Is Spyware Illegal: Tech Safety Tips for Domestic Violence Survivors

It is Domestic Violence awareness month, so we thought we give you some helpful tips for Domestic Violence Survivors in the hope that you stay safe even while using your digital devices.

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Technology can be both helpful and devastating in a number of ways. Many spouses have at one point thought about spying on their partners, but is spyware illegal? Is there a law that protects spying? Well, in the US, the Espionage Act was passed in 1917 to prevent military interference. Together with other regulations, the Espionage Act protects privacy and explains the situations where spying is illegal. 

Obtaining information about someone without consent or forcefully or tricking people to disclose personal info are all unlawful. The situation is even dire when the information is passed to foreign governments. 

Spyware Laws: Spying Software Legality

Many countries have laws and rules that guide spying. In some countries, you can use software to spy on others, but the universal right of privacy under the Bill of Rights still reigns supreme. So, spyware can be either legal or illegal depending on a number of factors. For instance, the government can infringe on your right to privacy to ensure national security. They use technology (software) to spy on citizens and foreign governments with the sole purpose of protecting their citizens. 

Similarly, parents can spy on their kids to keep them safe. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to offer security and guidance to your little ones online.

If you are using any software to supervise your employees without their consent, then it is illegal. The gadget needs corporate understanding, and the staff members must agree to the spying. Generally, the law allows for consensual monitoring. So, spyware is legal as long as you’re doing it on the right person, it is your garget, and/or the target has agreed to be surveilled.

Having said that, the real challenge is that most people don’t buy spying software for legal purposes only. A good portion of customers buys spyware apps to illegally monitor their spouses. Spyware companies are smart in that they include a legal disclaimer that it is up to you to utilize the app within the legal frameworks.

How to Safeguard Yourself from Spyware

So, as a domestic violence survivor, there are so many steps you can take to protect yourself from illegal spying by your abuser. Here are just a few:

Be Cautious When Surfing the Internet

The best way to protect yourself from spyware is not to download it in the first place. More often, spyware is installed on your computer or smartphone when you visit infected or malicious websites. Always exercise caution with links to unknown websites. Again, only download software from trusted websites. However, if someone else installed spyware on your device, consider running an antispyware program to clear any infiltration. For smartphones, resetting to factory settings could help.

Look Out For Pop-Ups

When browsing the internet, malware can lure you into downloading and installing spyware on your computer. Be careful when windows pop up on your browser. Do not just click or agree to any pop-up alert. Clicking on these links will install malware on your device. Press Alt + F4 to select the red corner and close these pop-up alerts.

Update your Operating System

Regular system updates come with significant benefits like improved security. Like most antivirus solutions, failure to keep your operating system up to date can make your PC vulnerable to the latest spyware threats. Make sure that your computer has Automatic Updates feature turned on to have it automatically download and install the latest security updates whenever they are released.

By following these tech safety steps, you can significantly decrease the chances of someone infiltrating your device with spyware. However, if you suspect that your device is already compromised, it’s a good idea to have a professional sweep it for bugs and other hidden surveillance apps or GPS trackers.

TechWarn for /CW