I’ve been answering tech and digital-lifestyle questions on my national radio show and podcast for many years. At this point, I’ve heard it all.
I also notice trends. Sometimes, everyone wants to know about app privacy.
More and more, I’m hearing from people who are being stalked online — or who suspect they are.
For those who are being stalked or digitally harassed, it’s a terrifying experience and one to take very seriously. Here’s my guide to protecting yourself online.
A note about stalkers and digital spies
One of my listeners, Rhonda from Boston, called because a hacker had been tormenting her for seven years. They disabled her home security system, broke into her car, and changed her passwords. Jill from Phoenix said she’s been dealing with similar invasive issues for two years.
One family’s issues ended with an arrest after a stalker tricked the college-aged daughter of a caller to my show.
In my experience, these stalkers are almost always people who are or were close to the victim.
If something strange happens — your passwords are hacked, someone is logging in to your accounts, you find an AirTag on your car or in your bag — consider who in your life could be behind it.
I don’t say this to scare or make you question your friends and loved ones. Instead, it can often take a long time to find out who is behind these invasions, and you need to think logically from the start.
Start with your router
I like to start here because so many people forget about just how much info someone has if they know the login to your router. Theoretically, they can see what you do online and what devices are connected.
That, in particular, can be dangerous. It allows a stalker to see if you’re home and using the internet from your phone, for example.
If you’re concerned that someone is accessing your devices or knows too much about your life, get a new router. Be sure to reset the default password as soon as possible.
Change your passwords
Are you recently divorced? You need to do a lot of work to untangle your digital life from your spouse.
Whether or not the person harassing you is your ex, they may have found their way into your accounts, and that’s a big problem. Start with your most important logins — like your email, cloud storage, and bank — and change the passwords.
No repeating passwords, and don’t use anything easy to guess. Consider using a password manager to keep track of them.
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Use stronger two-factor authentication
Add an extra layer of security to your accounts by enabling two-factor authentication. Yes, you can do this via text, but it’s not the safest way. I recommend using an authenticator app. These apps generate one-time login codes. You need the username, password, and code to get into an account.
Be on the hunt for malware
Check your monthly data usage, look for unexplained charges on your bill and take sudden pop-ups as red flags. Use antivirus software to scan your devices for any malware or spyware that may be installed.
When the issue is with your phone, a full factory reset is the easiest way to start fresh. Scroll to No. 2 for the steps to do this for an iPhone or Android. Be sure to back up your photos, videos, and messages first.
Update your software
Make sure all of your devices are running the latest versions of their operating systems and software. This patches security vulnerabilities that hackers may have exploited.
Consult a cybersecurity professional
When I hear about a sure case of cyberstalking, I highly recommend reaching out to a cybersecurity professional. You should contact your local authorities, but someone specializing in digital forensics may have time and resources your local police department doesn’t.