5 Things You Should Know About Electronic Security and Divorce

I recently heard a forensic investigator discuss how technology can be used in divorce.  He described how he finds deleted files, determines which websites you visited, and even reconstructs your physical movements using the GPS in your smart phone.

By the end of the session, I was convinced I no longer needed technology.  Books were fine for me, thank you.  Ditching my clunky cell phone would save me a lot of money anyway.  And while I rarely do anything scandalous online (okay, maybe a little bit scandalous), I still felt like this electronic snooping was an invasion of privacy.  Without thinking, I reflexively checked my email.  Gulp.

If you’re going through a divorce, here are the top 5 things you need to know about electronic security:

Change your passwords

My wife calls my password “old trusty.”  She’s right.  I almost always use the same password for unimportant things.  If we were to go through a divorce, she could easily access all my accounts.  For some people, changing passwords gives them an added sense of security.  For others, it’s necessary because their spouse has shown a propensity to hurt them.  Regardless, change your passwords.  Enough said.

Also change / make-up really odd security questions.  My favorite one is, “What were you drinking when you made-out with the really ugly kid in college?”  If you can’t make-up a question (and sometimes you can’t), then lie on the answer. The computer doesn’t know whether you’re telling the truth.  It’s only looking for consistent answers.

Everywhere you go online leaves a trail

On some level, I guess I always knew privacy was dead.  I just wanted to believe that after a while my meaningless searches faded into obscurity.  But evidently that’s not true.  Assume wherever you’re going online could be discovered in your divorce.  In other words, don’t buy land in South America for your new partner and then lie about it in discovery – true story.

If you have gone somewhere on the internet you shouldn’t have been, resist the urge to wipe your hard drive clean.  Doing so could get you sanctioned by the court for destroying evidence.  Many times, the cover-up is worse than the worse than the crime.  The law prohibits people from using the court process to embarrass someone.

Get your own cell phone plan and do a hard reset on your phone

Cell phones do more than just reveal your physical location, they also contain information about who you talked to and what you said.  I have seen situations where one spouse “hacks” into the other spouse’s phone.  The “hack” program allows them to read email and text messages and to even turn the phone into a listening device.  Sound unbelievable?  It’s not.  These programs are available cheaply online.

What can you do to prevent this type of thing?  Keep track of your phone.  Usually, a person must have access to your phone to install this type of program.  Monitor your data usage, and watch out for weird behavior.  If your phone begins to light-up or turn-off when you’re not touching it, you might want to have someone look at it.  The best way to quickly rid yourself of these programs is to do a hard reset.

Be careful about using your work computer or work email for privileged communication

Think before you use your work computer or work email for communicating with your lawyer.  Businesses have the right to monitor email communication sent on private servers and devices.  Many large corporations have these monitoring programs in place.  Exposing your sensitive emails might not only be embarrassing, it might also waive attorney client privilege, subjecting the information to discovery by your spouse.

Stop posting on social media and other crazy blogs

Please don’t post rants about your spouse on social media or in chat forums.  You might also want to consider whether it’s a good idea to post status updates showing you drinking or engaging in objectionable activity.  I have been involved with more than one case where a Facebook post directly contradicted a person's in court testimony.

If done right, divorce doesn't have to mean the end of technology.  It just means you need to be a little bit smarter before hitting "post."