Top 4 Tips for Cell Phone Safety

This post was originally written for Military OneSource, a website that provides resources and support for military personnel and their families. The original post can be found here.

According to one study, 89% of service members own a smart phone, and over half report regular social media activity. Our cell phones contain a lot of information about us, so keeping it secure and private from prying eyes is important. Privacy on a smartphone is especially relevant for anyone who may have a spouse or partner who is misusing technology to harass or control them. Here are 4 tips that technology safety experts recommend to keep your device safe and secure.

1.     Lock Down Your Phone

One of the most important things that everyone should do is to put a passcode on their phone. This prevents someone from going through it or installing unwanted apps or malicious software, such as spyware. Most phones allow users to lock their phone with a 4-6-digit code. Pick a code that someone close to you cannot guess and only you know.

Some phones have other passcode lock options, such as a pattern, thumbprint, or facial recognition. Be cautious about allowing others to put into your phone their own thumbprint or facial image. If someone else needed to get into your phone (and you trust them), you can always tell them your 4-6-digit code, and then change it afterwards.

2.     Review Your iCloud & Google Accounts

If you have a smartphone, you likely also have an iCloud (for iPhones) or a Google (for Android) account associated with your phone. These accounts often contain your phone’s back up, and depending on your settings, can also include sensitive information, such as photos, notes, contacts, calendars, and other personal information on your phone.

Unfortunately, these accounts can be accessed not just via the phone but from another phone or computer. This means that anyone who knows the username and password to your iCloud or Google account can log in and see some of the information that’s on your phone. Here are some tips on protecting all that personal data:

  • Make sure that only you know the username and password.

  • Ensure that the email address associated with the account is secure and no one else can access it.

  • Check to see if other devices are connected to your iCloud or Google account and remove those devices if you don’t want it connected.

  • Know what information (photos, contacts, notes, etc.) is backed up to your account. (You can choose what information to back up in the phone’s settings.)

3.     Know the Apps on Your Phone

Millions of apps are downloaded each day. Some of these apps use information from your phone to function (for example, Google Maps needs to know your location to provide directions), while other apps may share information on your phone in more malicious and even dangerous ways.

Here are some steps to increase the privacy and security of your phone.

  • Review the privacy settings on your phone to know what information is being accessed by which apps.

  • Delete apps that you’re not using, especially if they have a lot of permissions to access your data.

  • Deny access request for apps that do not need it. For example, a gaming app that doesn’t involve location doesn’t need your location and shouldn’t require it. 

  • Be cautious and avoid malware and other malicious apps by doing the following:

    • When your phone prompts you for a software update, say yes. These often include security updates to your phone’s operating system.

    • Don’t download apps outside of the official app stores. On Android phones, you can prevent this from accidentally happening by turning off “allow unknown sources” in the security settings. If you have an iPhone, don’t jailbreak the phone so that you can download apps not in the App Store.

    • If you download apps from the Google Play store, turn on Google Play Protect to scan for malicious software before they’re downloaded. 

    • Download anti-spyware and anti-malware tools. 

4.     Choose When to Connect to Wi-Fi & Bluetooth

While most smartphones now ask you to confirm if you want to connect with a Wi-Fi network or a Bluetooth-enabled device the first time, in most cases, if you’ve connected once, it’ll automatically connect again when you’re within range. Unless it’s a secure Wi-Fi network or it’s a Bluetooth device you trust (for example, you own the other Bluetooth device), consider “forgetting” the network or Bluetooth device after you’re done connecting. You can find this option under settings. Choose when to connect your smartphone, but more importantly, choose when NOT to connect.

Help and Resources

If you are concerned about your cell phone privacy and suspect your spouse or partner may have accessed or tampered with your device, help is available. Whether you are looking for help in talking to your partner about “hitting reset” on the use of technology in your relationship to establish healthy boundaries—or want to report domestic abuse or intimate partner violence facilitated through technology—the military community has your back.

You can:

  • Contact your local Family Advocacy Program (Department of Defense program), and an advocate can work with you to develop healthy boundaries in your relationship, create a technology safety plan or help you document abuse involving your smartphone and other devices.

