Digital Revenge… it sounds like the premise for a Michael Crichton or James Patterson novel, or perhaps a bad reality television show, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it is neither fiction nor B grade programming. It is a reality that hits home with growing frequency. Whether it is from a relationship turned horribly upside down, a friendship that ended, or a business deal gone wrong, people have all sorts of ways to use technology and the Internet to seek vengeance against those who have done them wrong. So what can happen when someone feels wronged and lets his or her baser instincts take over?
Your entire online world lives within your email, including your contacts (both personal and professional), sensitive information from your employer, a look into everything you’re doing in the upcoming days or weeks, and it’s also the default mechanism for resetting your credentials to everything else. If someone has it in for you, and can get to your email, they can probably get access to everything else you’re connected to digitally. Make sure your email credentials are secure, use 2 factor-authentication (2FA) if possible, and reset your credentials frequently. There’s really no reason anyone needs access to your email other than you.
In most cases, four little numbers are all that stands between someone who is looking for revencge, and your mobile device. Your email account may require a very strong password, but it’s stored in your phone and that four digit PIN that you shared with all your besties is all that stands between them and your data. Don’t share your PIN with anyone and carry your phone with you, always. It’s not that you don’t trust certain people…it’s that you don’t want to miss a call!
If you use Facebook, your entire life is on there. Who you know, where you’re going, what you’re doing etc., and odds are good that anyone who would seek digital revenge against you is going to be on your friends list and will have access to that. You may be far too old to have to run update your relationship status as soon as you have a falling out with someone, but if you do find yourself severing ties with someone, blocking them on Facebook is something that should be at the top of your list. For everyone else, check your privacy settings and ensure you are only sharing things with people you know and trust.
People’s careers have been ended over careless tweets, so make sure your Twitter account creds are known only to you (and that your mobile phone is secure) so that you don’t have to have that awkward conversation with the world explaining that the horrible things tweeted out weren’t by you, but by someone who hacked your account.
If you have other online personas, like on LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., make sure you safeguard those too. Watch out for someone signing up on more questionable services as if they are you. You really don’t want to try to explain to a spouse why you suddenly have an Ashley Madison account. Safeguarding your real email account won’t keep someone from posing as you, but it will keep them from confirming your details with your actual account. When it comes to online personas, it is also good to keep an eye out for anyone impersonating you and report the fake profile as soon as you see it.
People in both personal and professional relationships are likely to have a shared account with their partner… until they become their ex-partner, after which it may be a race to see who can empty out which accounts first. If you are sharing personal funds with someone else, and it seems like the relationship is heading for an uncertain future, take the relevant precautions to ensure your share doesn’t disappear.
Online video cameras, thermostats, locks, and other IoT systems that you don’t have well secured could be easy targets for someone seeking revenge against you. Imagine if they could watch you in your home; unlock the doors without keys, or crank the heat up during the summer months or turn the air conditioning on full during the winter months. At best, you will have a heck of a utility bill. At worst, burst pipes could cost you big. Don’t share your credentials to these systems with anyone and if your spouse moves out make sure these are changed. For more of these tips you can even have a look at our recent Digital Divorce blogpost.
If you’ve been foolish enough to do something you know better not to do, then you too could fall victim to digital revenge. That means sharing your username and password with others, using the same username and password on multiple systems, not changing your credentials regularly, not using 2FA when it is offered, sharing too much on social media and so much more. Make sure you always protect yourself and never trust anyone with your most personal details.