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Online safety checklist

This checklist sets out the essential online safety steps for anyone in a domestic and family violence situation.

There is also a checklist for friends and family.

Use this checklist to help identify the steps you can take to increase your personal safety and ensure you can continue to use technology and stay connected:

  • while you are living with an abusive partner
  • after leaving an abusive partner

In some cases, an abusive partner or ex-partner could use spyware to track your movements. Find out more about what to do if you think that spyware is being used.

While living with an abusive partner

While living with an abusive partner

Use a safe device

that your partner cannot access for safety planning — this includes searching for help, online banking, personal chats, online calls or emails. This might be a friend’s phone or computer at their house, or a computer at work or a public library. A safe device is one that your partner is not able to check and does not have access to.

 

Set up a new email account

for safety planning that you only access from a safe device in a safe place. Do not use your name in the email address — for example use whitelillies@email.com, but not YourRealName@email.com. Use this new email for all safety planning such as setting up any new bank accounts or contacting government agencies. If you need to use another email to verify your identity, use a trusted friend’s or family member’s email and avoid any emails or phone numbers your partner may have access to. Keep using old email accounts for day-to-day communication that will not upset your partner or make them suspicious.

 

Trust your gut feeling.

If you think your partner somehow has access to the information in your new email account, set up another new email account on a safe device. Change how you use your current device — do not access anything important on it, or anything that might make your partner suspicious or angry.

 

Do not use saved passwords to access your accounts.

If you are using saved passwords to automatically log into your accounts, this is a simple way for your partner to gain access to your accounts. Change the passwords on all online accounts and do not save the new password in your browser. For more information on creating safe passwords see securing your accounts and devices.

 

Add passcodes, pins or passwords to all devices.

Add a new passcode or pin to your phone or tablet and set Auto-Lock to one or two minutes. Add passwords to computers and laptops so you have to sign in to use them. Do not use birthdates, children’s or pets’ names, favourite foods, colours, singers or band names in your new passwords. For more information on creating safe passwords see securing your accounts and devices.

 

Ditch your device or leave it at home.

If you think your abusive partner is tracking your location through your device, leave the device at home as often as you can, particularly if you are going to a support agency, lawyer, friend or to the police for help. Trust your instincts on this. 

 

Sign off and log out.

Always log off or sign out of social media and email accounts rather than just closing the window, and make sure the privacy settings on social media are private. For more information on privacy settings see the eSafety Guide.

 

Use ‘private’ or ‘incognito’ mode when browsing the internet.

This will stop your website visits being recorded. Alternatively, delete the browser history for the past hour after visiting a website that might make your partner angry.

 

Set rules about what you can safety post to social media accounts.

For example, do not check in to locations and ask your friends not to check you in, post photos of you, or tag you in photos — as this is an easy way for your partner to keep tabs on you. For more information on how to safety use social media see our social media checklist.

 

‘How to’ videos

Our video library is full of step-by-step advice on how to safely use your device, browse the web and use social media.

View now

After leaving an abusive partner

After leaving an abusive partner

Add passcodes, pins or passwords to all devices.

Add a new passcode or pin to your phone or tablet and set Auto-Lock to one or two minutes. Add passwords to computers and laptops so you have to sign in to use them. 

 

Change passwords for all online accounts.

This includes email accounts, logins for social media, all government accounts like MyGov, store cards and travel cards. You may not think that store and travel cards are important, but they log your movements and what you buy at different locations and can be used to track you. Do not use birthdates, children’s or pets’ names, favourite foods, colours, band names or singers in your new passwords. If you are worried you may forget your new passwords leave a list of them at a safe place, like a trusted friend or family member's home. For more information on creating safe passwords see securing your accounts and devices.

 

Check credit card or direct debit payments that may give away your location.

Accounts such as eToll and eTag and public transport travel cards may be linked to the abuser’s credit or debit card. Contact these agencies to have your car and cards removed from the accounts so the abuser can’t track your movements.

 

Search online for your name and phone number.

Check to see what comes up when you Google your name and contact details. You can also check reverse phone lookup websites to see if a search of your phone number reveals any other details about you. If you find any information listed online which should be private, you can contact the website administrator to request removal. Depending on the circumstances, you may have further options under privacy laws. For more information about privacy, see the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s website.   

 

Do not use saved passwords to access your accounts.

If you are using saved passwords to automatically log into your accounts, this is a simple way for your ex-partner to gain access to your accounts. Remember, if you have not changed your passwords, they may still be saved on devices that your ex-partner has access to. Change the passwords on all online accounts and do not save the new password in your browser. For more information on creating safe passwords see securing your accounts and devices.

 

If possible, get a new phone

or a spare phone that a friend is not using. Even basic or older phones will let you make calls. Ask your local family violence worker about programs that provide access to new phones. Get a prepaid service and make sure the bill is in your name, so it does not go to your ex-partner. When setting up a new phone, do not reinstall it from a backup – as this may bring across any spyware that has been installed on your device. 