  • Understand military reporting options. Know how to report domestic abuse in the military and what happens when you do. To learn more about military reporting options, including how to manage your safety, contact a Family Advocacy Program victim advocate.

  • Get help from the civilian community. If you are concerned about your safety and need immediate support, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

  • Learn more about technology privacy and security. Information for this article was provided by the Safety Net Project of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. To learn more about cell phone safety and location strategies, see this guide.

New Resource - Judicial Toolkit: Resources on Technology Abuse

We are pleased to announce a brand-new toolkit on technology abuse for judges and judicial officers. As technology becomes more pervasive and is misused to stalk, harass, and abuse, it is more important than ever that judges and judicial officers understand how technology is misused in the context of these cases. Within this toolkit are guides, quizzes, and resources, written specifically for judges and judicial officers on navigating digital evidence and understanding technology misuse in the context of domestic violence.

This toolkit also contains resources on how judges can use technology to enhance efficiency in and improve access to the courts, increase accessibility for self-represented litigants, and examine the changing legal landscape as it relates to the rise of cyberviolence cases.

You can access the Judicial toolkit here.

Don’t forget to check out our other toolkit, specifically the Legal Systems toolkit, written for criminal justice professionals, and the Technology Safety and Privacy toolkit for survivors.

© 2019 National Network to End Domestic Violence, Safety Net Project. This toolkit is funded through a grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this web site and toolkit (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided).

Tech Summit 2020 is Coming to the East Coast!

Call for Proposals is Now Open!

Is your organization using technology to work more effectively with survivors? Has your program or community responded in innovative ways to abusers’ misuse of technology? Have you worked creatively to use technology in ways that maximize survivor privacy and safety?

Safety Net is excited to bring Tech Summit 2020 to Washington, DC. We are in search of presenters who will inform, educate and inspire our audience of law enforcement, attorneys, advocates, and counselors. Workshops should provide tools and information to respond to technology abuse, enhance services for survivors of abuse, and hold offenders accountable.

We’re seeking content on topics related to technology, safety, and privacy that will be applicable to professionals working with survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and/or trafficking. Proposals should be survivor-centered, trauma-informed, and include culturally competent approaches. We welcome and prioritize proposals that are inclusive of marginalized communities and have an intersectional framework.

This link provides a TED Talk by Kimberle Crenshaw, known for the introduction and development of intersectional theory.

The session content should include innovative strategies and support best practices. Any proposal promoting technology to communicate with or for survivors should be grounded in well thought-out principles around privacy and safety.

We are particularly interested in proposals that focus on the following topics as they relate to technology safety, privacy, and confidentiality:

  • The Digital Divide

  • Online Organizing & Privacy Planning

  • Topics Specific to Marginalized Communities, particularly:

    • Tribal

    • Rural

    • LGBTQ

    • Immigrants & Refugees

    • Disabilities

    • Deaf & Hard of Hearing

  • Innovative Practices Using Technology

  • Emerging Technology

  • Data Security for Victim Services Agencies

  • Teens

  • Trafficking Victims

  • Law Enforcement, Courts & Prosecution

Here is a look at our 2019 Program Book.

All workshops will be 60-90 minutes in length. Only relevant and complete submissions will be considered. Submit your proposal for the 2020 Technology Summit.

The deadline for proposal submission is October 4th, 2019. Speakers who have submitted a proposal will be notified of the status of their application toward the end of October or early November.

Please contact safetynet@nnedv.org if you have any questions.

Thank you for the work that you do!

In Peace and Safety,

The Safety Net Team

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Weird Science, The Jetsons, and Everything in Between

NNEDV Staff and Presenters at Tech Summit 2019

NNEDV Staff and Presenters at Tech Summit 2019

Tech Summit 2019 was a blast from the past. With the 1980’s as the guiding theme, this year’s conference centered the week on building on the past to enhance the future. We used the art of storytelling to remind programs about how powerful survivor stories are, while honoring their right to choose, when, how, and with whom they share their stories.

