Com­put­er secu­ri­ty and con­fi­den­tial­i­ty — pre­cau­tions to take on sep­a­ra­tion or divorce

In brief

Any­one who is sep­a­rat­ing or has sep­a­rat­ed from their part­ner needs to take imme­di­ate steps to ensure the secu­ri­ty of their com­put­er and oth­er dig­i­tal devices.

Increas­ing use of computers

With the increas­ing use of com­put­ers in many areas of life such as finan­cial man­age­ment and social inter­ac­tion, there has been an increase in the use of com­put­er evi­dence in prop­er­ty set­tle­ment and children’s pro­ceed­ings in the Fam­i­ly Court. It is impor­tant for any­one who is sep­a­rat­ing from their part­ner to be mind­ful of how infor­ma­tion obtained from a com­put­er, mobile phone or oth­er dig­i­tal device can be used by an aggriev­ed or angry spouse.

Send­ing or post­ing con­fi­den­tial information

The safest pol­i­cy is not to use your com­put­er to send con­fi­den­tial infor­ma­tion. Even if you think you have delet­ed infor­ma­tion from your com­put­er, it is pos­si­ble for a com­put­er expert to retrieve that infor­ma­tion. Sim­i­lar­ly, do not post infor­ma­tion which may be dam­ag­ing or embar­rass­ing if used in court.

If you share a com­put­er with anoth­er per­son, do not expect that any infor­ma­tion that is stored, sent or record­ed is pri­vate. There are com­put­er pro­grams designed to access infor­ma­tion that has been delet­ed from com­put­ers, as well as pro­grams which record pass­words. Key­log­ging soft­ware or hard­ware can be installed to record every key stroke, make a record of web­sites vis­it­ed, take screen shots and record print­ing activ­i­ty. Soft­ware and hard­ware of this nature can be hid­den so that you may not know they have been installed.

A few pre­cau­tions for safe­guard­ing com­put­er security
  • Be care­ful of what you write in chat rooms, inter­net forums and social net­work­ing sites. There have been fam­i­ly law cas­es in which the evi­dence used by an ex-spouse was freely avail­able on the internet.
  • In par­tic­u­lar, Face­book and oth­er social net­work­ing sites should be used with great cau­tion as these sites are often tar­get­ed by angry spous­es in fam­i­ly law pro­ceed­ings. For exam­ple, they may access the site to obtain dam­ag­ing infor­ma­tion about you in terms of your fit­ness as a par­ent or your spend­ing habits.
  • Be aware that when you post mes­sages online, your com­put­er address is record­ed and any­thing you write can be traced. It is safest to assume that there is no such thing as an anony­mous post.
  • If you are involved in a par­ent­ing dis­pute, you should avoid poten­tial­ly dam­ag­ing web­sites (for exam­ple, adults only’ websites).
  • Change your pass­word reg­u­lar­ly on your com­put­er, as well as for email and social net­work­ing sites. Use a strong pass­word con­tain­ing a com­bi­na­tion of num­bers, upper and low­er case let­ters and spe­cial char­ac­ters (for exam­ple, # or $). Do not use ele­ments which could be easy to guess, such as your name, ini­tials or date of birth.
  • Be aware that if your spouse knows or can guess your pass­words, they can log in to your account and post or send mes­sages pre­tend­ing to be you.
  • Don’t be lulled into a false sense of secu­ri­ty because your spouse knows noth­ing about com­put­ers. He or she can employ the ser­vices of some­one who does.
  • Back up any impor­tant infor­ma­tion off site.
  • If you sus­pect that some­one has tam­pered with your com­put­er, con­sult a com­put­er expert and/​or speak to your lawyer.

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