We’ve all seen the jokes and the gags in movies about couples going through nasty divorces. Probably no movie has ever caused engaged couples to think twice more than “The War of the Roses,” where the divorcing couple played by Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner committed ever-escalating atrocities against one another as their divorce went from amicable to hostile to World War III. But imagine how different things would be today if this movie were rebooted in an age of living online, social media, and a house full of things online.
Kids need to be taught from an early age not to share passwords. That should carry forward into adult life, because whether we’re talking about a dating couple breaking up or a marriage coming to an end, at some point one or both of them are likely to start snooping through one another’s email. If things are hitting the rocks… you need to change passwords! This also goes for the ‘keep me signed-in’ feature many websites have and other features such as ‘remember my password’ or the use of password managers. These tools make spying a lot easier if you leave your personal computer unlocked.
Smartphones, dumb users
Your entire life can be revealed just by looking at your smartphone. Emails, texts, and browsing history are readily available, but with some simple app installations, your smartphone can become a tracking device. If your soon-to-be insignificant other can use the “find my phone” feature for your phone, and if you’re on the same plan they probably can keep tabs on you 24×7… hence the popularity of burners.
Online financial accounts
Bank accounts, credit cards, PayPal, and other financial transactions are now all online, and couples have unprecedented access to one another’s accounts. The details of all transactions are only a click away. Worse still, with the right username and password someone can transfer funds or even close out accounts. Once again, if things are going downhill quickly, changing passwords is the way to go.
Kids these days frequently hack one another’s Facebook accounts, though often hacking there is simply finding them still logged on. But since so many people live their lives online, and communicate with friends and family through Facebook and other social media, if someone has your creds and wants to really mess with you, Facebook is a heck of a way to do it.
So the worst has happened, and one of you is now out of the house. Since Wi-Fi can extend out to the street or even down the road, if you don’t change the Wi-Fi WPA key, your ex-SO can easily get back onto the network from out of sight. Then, once they are on the network they have access to everything else connected to said network. Change the Wi-Fi password, and while you’re at it, change the admin password on all the PCs and tablets and everything else on the network.
You know how to spot phishing messages, and you have antivirus software to protect you from attachments that make it through the email filters, but what if someone who had legitimate admin rights on the PC took 30 seconds to install a remote access Trojan, or configured the browser to use an online proxy? Would you even think to check this? Better safe than sorry… if you’re going through a nasty breakup, it might make sense to wipe and reinstall!
Security system webcams
Imagine if your soon-to-be-ex could watch you online, any time of the day or night. More and more security systems include cameras, and it gets to the point where we don’t even notice them anymore. Which means, think about what you may have done in front of your security camera…
Worse than the cameras, in terms of potential impact, what about those cool remote controlled or digital keypad locks? Have you checked to make sure remote access has been changed? Have you gone through all the codes (many support as many as 32 or more!) and ensured there’s no code entered in the last slot?
Less horrifying impact, and more just a really mean way to mess with someone, think about what you could do to someone if you have remote access to their thermostat. Nest, Honeywell, and others have Internet connected thermostats which makes them easy to program through an app or web browser. Now, imagine what you could do if you cranked up the heat on a hot summer day while someone was at work, or turned off the heat in the middle of winter while they went away for the weekend.
Divorce is a tragedy in any situation, and this article is not meant to give you a list of things to do if you are approaching divorce. The only tip there is to get counselling! But in our digital lives, there are so many ways things we take for granted can be used to take advantage of us, that you really need to think about things whether you are breaking up with bae, kicking a roommate to the curb, seeking a lawyer, or planning a trip to Mexico for a quickie divorce. Think about all the ways that someone could mess with your digital life, and then take steps to secure yourself.