Victim Safety Using Email and the World Wide Web
While the Internet can provide crime victims with access to useful information and even life saving resources, its use can place certain crime victims at risk from their perpetrators. This is especially true for victims of domestic/family violence where the perpetrator may "walk in" on the victim as s/he is accessing and viewing information on the Internet for help and/or advice.
The OVA recommends clicking on the red "Close Browser" icon located on the top bar of your web browser in the event that your perpetrator may enter the room while you are viewing this website. Clicking on the red "Close Browser" icon will immediately close your browser. To arouse less suspicion, it may be advisable to open a second and separate browser session when viewing the OVA website so that if and when you must click on the red "Close Browser" icon the first browser session will be displayed on your screen.
BUT USING THIS BUTTON DOES NOT ERASE SEARCH-HISTORY INFORMATION!
Computer savvy perpetrators may obtain information from a computer about their victim's Internet activities and physical whereabouts. For example, perpetrators of family violence can use the Internet to harass and stalk their victims, and they can trace their victims' Internet activities and access their personal email.
An abuser who is familiar with computers may be capable of tracing your browser back to this website.
Please remember to follow the instructions below and erase any evidence of your visit as soon as it's safe to do so. In addition, you should also consider taking the following steps to protect yourself in cyberspace.
E-mail is not a safe or confidential way to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life. Traditional "corded" phones are more private than cell phones or cordless phones. If an abuser has access to your email account, they may be able to read your incoming and outgoing mail. If you believe your account is secure, make sure you choose a password that an abuser will not be able to guess.
If an abuser sends you threatening or harassing e-mail messages, they may be printed and saved as evidence of this abuse. The messages may constitute an offence.
The World Wide Web
Most web browsers (such as Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator) are designed to leave traces behind that document the web sites the user has looked at. Using a web browser's history list and cache files, an abuser can monitor the web sites a victim has been visiting. The history list is a single file containing the addresses of the web sites the user has visited recently. The cache files store copies of files the user has looked at recently using a browser. There are ways to erase the browser's history list and cache files.
Cache file / History / Bookmarks:
If an abuser knows how to read your computer's cache file (automatically saved web pages and graphics), history (sites you have been to), or cookies s/he may be able to see information you have viewed recently on the Internet. You can clear your history or empty your cache file in your browser's settings:
Internet Explorer: Pull down the 'Tools' menu (older version may be the 'View' menu), select 'Internet Options.' On the 'General' tab (should be the first one), under 'Temporary Internet Files' , click on 'Delete Cookies' and click on 'Delete Files' (make sure you check 'Delete all offline content'). Under History click on 'Clear History.'
Netscape (Mozilla) browser: Click 'Edit' at the top of the browser. Click 'Preferences' in the drop down menu On the left side Category tree click the "plus sign" to the left of 'Privacy & Security.' Under 'Privacy & Security', click the "plus sign" to the left of 'Cookies.' In the window that pops up, right click 'Manage Stored Cookies.' Ensure that the box near the bottom of that window which states: "Don't allow sites that set removed cookies to set future cookies" is unchecked Click 'Remove all cookies.' Click 'Close.' On the left side directory tree, click the "plus sign" next to 'Advanced.' Under 'Advanced' click on 'Cache.' Click the 'Clear Cache' button on the right window.
FireFox: Pull down the 'Tools' menu, select 'Options.' Click 'Privacy' in the menu on the left side of the Options window. Click the 'Clear' button located to the right of each option (History, Cookies, Cache.)
Older versions of Netscape Navigator: Pull down the 'Options' menu. Select 'Network Options', select 'Cache.' Click 'Clear Disk Cache.'
AOL: Pull down the 'Members' menu, select 'Preferences.' Click on the 'WWW' icon. Select 'Advanced.' Select 'