternative method:

Press down the keys Ctrl and H on your keyboard simultaneously. The following sidebar should appear:

Find any entries that say http://chayn.org/, right click and choose “Delete:. Do the same for every other website related to domestic violence that you have been visiting.

 

With Opera

 

Press down on Ctrl, Shift and H keys on your keyboard simultaneously. A new window should appear, displaying all the web addresses you have visited. Find any entries that say http://chayn.org/, right click and then click on the “Delete” button on top of the page. Do the same for every other website related to domestic violence that you have been visiting.

Private Browsing

You can also cover your tracks beforehand by activating the “Private” mode before you start using the internet. This mode may be particularly useful if you have reason to believe you might be interrupted in your browsing or may not have time to go back and delete your history afterwards. Here is how to activate it:

Firefox: press down Ctrl, Shift and P keys on your keyboard simultaneously.

Google Chrome: press down Ctrl, Shift and N keys on your keyboard simultaneously.

Internet Explorer 8 and 9 (older versions do not have a “Private” mode): Press down Ctrl, Shift and P keys on your keyboard simultaneously.

Opera: press down Ctrl, Shift and N keys on your keyboard simultaneously.

Using both the “Private” mode and the history deleting techniques explained above might be a good idea to make sure your tracks are effectively covered.

Toolbars

Toolbars such as Google, AOL and Yahoo keep a record of the search words you have typed into the toolbar search box. In order to erase all the search words you have typed in, you will need to check the individual instructions for each type of toolbar. For example, for the Google toolbar all you need to do is click on the Google icon, and choose “Clear Search History”.

 

Keeping your e-mails private

 

When you send and receive e-mails from other people, your correspondence is always saved either in your inbox, sent mail, draft folder, or even discarded mail folder. Sometimes, some e-mails are considered by your service provider as junk mail and sent automatically to a dedicated folder. This means several things for you. First of all, it means that if an abuser sends you threatening or harassing e-mail messages, you can come back to these messages later, even print them and use them as evidence of this abuse.

 

On the other hand, it also means that you need to be careful with your e-mail box. For instance, if you think your abuser or someone you know may gain access to your e-mail box without your consent, then you need to get rid of the messages you think may compromise you if they are to be found by the wrong people. This means not only deleting them from you Inbox or Sent messages box, but also from your Discarded box (which could also be called Deleted or Trash depending on which program you use).

 

Most service providers (Outlook, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc…) have support pages that explain how to properly discard a message, and make sure it cannot be recovered in the future. If you have any reason to believe your abuser or someone else may be able to gain access to your e-mail without your consent, we strongly advise that you refer to those support pages in order to learn the proper procedure to ensure deletion.

Reminder:

 

Information above may not completely hide your tracks. The safest way to find information on the internet is to use a computer that your abuser is unlikely to use himself: at a local library, a friend’s house, or at work.

 

Cyber-stalking

 

Some people may use the Internet and its anonymity as a way to commit another kind of abuse, called cyber-stalking.

It is difficult to define cyber-stalking because it can occur in many forms.  As technology evolves, so does the practice of cyber-stalking. A web-savvy stalker can wreak havoc on the online life of a victim. This can be incredibly damaging, increasingly more so as a growing number of people use the Internet to pay bills, make friends, date, work, share ideas and find jobs.

Some examples of tactics a cyber-stalker may employ include:

  • Sending manipulative, threatening, lewd or harassing emails from a variety of email accounts.

  • Hacking into a victim’s online accounts (such as banking or email) and changing the victim’s settings and passwords.

  • Creating false online accounts on social networking and dating sites, impersonating the victim or attempting to establish contact with the victim by using a false persona.

  • Posting messages to online bulletin boards and discussion groups with the victim’s personal information, such as home address, phone number or Social Security number. Posts may also be lewd or controversial – and result in the victim receiving numerous emails, calls or visits from people who read such a post online.

  • Signing up for numerous online mailing lists and services using a victim’s name and email address.

Cyber-stalking is difficult to combat because the stalker could be in another country, state/province or city; or sitting three cubicles away from the victim. In the anonymous world of the Internet, it is difficult to verify a stalker’s identity, collect the necessary evidence for an arrest and then trace the cyber-stalker to a physical location.

For a list of state cyber-stalking laws, see the National Conference of State Legislature’s State Electronic Harassment or “Cyber-stalking” Laws .(Shouldn’t there be something on online crimes laws in Pakistan. Far as I know, there’s cyber crimes laws in Pakistan which were passed in 2007)

If you are a victim of cyber-stalking, try to gather as much physical evidence as possible and document each contact. For more information and tips, visit the National Center for Victims of Crimes webpage: If You Are a Victim of Cyber-stalking. (Shouldn’t there be a link to a similar page on Chayn? With tips, I mean.)

The fact that cyber-stalking doesn’t involve physical contact doesn’t mean it is any less dangerous than “real life” stalking. It’s not difficult for an experienced Internet user to find enough of the victim’s personal information, such as phone number or place of business, to establish his or her physical location.

Social networking, through websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Meetup and LinkedIn, present security issues for victims of stalking. A profile on a social network might include information such as your email address, phone number, general (or even specific) address information, birthday, legal name, names of family members, and even minute-to-minute updates on your location.

If a victim has a public profile, a stalker could easily access any information posted to the social networking account. Even with strong privacy settings or a private profile, a stalker might be able to access your account.  A few of the ways this can be accomplished include:

  1. Hacking your account.

  2. Creating a false profile and sending a “friend request” or “follow request.” The request may even appear to be from a known friend or family member. Verify with your friends and family members that they own the account before accepting the request.

  3. Gaining access to the accounts of your already-established connections (such as Facebook friends or Twitter followers).

If you are a victim of stalking, consider suspending your social networking accounts until the stalking has been resolved.  If you decide to continue to use social networking sites, here are a few tips to help keep you safe:

  • Take advantage of privacy settings. With some social networking sites, you may be able to make your profile completely private simply by checking a box. With others, such as Facebook, privacy settings can be complex to navigate.

  • Take advantage of added security settings.  One of the best examples is two-factor authentication.  When you enable this, your account will require you to provide something you know (like a password) with something you have (like a specific device).  Therefore, if someone gets your password he or she will not be able to log in to the account without the specific code that the service sends to your device. Lifehacker has an article titled “Here’s Everywhere You Should Enable Two-Factor Authentication Right Now” that lists specific sites offering two-factor authentication (note that the article is from August 2012 and that you should not consider the list complete).

  • Limit how much personal information you post to your account. For example, you may not want to include contact information, your birth date, the city you were born in or names of family members.

  • Do not accept “friend requests” (or “follow requests”) from strangers. If you recognize the individual sending the request, contact him or her off-line to verify he or she sent the request.

  • Warn your friends and acquaintances not to post personal information about you, especially your contact information and location.

  • Avoid online polls or quizzes, particularly those that ask for personal information.

  • Don’t post photographs of your home that might indicate its location. For example, don’t post photographs showing a house number or an identifying landmark in the background.

  • Use caution when joining online organizations, groups or “fan pages.” Never publicly RSVP to events shown online.

  • Use caution when connecting your cell phone to your social networking account.  If you do decide to connect your cell phone to your online account, use extreme caution in providing live updates on your location or activities.

  • Avoid posting information about your current or future locations, or providing information a stalker may later use to zero in on your location, such as a review of a restaurant near your house.

  • Always use a strong, unique password for every social networking site. Read our 10 Rules for Creating a Hacker-Resistant Password.

  • Final tip: remember, you most likely will not know if your stalker has accessed your online social networking account.  Only post information that would not expose you to harm if your stalker should read it.

The reality is that both cyber-stalking and physical stalking can lead to a physical attack. Always get help quickly, document all stalking incidents and take precautions to protect yourself.

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