Twice now I have had to help women who were in an unfortunate position of having an ex who was more computer savvy and stalked them after the relationship had ended. Both of these cases had several things in common, so thought I would share some advice on what to do before and after a breakup, especially if you are worried your ex will not let things go.
Change your passwords
This cannot be stressed enough. You should change every password you have, including the one you use to log into your computer if you shared it with your ex. It is extremely easy to get passwords out of your web browser, especially if you have not secured your browser or account beforehand.
Use a password manager
You might be tempted to just type in another easy password, but the problem is that your ex may know you well enough that they might be able to guess the types of passwords you might use. (How many people out there use names of pets as passwords for example?) A password manager has the ability to generate random passwords that are basically impossible to guess and are more secure than Fido or his favorite toy. Something like KeePass XC can be run on multiple operating systems, or 1Password that is web browser based.
Enable two-factor authentication
Websites like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn offer a service called two-factor authentication. This adds a security measure by typically sending a code to your registered mobile number that you have to type in so you can finally be allowed to log in.
Review your online profiles
Changing passwords will not help if your ex is listed as a registered user for your account. Go through all of your online accounts and check your settings, especially in areas such as recovery email addresses and phone numbers. If your ex is listed here, they could find a way to get access to your online accounts again.
While you are checking your settings, also take some time to check what applications have access to your online account and things like what your account recovery questions are. Your account recovery questions are important because your ex could know enough about you to call in and use them to get access to your account.
Wipe your mobile device
This might sound drastic, but it is easy these days for someone to install software on a mobile device that gives them remote access to read your personal data on the phone. The easiest way to solve this is to do a complete factory reset of your mobile device. Yes, it might be annoying, but if you think you are are might be stalked, it is a good way to make sure your device is private. If you are uncomfortable doing this yourself, you should be able to take it to the place you got the device or a computer store to have it done.
If you do this, take care to NOT restore a backup of your device. The backup could have the spyware in there so you would end up right back where you started.
Have your computers checked
Similar to your mobile devices, your laptop or desktop computers should be checked to see if any spyware was installed. Sometimes this can be done by having a professional boot from a USB device and scan your drives. However, it also could be best to have someone zero out your drives and reinstall your operating system. Again, there is a caveat here to not restore from a full-drive backup as spyware is likely included in that backup.
Many people have things like Ring doorbells or nanny cams in their houses. The problem with these is that they are often times Internet-enabled and thus can be remotely accessed by your ex to spy on you. You should most definitely change passwords on these devices, and call the companies to make sure you change any account recovery options. Or, simply remove them if you feel you are still being spied on. It also is a good idea to go around and check your house to see if there are any cameras you might not know about.
Change your router password
If you have Internet access at your house, your ISP (Verizon, Comcast, etc) likely gave you a router that also provides you with wireless Internet access. These devices have several passwords that should be changed. First is your wireless access password. If your ex had access to your home wireless, they still will until you change that password. Until it is changed, your ex could simply sit near your house, connect to your wireless, and snoop on everything you do online.
There is also an administrative password on your home router that should be changed. This allows someone to log into the router to make changes to things. Many of these devices have default known passwords, or the password is printed on a sticker on the device. Your ex could use this to log in and give themselves access to your home network.
If you are not sure how to do this, call your ISP and they should be able to help you. Additionally, check out this article and this one as well for things you can do in general to keep your home internet safe.
How to get help
You should be able to call your ISP or local computer places to get help in doing these things if you are unsure how to do it yourself. Additionally, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to talk to you about your specific situation.