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Laura's House speaks out about Cyberbullying

Posted on December 14, 2018

Laura's House speaks out about Cyberbullying

According to a survey by the Cyberbullying Research Center, almost 34 percent of students in middle and high school had been cyberbullied in 2016 — the largest percentage reported since the organization began tracking cyberbullying 10 years ago. As this problem grows, it’s important for students, parents and educators to understand the effects of cyberbullying and what can be done to prevent it. This guide takes a holistic look at the issue and includes information on the types of cyberbullying, how students can protect themselves and what actions can be taken to address it after it happens.

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6 Signs Your Phone May Have Been Hacked

Posted on October 30, 2018

6 Signs Your Phone May Have Been Hacked

In today’s world, our smart phones have become our security blankets. Ever get that panicked feeling when you leave the house without your phone or even worse, misplace it? We keep our most personal and private information on our smart phones from pictures, credit card details, passwords and more.

This one-stop-shop for all your personal information can be an attacker’s dream. In a domestic violence situation, stakes are even higher, as abusers can use this information to stalk, harass and frighten their victims.

So how do you know if someone is prying into your life by listening in on your calls, reading your text messages and perusing your pictures? An abuser can spy on you and remain undetected if you don’t know what signs to look for.

Fortunately, it’s possible to detect multiple signs that your smart phone may have been hacked. If you suspect someone has hacked your phone, any of the following signs may tell you it’s time to take precautionary measures.

1. New apps installed without your knowledge or permission

If you find a new app has been installed on your phone and you didn’t install it or are unaware of where it came from, do a Google search to find out what it is and what others are saying about it. Most often you won’t be alone. Others online will provide their own experience with the app and what it does.

2. Apps that used to work are suddenly stopping or shutting down

If an app starts shutting down on its own it could be just bad programming, but it also could be a sign of a malware infection.

3. Phone feels hotter or warmer than usual

This can happen when unknown apps run in the background while you’re not using your phone. Review running applications, check for unknown apps installed and review your battery usage.

4. Phone reboots on its own or behaves strangely

There are many reasons why a phone would reboot on its own, but it is always good to review apps installed, apps running at startup, apps running in the background and battery usage to determine if any reboots were normal or if your phone was hacked. If you are noticing strange behavior, such as your flashlight turning on, or anything out of the ordinary it’s wise to take precautionary measures (we’re getting there, keep reading).

5. Your phone is sending and receiving text messages or making calls that you didn’t send or get notifications of

Hackers frequently install malware that causes your phone to make calls. These calls can be expensive, and the hackers will make money off the calls. If you notice calls being made without your knowledge, your phone has likely been hacked. Just as the hackers will take advantage of your phone to make phone calls, they will also do it with text messages.

6. Increased use of mobile data

The excessive data use is a little hard for the average user to determine. Data monitoring apps can help track this. The excessive data usage could cost you money. Reviewing your data usage settings and look for anything out of the ordinary. Install anti-malware software and run a scan to remove the threats.

Knowing the signs of a phone hack is only half the battle. Once you’ve determined your phone has been compromised, there are steps you can and should take to stop the threat and prevent it from happening again. Next week’s post will provide a step-by-step guide for stopping any threats to your phone and protecting yourself from cyber harassment.

Note: We paired up with Orange County-based cybersecurity consulting firm, Tevora, to create a series of cyber safety guidelines. Unfortunately, many victims of domestic violence experience cyber stalking. This series is intended to serve as a resource for anyone who may find themselves in the position of being harassed, bullied or stalked online.


How to Defend Yourself from Cyber Abuse

Posted on August 10, 2018

How to Defend Yourself from Cyber Abuse

With the rise of highly sophisticated technology and social media, it seems the world is our oyster. We can purchase practically anything our hearts desire with the click of a button and our phones can guide to any destination. Unfortunately, this convenience comes at a price for domestic violence survivors. Technological advancements have a dark side that can unleash harm in the form of cyber stalking and cyber harassment. In response, Laura's House has partnered the cybersecurity firm Tevora, to educate its staff and clients with the tools to protect against online abuse.

At Laura's House, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in cyber abuse. Technology evolves quickly, allowing abusers to target their victims by utilizing tracking devices, spyware to monitor electronic communications and social media platforms to frighten, harass or stalk them. Over the course of the coming months, we are going to share how you can protect yourself and your loved ones from this form of abuse.

The Growing Cyber Abuse Problem

NPR recently surveyed over Seventy U.S. domestic violence shelters and saw an alarming trend: Eighty-Five percent of the shelters surveyed work directly with victims whose abusers tracked them using GPS. Seventy-Five percent work with victims whose abusers listened in on their conversations remotely using hidden mobile apps, commonly referred to as spyware.

These findings are consistent with the experiences of Laura's House clients. Clients frequently report that their abuser is able to track them or knows things about their lives that are confidential. Very often, the reason is traced back to some form of cyber stalking or hacking of a device like a phone or computer. Domestic Violence non-profits like Laura's House simply do not have the expertise or resources to adequately help survivors prevent or respond to threats. Fortunately, we were able to partner with Tevora, a leading expert in cybersecurity, to meet this threat head on.

Tevora's Director of Incident Response, Matt Mosely, provided our staff with on-site training, presentations and toolkits to help us understand how to effectively respond to the cyber stalking, hacking, malware, scams and online harassment our clients experience. He shared tips for browsing online privately to seek help without detection, how to recognize if your phone has been hacked or if you're being tracked, and how to protect yourself on social media and email, to name a few. These resources and new skills have empowered Laura's House to help clients facing technology abuse to take proper precautions and to ensure their online activity is performed safely. Moreover, our partnership with Tevora allows us to share these tools with a larger audience.

Cyber Safety Toolkit

Over the coming months, we will publish several blog posts dedicated to cyber abuse protection and cybersecurity safety. If you or someone you know is a target of cyber abuse, these tools can help. We will share general cybersecurity best practices as well as practical tips you can implement to:

  • Recognize if your social media or email has been hacked and secure your accounts
  • Detect any spyware or malware on your personal device, which can be used to eavesdrop on personal conversations and online activity
  • Browse online privately when seeking help to ensure your tracks are covered
  • Detect any signs you are being tracked and stop it immediately

As we continue to move toward a virtual world, abuse perpetrated via technology has become increasingly commonplace and sophisticated. To adequately serve their clients, domestic violence agencies have no choice but to develop strategies to respond to these threats. It is imperative that domestic violence agencies partner with companies like Tevora, which are uniquely positioned to meet this critical need and ensure domestic violence survivors can lives free of violence in real life and virtually.


Teen Dating Abuse prevalence in Orange County

Laura's House and Chapman University have partnered to uncover date pertaining to the prevalence of teen dating abuse in Orange County. No data existed for Orange County, and it was much needed to understand and effectively administer the Laura’s House H.E.A.R.T Healthy Emotions and Attitudes in Relationships Today workshop. In 2017, Laura’s House H.E.A.R.T. reached 12, 638 youth, administered in over 300 workshops throughout the County.

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