Warning: there is no way to completely cover your movements online. This information can help you to cover your tracks online to an extent, but the only way to be sure is to use a completely different computer, either at a local library, internet cafe, at a friend’s house or at work.
How can an abuser discover your internet and mobile activities?
Spyware (link to Women’s Aid website) is becoming very easy to purchase and install on home computers and mobile phones. You may think that you are safe to access a home computer, not knowing that what you do is being tracked. Find out more about cyberstalking. (link to Women’s Aid website)
Abusers can also look at the history of sites you’ve visited easily…
You don’t have to be a computer expert to track someone’s movements online. As a rule, internet browsers will save certain information as you surf the internet. This includes images from websites visited, words entered into search engines and a trail (‘history’) that reveals the sites you have visited. Below are instructions on how to minimize the chances of someone finding out that you have visited this website.
Warning about deleting cookies and address histories
It’s important to state that there is a risk involved in removing data from your computer. For instance, if your partner uses online banking and has a saved password, then if you clear the cookies on your PC, your partner will realise you’ve done so, because their password will no longer be saved. Also, your partner may notice if the address history on the PC has been cleared, and this may raise suspicion. On all browsers you will have a tab called History or Favorites where you can select individual websites to delete, although other traces of sites (eg cookies, passwords) may not be deleted. One way to lower the risk of suspicious history removal is to use Private browsing mode (see below). However the safest way is to use a different computer.
Private Browsing (name varies for different browsers)
This tool prevents websites from saving any data about you which may leave a trail, such as cookies, history or other browser data created or saved in that session. Your history for that session will also be deleted when you close the window. Not to be confused with Private Filtering, which has another function and will not stop your abuser from seeing your trail!
Generally Private Browsing can be activated in the Tools bar. This will open a new window. Remember only to use this window for your browsing session, and make sure you close it! Leaving this window open will alert your abuser that you are concerned he is tracking you.
Read more about In-Private Browsing (Link to Microsoft website).
However, even though it helps, this mode is not entirely safe, and there are some programmes that can recover deleted files, or a determined person could still find traces of your visit if they read enough “tips” online. Again, the only safe way is to use a computer your abuser does not have access to!
Your browser can store passwords to save you time, but these can also used by someone to access your account. When you first use a password on a site you will be asked if you want the browser to remember it – click no, or browse in Private Mode. However, accidents happen and you may accidentally allow a password to be saved. You can delete saved passwords either as part of your history removal or separately, depending on your browser (see below) – remember that removing all passwords may be suspicious if you share a computer.
Toolbars such as Google, AOL and Yahoo keep a record of the search words you have typed into the toolbar search box. In order to erase all the search words you have typed in, you will need to check the individual instructions for each type of toolbar. For example, for the Google toolbar all you need to do is click on the Google icon, and choose “Clear Search History”.
Manual deletion of history, cookies etc
How do I work out which browser I’m using?
If you know what browser you are using, then skip to the relevant instructions below. If you do not know the type of browser you are using, click on Help on the toolbar at the top of the browser screen. A drop down menu will appear, the last entry will say About Internet Explorer, About Mozilla Firefox, or something similar. The entry refers to which browser type you are using – you should then refer to the relevant instructions below.
Internet Explorer 7 & 8
Click on the Tools menu and select Internet Options. In the General page under Browser History, select the Delete… button. Either select and delete each section: Temporary internet files; Cookies, History; Forms data and Passwords; or select the Delete all… button at the bottom to clear everything.
Mozilla Firefox 8
Click on Tools and Options. Firefox bundles cookies, forms and history under the heading ‘history’. Click the privacy tab, then on “clear your recent history”. Select the period you want to delete. Click on Details to select cookies, forms etc.
To delete passwords click on the security tab where you can view all the passwords saved when you browse the web. You can delete them here and remember not to allow Firefox to save them in the future.
In Firefox you (or someone accessing your computer) can actually read the passwords saved on your system. If you use the same passwords for many things consider changing them all if you have allowed your browser to save any.
You can also adjust how you want Firefox to store your data under the privacy tab.
To remove history go to History, and click Clear History.
To remove cookies go to Settings (right hand side), Preferences, Privacy tab and click Remove all Website Data (or Details to select certain sites).
Chrome, Opera and other browsers
There are many new browsers on the market, so it is always advisable to search for advice on your own browser. For example this tutorial shows you various security measures on Opera, or you can see the settings for Google Chrome.
If an abuser sends you threatening or harassing e-mail messages, they may be printed and saved as evidence of this abuse.
Be aware of how records of your emails can be accessed:
- Any email you have previously sent will be stored in sent Items. Go to sent items and delete emails you don’t want a person to see
- If you started an email but didn’t finish it, it might be in your drafts folder. Go to the draft folder to delete it
- If you reply to any email, the original message will probably be in the body of the message – delete the email if you dont want anyone to see your original message.
- When you delete an item in any email program (Outlook Express, Outlook, Thunderbird etc) it does not really delete the item – it moves the item to a folder called Deleted Items. You have to delete the items in Deleted Items to remove them completely
- If there’s a risk that your abuser may know how to access your emails, it’s a good idea to set up a new email account. Use a provider like Hotmail or Yahoo for an account you can access from anywhere, and use a name that is not recognisable as you, for firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep this email secret.
If you do not use a password to log on to your computer, someone else will be able to access your email and track your internet usage. The safest way to find information on the internet, would be at a local library, a friend’s house, or at work.
If you do use a password make sure it’s one someone who knows you can’t guess, such as your pet or birthdate, and change it regularly.
This information was taken from the Women’s Aid website.