Before the month is over: countersurveillance/anti-stalking tips

I’ve really missed the target on the number of posts I wanted to make for National Stalking Awareness Month, though actually I’ve not made that many posts to this blog period (and I am way behind on my other blog, with a post I need to finish before I can post one that has to be scheduled behind it, but that’s another story).

It’s not that I’ve forgotten, just that blogging has taken a back seat to a few other things lately. So, before the month is over, here are a few basic countersurveillance/anti-stalking tips:

  1. Be very leery of an intimate partner (boyfriend/girlfriend) asking to borrow your phone, your vehicle, etc. “all of a sudden.” It’s one thing to offer a ride, it’s another to just lend the car outright. (It’s the same with phone calls.) Sometimes this is a ploy to install tracking devices (vehicle) or software (phones/computer/tablet).
  2. If something feels wrong, it probably is. If there’s any doubt about a situation that you’re not comfortable with, get out of it.
  3. If you think you are being followed in a vehicle, make a series of turns in the same direction. Ideally, these should be turns that do not have to cross oncoming traffic, i.e. right turns in the US, Canada, and other countries that drive on the right. If you are in the UK or Japan, these will be left turns. You can also try driving much slower than the flow of traffic. If you are still being followed, find a populated and well-lit area (if at night) and call the police.
  4. Know the anti-stalking law in your country, state, or province, and what the legal definition of stalking is. It may not be what you think it is. In Texas, for example, stalking (Penal Code 42.072) is for the most part defined as multiple instances of harassment (Penal Code 42.07) with some additional qualifiers and a couple of criteria which broaden it to conduct which isn’t necessarily against 42.07 per se. There’s also a civil anti-stalking law (Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 85) which is a bit wider than the criminal law. There’s also a federal anti-stalking law but that usually only comes into play when a stalker follows you across state lines.
  5. Running any operating system besides Windows on a PC will do a lot to improve security, if you possibly can stand to make the change. The vast majority of spyware/malware is written for Windows, to the point where it practically does not exist in the wild for anything else. Ubuntu is easy to set up, and there are other GNU/Linux distributions and freely available operating systems focused on user friendliness. It may be worth having two computers: one with Windows to run the bare minimum of proprietary Windows programs, and one running a GNU/Linux distribution (or whatever) for general purpose browsing, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. (I’m writing this on a used laptop purchased for $200, which I’ve since had to put a $75 solid-state drive in to replace the original failing hard drive. Sure, it had the former user’s Windows install on it, but that was easy to take care of.) If there’s demand for a more in-depth post or series of posts on this, let me know and I’ll write them.
  6. If you don’t need to keep data, get rid of it. Overwrite sensitive data, don’t just delete it using a normal delete command (which only removes a pointer to the data, not the data itself).

I’ll try to come up with something else before Tuesday night. Stay safe out there.