 While a lot has changed with how we engage with technology much still remains the same. This year, as a theme, we decided to go retro and brought in elements from the ‘80’s to incorporate a fun vibe to the conference while maintaining the core tenets of tech safety. Below are some highlights from the 2019 Technology Summit:

1. “My Story, My Choice”: Storytelling was a resonating theme throughout the course of the conference. Survivor Ferial Nijiem, shared her impactful and prevailing story of the abuse she experienced that included the misuse of smart home technology . Ferial’s call to action to advocates, law enforcement, and other criminal justice professionals was simply put: “Believe survivors, even when their story sounds hard to believe!” If we start by believing, we can ensure that survivors are heard and that they receive the resources and support they deserve, especially when technology is involved.

2.“Jane Stop This Crazy Thing”: This year marked the 7th Technology Summit, all following 10 years of annual Training of Trainers conferences. The team endeavored to provide foundational information rooted in the history of advocacy, while updating materials to reflect the changing of times and technology. The Safety Net Team worked hard to revise our fundamental and foundational content in order to present it in a thoughtful way for new and returning attendees. We provided new and interesting resources, while challenging attendees to remember that technology will never replace good old-fashioned advocacy.

 3. “Time After Time”: Each year we bring in expert presenters from throughout the country to share their knowledge on tech-facilitated abuse. Law enforcement, court officials, and advocates learned about new models, skills, and techniques that they could implement to support survivors in their home state, territory, or tribal community. From deepfakes to the gig economy, HUD comparable databases to developing a community-based tech clinic, and so much more, our presenters provided relevant and useful information on working with survivors who are experiencing tech misuse.

Time after time, the presenters who participate in our tech summit, show their passion and dedication to this work, and we could not provide this conference without their expertise.  

4. “Flashdance: What a Feeling!”: Day one of the conference opened strong with our welcome reception. Attendees had the opportunity to network, visit opt-out stations to remove their data from websites, take a Polaroid picture, and play 80’s themed arcade games while listening to throwback jams.

Our closed-door Women of Color Reception provided space for allied professionals to discuss how digital storytelling has and can be integral to our healing journey. Participants discussed how traditional forms of storytelling has now transformed to digital platforms and methods. Finding your voice and sharing your story are substantial forms of healing and while doing so, it is important to practice self-care.

Furthermore, feelings of excitement and anticipation were in the air as we announced that Tech Summit 2020 will be held in Washington, DC! Bringing this conference home next year will allow more professionals on the east coast to gain access to this important information and allow mid-west and west coast attendees to visit the Nation’s Capital. Stay tuned for call for proposals, updates and more!

Tech Summit is one of the biggest undertakings of the Safety Net Team and it would not be as large and successful without the attendees, presenters, funders, and staff who make it all possible. Thank you all.

Read about our 2019 sessions and more in our Program Book.

Until 2020, Cowabunga Dude!

The Safety Net Team

Confidentiality Conference Registration is Open!

Advocates are saying:

“Some survivors don’t reach out because they’re worried about mandated reporting requirements. This gets in the way of us being able to help.”

“What if no one on staff speaks the survivor’s language? How do we find a translator they feel safe with? And what agreements should be in place to protect victims’ privacy?”

“We get pressure from our community partners to share victim information. When we don’t, they get frustrated and that makes collaboration difficult.”

“We don’t have a policy for how to handle confidentiality obligations if there’s an emergency at our shelter.”

Is your agency facing similar difficulties?

Mark your calendar and join us September 9th & 10th in Atlanta, GA for the 2019 National Confidentiality Conference – Strictly Confidential: Protecting Survivor Privacy in Federally Funded Programs!

This training, provided by the National Network to End Domestic Violence and The Confidentiality Institute will help you, as victim service providers, navigate complex federal confidentiality obligations, through in-depth analysis, peer sharing, and scenario problem solving. Participants will explore the many layers of privacy, confidentiality obligations, and technology in a tangible way. Learn how to implement best practices related to privacy and confidentiality while providing survivor-centered services, and how to build strategic relationships with community partners, while respecting your information sharing limitations.

