Breaking up with people has become much more complex in the digital age, with shared logins and apps meaning your ex could be watching you long after you have split.
If you have shared devices, it’s perfectly possible that an ex could access your email – and from there, your bank accounts, by resetting passwords.
If your partner is abusive, they can also use tech to spy on you or even track you, or use your images to make AI porn, warned cybersecurity and privacy expert, Laura Kankaala at F-Secure, speaking to DailyMail.com
Even smart light bulbs can pose a problem, she explained.
Cybersecurity and privacy expert, Laura Kankaala at F-Secure (F-Secure)
Cyberstalking affects millions of Americans, with three million people stalked using technology in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The alarming fact that too few people know is that 67 percent of cyberstalking victims know their stalker, according to U.S. Government research.
Kankalaa said: ‘Stalking and leveraging modern technology such as AI for harassment, can also be a serious threat if the digital break up isn’t watertight.’
See what devices are looking at your accounts
When you’re a couple, it’s very easy to share technology without thinking about it – but this can mean an ex has access to your email and other private messaging.
Kankalaa said: ‘It’s likely that at some point you may have used your ex’s tablet or laptop at some point which may have inadvertently saved your passwords or have logged in but forgot to log out.
‘Before you leave, make sure you check and remove any access the device has. Many apps such as Gmail, social media platforms and others let you see what devices are currently logged in with your credentials.
‘If you see a device you don’t own, you can remotely log them out from the settings.’
Remove dangerous devices
Devices such as Apple Airtags and home security cameras can be used by abusive partners, so it’s important to disconnect yourself from anything dangerous.
That even extends to ‘smart’ lighting in the home, Kankalaa warned.
Kankalaa said: ‘ It’s also important to remove shared Apple AirTags or other similar devices used to track location of items – that could provide an ex partner with a wealth of information about your whereabouts.
‘If you’ve shared devices or accounts, revoke access to your ex-partner straightaway. This includes streaming services, location services, virtual assistants, cloud storage, and shared devices.
‘Although useful in many ways, this technology could potentially be misused to track and harass an ex i.e. connected doorbells and cameras make it possible to watch what someone is doing from anywhere in the world, door sensors could reveal when someone leaves the house and lights with smart bulbs can show movements between rooms.’
It’s very easy to ‘clone’ your voice if a partner has access to recordings of you – for instance, on a shared social media account.
Cloned voices can be used for anything from deception up to bank fraud.
Kankalaa said: ‘It’s also trivial to clone anyone’s voice – just one minute of sample audio of your voice, obtained from social media for instance, can be used to create a really convincing AI generated version of your voice.
‘Illicitly using this technology could be used to send voice messages using your voice for defamation purposes. Unfortunately, modern technology may make the aftermath even worse.
‘Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) makes it possible to create convincing fake images, videos and audio of anyone – by anyone.
‘Deepfakes can be created with really easy-to-use applications that don’t require any technical expertise to use. In the worst case scenario they are misused to replace someone’s likeness for instance to pornographic material.
‘There are troubling examples around the globe of how fake pornographic imagery has been used to bully, harass or even threaten people.’
Revoke your partner’s access to social media accounts and shared image libraries, Kankalaa advises.
Change the passwords you DIDN’T share
Most of us will have shared accounts with a partner (for Netflix, for example, or Uber Eats), but the key thing is to change EVERYTHING, including ones you didn’t share.
Kankalaa said: ‘Your partner may know you well enough to guess what your password would be for all your accounts so better to be safe than sorry. It’s vital to have strong, unique passwords across accounts to be protected. Regularly change these and make use of a password manager to organize them all.’
Check for ‘stalkerware’
If you’re in an abusive relationship, it’s very possible that your partner might install software to monitor you.
Abusive partners commonly use tech to spy on their exes (Shutterstock)
Kankalaa said: ‘This is one of the most important actions after a difficult break-up from a hostile partner and should be the first check. Stalkerware apps can be used to track a person’s location in real time, access call logs, read messages, listen in through the device’s microphone and even access the camera to spy on a person or their surroundings.
‘One of the tell-tale signs of stalkerware app installation on an Android device is that it may become very warm due to constant location tracking. For the iPhone, it’s best to go through the list of active sessions on iCloud to see if any unrecognised devices have access to information on your phone.
‘To check for stalkerware look at your device’s application list. If there are any apps that you don’t recognise, investigate further what they are.