 

If necessary, get a new phone number,

and block the calling number display so it doesn’t show if you need to contact your ex-partner. This does not work with text messages — numbers will be displayed with text messages. For more information on how to block the calling number display see securing your accounts and devices.

 

Turn off location services, GPS and Bluetooth on all your devices.

Ensure sure that these services are switched off as their default mode and switch on only when needed and safe to do so. For more information on switching off these services see securing your accounts and devices.

 

Check all you child’s devices as well as your own.

Ensure that location services, GPS and Bluetooth are switched off. This is especially important if your ex-partner has given a device to them as a gift. 

 

Install anti-virus protection on all your devices

as this can block spyware. Set it to update automatically.

 

Ensure all software is updated

when updates are available as these usually contain security updates.

 

Don’t use old email accounts

for anything that will give away personal information.

 

Sign off and log out of social media.

Always log off or sign out of social media and email accounts rather than just closing the window, and make sure the privacy settings on social media are private. For more information on privacy settings see the eSafety Guide.

 

Talk to friends and family

and ask them not to identify, tag or check you in on social media.

 

Be selective with future contacts on social media.

Only add ‘friends’ you can trust not to communicate with the abuser. 

 

Update your rules about what can safely be posted to social media,

and what should be avoided. For more information on how to safely use social media see our social media checklist.

 

Use privacy settings on all apps and social media

to stop your personal information and photos being shared.

 

Turn off location settings and geo-tagging on your phone and devices

and ensure that these settings are not enabled in your apps. Do not post your location, or photos that could identify your location, on social media. For more information see our social media checklist and securing your accounts and devices.

 

Provide copies of protection orders to every Government agency you use.

This includes MyHealth, MyGov, Medicare, DSS, Child Support and Centrelink. Ask these agencies to provide written confirmation that your private details will not be accessible by the abuser, particularly if the abuser is your child’s father and is able to access some information about the child. 

 

Do the same with banks, schools, childcare, kindergartens and preschools, sporting clubs

and any other place your child attends.

 

Apply to Australia Post for free 12-month mail redirection.

 

Change your electoral enrolment to 'silent elector'.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is able to put you on the electoral roll or update your details based on information from other government agencies. This means that your address is publicly available and can be easily accessible.
By becoming a silent elector only your name and division will appear on the roll. You can apply to be registered as a silent elector if you believe that having your address shown on the publicly available electoral roll could put your personal safety, or that of your family, at risk. To do this you should go to the Australian Electoral Commission website and fill out the applicable form for your State. Information regarding any protection orders or any police reports may be helpful.

 

Do you have pets?

If you are leaving an abusive relationship and taking any pets with you, consider if you are the registered owner. If you are, contact the registry and/or your local council to confirm or update any contact details and tell them about your situation so your new address cannot be told to your ex-partner.

 

Need to print and scan documents?

Community facilities in libraries and women’s services can be useful to scan, photocopy or email important documents, such as court orders.

 

‘How to’ videos

Our video library is full of step-by-step advice on how to safely use your device, browse the web and use social media.

Go to videos

Stay safe

If you are feeling unsafe right now, call the police on Triple Zero (000) or contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732). Remember your safety is important. If an abusive person learns that you are seeking resources and information, their abusive behaviour may get worse. Learn more and connect with support.

Think about online safety planning regularly

Safety planning, including online safety planning, is not something you do once and then forget about. It is something you need to do regularly. So set a time to go over all of your safety plans, including your personal rules for using social media, every month.

Is spyware being used?

Spyware can tell abusers every call you make, every email or message you send and every place you take your device. It can also be used to take photographs and record conversations. 

It can be hard to know if an abuser has installed spyware on your device. In many cases, low-tech or opportunistic ways of monitoring your communications or movements are more likely to be used by abusive partners or ex-partners. These include using passwords saved in browsers to access email accounts or looking at call logs, chat histories or texts on your phone because it does not have a pin or passcode, or the Auto-Lock takes more than two minutes to lock the device. 

Some signs that spyware or low-tech tracking methods may be being used are:

  • The battery of your device is dying faster than usual or needs to be recharged more often.
  • Unknown programs are operating in the background of your desktop computer.
  • Your phone or computer is slower than normal or takes a long time to open programs or apps.
  • Your abuser knows a lot about what you are doing, where you are, who you are talking to online, through emails, texts and calls — be aware that this could be because they have access to your accounts through passwords saved in browsers or because they have access to your phone and it does not have a pin or passcode.
  • You find a phone in your home or car that does not belong to you.

What to do if you think spyware is being used?

Follow these steps if you think that spyware or low-tech tracking methods may be being used:

  • Use a safe device for all important correspondence. If possible, get a new device, even if it is a very old or basic model. If you get a new phone, do not reinstall it from a backup. Start it as a new device.
  • Use a phone cover that covers the camera on your phone and only take it off when you need to use the camera.
  • Go through the checklist above that is relevant to you, whether you are living with an abusive partner or you have left an abusive partner.

Get help and support

Remember stalking, harassment and abuse are not okay and it is not your fault. This behaviour is upsetting and dangerous, but help is available. Learn more and get help and support.