Domestic Violence from Smart Home Device Spying

When I was doing the customer / market discovery research I found that almost half of all the people we surveyed had someone else configure their home router. Most where configured by a professional, but a lot were done by friends or family. It’s conceivable that a lot of women would have their spouse or boyfriend set up their network devices; thus, giving them all the credentials.

It’s not hacking per se because the person doing the spying obtained the credentials when they “helped” their friend set the device up.

There have been numerous stories about domestic abuse in the news where smart home devices where used by the abuser against the victim. One abuse shelter executive quoted in the article said that they estimated that a third of the cases she deals with involve some sort of electronic spying, harassment or stalking. It appears this is happening enough that lawmakers in New York are writing legislation to specifically address the issue.

If you’re in a situation where someone that you no longer feel comfortable with helped you configure anything on your network, it may be a mistake to assume that they don’t still have the credentials. If you’re not comfortable resetting devices to their factory defaults or updating the credentials, you need to call on someone you trust to help you out. Ideally, they can show you exactly what they do so you can repeat the process in the future. Until this is done it’s best to unplug the device or shut down your network so it can’t be used against you. After you get your credentials refreshed, Off Hours can give you additional piece of mind by minimizing the opportunity for devices to be used against you in the event your credentials are ever discovered or disclosed.

A recent survey of 1,506 American adults commissioned by consumer privacy and security company ExpressVPN explores current password sharing habits among (non-married) couples across video streaming, social media, and other online digital platforms to determine motivations for sharing accounts, along with reservations and associated risks. They found that nearly 8 in 10 Americans in a relationship share passwords with their significant other, and that 25% of respondents confess to currently tracking an ex’s real-time location; 30% confess to secretly logging in to an ex’s social media account.

Add this to long list of reasons to have use a password manager to allow you to give others access to services without giving them the password or allowing them to change it. Password managers also provide an easy mechanism to change passwords regularly with robust and secure password combinations.

Note: If you are in an abusive relationship, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and 1-800-787-3224 for 24/7 support.

B. Crump

Updated: October 13, 2020
Original Publication: March 12, 2020

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