Covering Your Tracks

January 11, 2009

Domestic violence perpetrators tend to be insecure and paranoid. If you are thinking about leaving an abusive partner, raising their suspicion could put you in danger. If you are reading this on your home computer, you should know that it is possible for them to track what you have been reading if they know how. Don’t panic and close the window, I’m going to give you a couple of tips to help cover your tracks.

Right now, you are using a web browser to view this site. The browser stores information about your session on the Internet, such as what websites you have been to and the dates you have visited them.

Turning off Auto Complete

Auto complete is a feature that automatically finishes web address or search terms you type into a browser. For example, if you go to type www.dogsandcats.com into your browser, as soon as you get to the first “d”, your browser will show all of the websites beginning with “d.” This might include www.donuts.com, www.dogsandcats.com, and www.domesticviolence.com. Whoops! That last one is probably not one you want your partner to see. To turn auto complete off:

  1. In your browser window, click on “Tools”
  2. Click “Internet Options” from the drop-down menu
  3. Click on the “Content” tab
  4. Under the heading for “Auto Complete”, click the “Settings” button.
  5. In this window you can see the type of data being saved. If you don’t want anything saved, uncheck all of these options.

Removing Browser History

Your browser may be collecting information on what web pages you have visited, and at what time. To see what your browser has collected:

  1. In your browser window, click on “View”
  2. Click on “Explorer bar history”
  3. Click on “History”
  4. The tab that opens will show the websites that have been visited for however many days the history is set for.

If you see sites you don’t want your partner to know you have been looking at in there, this is how to remove them:

  1. Click on “Tools”
  2. Click on “Internet Options”
  3. Click on the “General” tab
  4. Under the “Browser History” heading, click delete
  5. Click the option to delete all
  6. Click “Yes” when asked to confirm the delete.

Keyloggers

If your partner is reasonably knowledgeable about computers, it is possible they have installed a keylogger on your computer. Keyloggers can record every keystroke you make. They can take screenshots of what is on your screen regularly. They can log every site you visit, along with times. All of this is done without your knowledge. Basically, if your partner knows more about computers than what you do, you’re better off using a computer that they cannot monitor. Consider going to an Internet café, library, or trusted friend’s house to look up information.

Getting Into Password Protected Computers

Okay, so what if you have separate computers, and your partner can’t possibly get in to yours because you have a super-strong password that they’ll never guess? Think again. If you have a computer running Microsoft Windows, it is ridiculously easy to get into a password protected computer. Here’s an example. Next time you start your computer, press the “F8” key continuously until you are presented with a black screen with white writing. Select the option “Start in Safe Mode.” See that “Administrator” login on your screen? Click that and your in. You don’t even need a password. By default, there isn’t one. Of course, there are ways to stop someone getting into your computer quite that easily, but like I said before, these people are very paranoid. If they know more about computers than you, don’t use one he can monitor.

Recent Documents

What documents have been accessed most recently on your computer? Don’t know? Click on your start menu and hold your mouse over the “My Recent Documents” option. Anything there you don’t want your partner to see? Programs such as CCleaner can clear your electronic breadcrumb trail. There is a link to it on the links page. You don’t want him to know that there are new programs installed for cleaning the computer’s history, so don’t let it install any extras like shortcuts or toolbars. Install the program to the default location. To access CCleaner:

  1. Click on the “Start Menu” (or the “My computer” icon on your desktop)
  2. Click on the “C:” drive
  3. Click on “Program Files”
  4. Click on the “CCleaner” folder
  5. Click on the .exe file. It should look like a red C.

Hang on, if you can access the program that easily, can’t your partner find it too? Yes, they can still find it. But having it three levels deep on your hard drive is much less obvious than having a new bright red icon on your desktop.

Phone

On the subject of monitoring your actions, be aware that any numbers you call will show up on your telephone bill. If your partner’s paranoia is anything like my abusive ex-partner’s, they will probably go through the bill with a fine tooth comb. They may even go to the extent of wire tapping your phone. If possible, use a payphone or phone from a friend’s place.

This is by no means an exhaustive list for covering your tracks. In fact, it barely scratches the surface. The above information will help keep you under the radar of the average Joe or Jane Blow who wants to know what your up to, but doesn’t have the technological understanding or skills to track you effectively. It definitely won’t fool a partner who is competent with computers. Links to useful programs can be found on the links page if you would like to learn more about computer privacy and covering your tracks. Please keep your safety in mind at all times. In fact, if you don’t already know the information presented here, you shouldn’t be using a computer your partner has access to for anything more personal than looking up a quiche recipe.

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