The conference will cover a variety of topics including:

  • Mandated reporting

  • Community collaborations

  • Upholding confidentiality in emergency situations

  • Navigating language access and confidentiality

  • Handling official third party demands for survivor information

  • Selecting and using databases

  • Agency use of technology

  • Implementing survivor-centered best practices

Attendees will gain a deeper understanding of these issues and will be given resources and tools to better serve survivors. Click this link for a copy of the full agenda.

Can’t wait to see you there!

This conference is OVW approved.

Please contact us with any questions. 

 

New Toolkit: Working with Survivors using Text or Chat

Safety Net is happy to announce our new Digital Services Toolkit, filled with resources for local programs who are considering providing services via text, chat, video call, and other digital technologies. Whether your program is just curious, in the process of selecting a vendor, or wanting to improve the privacy and safety of services you already provide, this Toolkit is for you!

The resources include three sections:

In addition to written resources, we’ll be offering a series of webinars in late Spring covering these topics, as well as tailored technical assistance to answer any of your program’s questions. Contact us for more information.

Data Privacy Day 2019: Location Data & Survivor Safety

As we mark Data Privacy Day this year, data about all of us is increasingly collected, shared, and sold: our likes, our account activity, even our movements throughout the day. This is a concern for anyone who owns a mobile phone or uses the internet. But, for survivors of domestic violence, this erosion of privacy can be a risk to safety.

It is important to be clear about the line between consumer privacy risks that anyone might find concerning, and specific risks to the privacy and safety of survivors. Weak consumer privacy protections impact all of us, and yet they can become particularly dangerous for survivor privacy and safety, if exploited by abusers. At the same time, strengthening one can strengthen the other.

For example, location data gathered from the very technology that makes mobile phones work is for sale, as Motherboard revealed in a recent article. They report that cell phone companies, “are selling access to their customers' location data, and that data is ending up in the hands of bounty hunters and others not authorized to possess it, letting them track most phones in the country.”

The risk for survivors is that an unauthorized person like a private investigator could find a survivor’s location at the request of a client who is abusive. While we haven’t yet heard about a case where a survivor was located, those who work with survivors will wonder, “What can we do to support survivor safety?”

An option we often suggest in the safety planning process, is that a survivor can turn off location sharing in their apps and in their device settings. But in this case, location data is generated as the phone pings nearby cell towers, and this has to happen for the phone to receive calls and to use data – basically to work in the way a mobile phone works.

So, our usual advice to turn off location sharing in settings won’t help. Here are other options:

  • Consider leaving the phone behind when traveling to places you don’t want the abuser to know about, and carry a second phone that the abusive partner doesn’t know about

  • Turn off the phone or put it in airplane mode (where cell signal and WiFi are off)

  • Put the phone in a signal blocking bag or container.

  • Remember that the moment the phone connects back to the cell network in a new location, the location data will be tracked.

The big picture take away is that everyone has an interest in working for stronger data privacy protections – for general consumers, and even more so for survivor safety.

Phone location is not the only risk survivors face. Here are some additional resources to increase survivor privacy online and when using mobile devices:

Call for Proposals - Tech Summit 2019

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We are now accepting presentation proposals for the 2019 Technology Summit. Proposals are due Friday, January 18th.We’re seeking proposals for workshops that provide tools and information to respond to technology abuse, help survivors of abuse use technology safely, enhance services for survivors, and hold offenders accountable. Proposals should be survivor-centered, trauma-informed, and include culturally competent approaches. The session content should include innovative strategies and support best practices. All workshops will be 60-90 minutes long. Follow this link to submit your proposal for the 2019 Technology Summit.

When 

Monday, July 29th - Wednesday, July 31st, 2019 – Main Conference

Thursday, August 1st – State, Territory, and Tribal Coalition Day

Where

San Francisco, CA 

What

This unique 3-day training summit focuses on the intersection of technology and domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and trafficking. Covering a wide range of technology-related issues, this conference will be helpful to advocates, law enforcement, and legal professionals who work with survivors of abuse. For more information about previous years’ events you can visit the Technology Summit page or check out the Technology Summit 2018 Program Book.  

