Privacy For Lovers: How To Spy Proof Your Devices

BreakingModern — We know the government tracks our every move online. Just as creepy — some would say creepier — is that your boyfriend or girlfriend can easily do the same.

Smartphones, tablets and other personal devices have created vast opportunities for your romantic partners or wannabe significant others to violate your privacy. Sometimes privacy intrusions are motivated by innocent concern. As in: My wife is late. She’s not picking up her iPhone. What if she had a car accident and she’s slumped over the wheel in a gully somewhere, bleeding to death? Since I know her Apple Store password, I can use FindMyiPhone to find my wife and rescue her … or trace her to her personal trainer’s bed.

Whether in love or in like, what starts out sweet sometimes turns ugly. An NPR survey of shelters for abused women found that 85 percent of shelters worked with women whose batterers had used smartphone-based GPS to track them.

NPR reports:

“Counselors in St. Paul, Minn., had to call the police when an abuser banged on the safe house doors; he had tracked down his wife using GPS. In Dallas, a woman inside a group therapy session thought her phone was off, but it turns out it was feeding data to her abuser. In Jamaica Plain, Mass., counselors had to help one victim debug her shoes after finding a GPS tracker embedded in them. A few shelters say abusers gave iPhones to their children as a gift, during the parents’ separation, in order to track down the mom.”

Spyware like mSpy, PhoneSheriff and MobiStealth are marketed as ways for parents to keep an electronic eye on their teenage children (who are supposed to know they’re being tracked). But anyone can buy them — and install them surreptitiously on someone else’s phone — which makes these programs a stalker’s delight.

Once installed, mSpy is invisible on the target phone. Soon the victim’s every movement — literally — is fed second by second to the tracker’s computer. “Contacts, call logs, text messages, call recordings (full recordings of entire conversations), photos, video files, and a log of every website visited by the person being stalked”… mSpy saves it all.

“There’s also a keylogger function, to record everything the victim types into his or her smartphone. Say the victim goes to do some online banking at Wells Fargo or Citibank. The stalker can see the website being visited, and the username and password typed in, gaining full online access to the victim’s bank account.”

Why You Should Change Your Apple Store Password First

Not only can your stalker know exactly what you do and who you do it with, he or she can sabotage your attempts to find someone less clingy. Toward the end of her marriage, a friend noticed that her phone rang whenever she got close to her boyfriend’s home.

“It was uncanny,” she recalled. The calls stopped right after she changed her Apple Store password.

Apps like mSpy allows stalkers to block incoming calls and texts from any number. When you stop hearing from your new beau, you might assume they’re no longer that into you.

What, if anything, can you do to stymie the NSA-like guy or gal in your life — or one who fantasizes about inserting themselves into it?

Everyone Has Something to Hide, Right?

First and foremost, disabuse yourself of the notion that if you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to hide. Even if you’re not cheating, you have the right to privacy. You need personal space. Most of all, anyone who wants to follow you around, whether in real life or in cyberspace, is someone incapable of maintaining a healthy, loving relationship. Stalking isn’t love. It’s control.

Second, don’t share your passwords.

Sounds basic — you’ve heard this for years — but Americans don’t follow this advice. A recent study found that 67 percent of people in married or committed relationships share their passwords with their partners.

“I am a psychologist and a sex therapist and I say it is not wise,” relationship counselor Judy Kuriansky told CBS. “I think it’s best if both of us were to keep a little personal life to ourselves.”

You can’t install mSpy or those other spyware programs without the phone owner’s password. If you’ve already shared your password, change it. Which you should do frequently anyway, to keep hackers off their game.

Third, get in touch with your inner techie. Spyware leaves telltale traces in the form of file names unique to each program. Check your devices — all of them — for those exact names. If you find them, you’re being monitored.

If you’re infected, install anti-spyware software that counteracts the program you’ve got, or wipe your device clean and restore from a saved backup that you know predates the spyware installation date.

Consider using an encryption program like the open-source TrueCrypt to make reading your data a pain in the ass. On email programs like Gmail, think about activating the two-step authentication option.

Step four: If you’re sure you know who installed spyware on your device, DTMFA. The undeniable hotness of the movie “Secretary” aside, command and control is for war zones, not romance.

For BMod, I’m .

Image Credit: Padlock” by Alyson Hurt from Alexandria, Va., USA - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Featured and Header:Man Shadow“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Ted Rall

Author: Ted Rall

Based in New York, Ted Rall is an award-winning political cartoonist, essayist and Pulitzer Prize finalist. He covers news, justice, music and privacy for BreakingModern. Follow him @TedRall.

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