It should never be a survivor’s responsibility to stay safe but knowing your options for online safety and privacy can help you make the choices that are best for you!
It is always good to be thinking about your safety while using chat or text supports. In some ways using a text/chat service can be more discreet than using the phone line. For one, you don’t have to worry about being overheard! However, there are a few different things to keep in mind. If you think someone may be tracking you online or on your phone, trust your gut and take precautions.
SACHA’s WebChat is end-to-end encrypted, which means that it is scrambled into a code on our computer and then it is unscrambled on your computer. That way, if someone tries to intercept the messages they will not be able to understand them. However, when using text (SMS) your messages have to be passed on by your phone company, which means they cannot be securely encrypted.
There are lots of simple privacy measures you can take. Take care that you are in a place where no one can read over your shoulder and be prepared to switch away from our web page quickly. There is a bright yellow button at the top of our page that says “Quick Hide” and if you click on it you will go immediately to Google News. You can also have two windows open at once and close the window with the SACHA webpage, leaving you with just one window with a site of your choice like Facebook or any other site you visit often.
Our safe support app does not store our messages in any form, but if you are texting from your cell phone you will need to delete all of our texts by yourself. If you are on the web you can delete our website from your history or delete your entire history, though beware it may look suspicious if all of your history is gone. You can use a private browser mode like “incognito” on Chrome to prevent our website from showing up in your history at all.
Frequently changing your passwords and the way you unlock your phone is an excellent idea. If you are questioned, you can say that you’ve read news reports about people’s passwords being leaked by hackers – which is all too common. Make your new passwords hard to guess: using phrases that are long but easy to remember is actually more secure than using lots of numbers and symbols. Beware of reusing passwords to make sure that no one is able to access your bank, social media and a GPS ‘find my phone’ feature if you are using just one password. If someone could be tracking you do not rely on autofill passwords, and make the password to log-in to your device as strong as possible. Beware of fingerprint scanners or face recognition on your devices if you live with the abuser because they may be able to unlock them when you are asleep.
Make sure your security questions are strong. Your abuser is likely to know your mother’s maiden name and where you went to elementary school, or this information can often be found on social media or through Google searches. Instead of using the correct answers, you can use random memorable words— perhaps list your mother’s maiden name as ‘potato’ and your elementary school as ‘dinosaur academy.’
If you are worried that you are being stalked online by an abuser then you may want to check for spyware that they could have installed on your phone, tablet, or laptop. Spyware can include things like keyloggers that track everything you type and would be able to record your passwords and your chats with SACHA, family, and friends. Getting rid of spyware sounds very intimidating! Luckily there is a lot of information online about finding and removing it by yourself or using software for this purpose. You can use online resources or visit your phone/computer repair shop for help. In the meantime, you may be able to get a pay-as-you-go phone or borrow devices from family and friends.
We live so much of our lives on our phones and online so it is important to protect our digital realm. Even if the rest of your life is controlled by abuse, you can carve out a safer space for yourself doing things like using SACHA’s WebChat/TextChat Supports or 24-Hour Support Line, researching services and resources online, connecting with family and friends and making safety plans. Learning how to safeguard your technology can open up a world of possibility and freedom that you can use however you wish.