Registration

Registration for the Technology Summit will open soon and will be announced with other information through our listservs and on techsafety.org. We have applied for OVW approval.

Please feel free to contact us at safetynet@nnedv.org if you have any other questions. We hope to see you in San Francisco!

Safety Net 2018: Looking Back and Moving Forward

The Safety Net Project spent 2018 continuing to provide training, technical assistance, and advocacy to the field around the intersection of technology and intimate partner violence. In the coming year, we look forward to implementing new trainings and toolkits and continuing to work with partners and funders to address all the ways technology intersects with safety and privacy for survivors. Here’s a quick look at some of our 2018 accomplishments and some of the good work we have ahead of us in 2019.

Technical Assistance

This year we answered over 1,400 requests for technical assistance, spending 775 hours on technical assistance consultations! The most common requests were related to relocation and privacy issues for survivors, responding to technology misuse, and agency use of tech.  In need of Technical Assistance? Fill out our Technical Assistance request form.

Trainings

In 2018, we spent almost 400 hours providing trainings to victim advocates, legal services organizations, law enforcement officers, technology companies, and other community stakeholders. We had the privilege of providing training to not only U.S. based agencies but also internationally. This included agencies in the UK, Singapore, Australia, and Austria, among others. Trainings we provided covered a wide range of issues at the intersection of technology, safety, and privacy. Safety Net is already scheduling trainings throughout 2019!

Legal Systems Toolkit

In September, we launched the much anticipated Legal Systems Toolkit: Understanding & Investigating Technology Misuse. This toolkit helps legal system stakeholders, including law enforcement, attorneys, court personnel, community corrections, and others identify what technology is relevant to a case and how to use technology evidence to hold offenders accountable.

Annual Tech Summit

This year, we hosted our Technology Summit 2018 in San Francisco with our highest attendance rate to date. We had over 320 participants and a great group of technology company representatives and amazing presenters. We also hosted a closed Women of Color in Technology Reception, a closed meeting for Coalition, Territory, and Tribal Coalitions, and an opening reception with demonstrations from technology companies and stations where participants could try products and learn more about technology and privacy. 

Looking Ahead…

Cyberviolence Court Training Initiative

In Spring 2019 Safety Net, in partnership with the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges, will launch the Cyberviolence Court Training Initiative Judges Workshop. This national training will use a new training curriculum to enhance the skills of judges presiding over cases where there is technology misuse.

Smart Victim Tech Secure Communication Platform

The Smart Victim Tech: Equipping and Empowering Victims through Safe Technology Project is an innovative, multi-pronged approach to advance the use of technology to assist victims of crime. In 2019, the project will be releasing a Digital Services Toolkit, and will fund access to the newly launched ResourceConnect secure communication platform for interested local victim service providers, and will launch a new evidence collection app for survivors.

Team Transitions

Lastly, there were some big team transitions in 2018. We said goodbye to Alex Palacios who continues to do victim services work back in his home state of Arizona. We welcomed back Deputy Director, Kaofeng Lee, who worked for two years with our sister Safety Net project in Australia and Rachel Gibson who worked with the National Center on Reaching Victims. We also welcomed Elaina Roberts, who was formerly with the Stalking Resource Center. Looking ahead, we will welcome our newest and smallest Safety Netter in January with the welcomed addition of our Director, Erica Olsen’s, baby!

As the year ends, we reflect on the gratefulness we have for our supporters, tech advocates, funders, and all who work to end violence. We are also grateful to the survivors and direct service advocates who provide us with feedback to guide our work and make us better. We are looking forward to expanding our work to help enhance safety protections for programs and survivors and what #TechSafety means for all.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month

National cybersecurity MOnth Logo

National cybersecurity MOnth Logo

The month of October is often honored as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but we also acknowledge Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Read more to learn about why cybersecurity is important for survivors of intimate partner violence and how we can create a safe online space, free from violence for all.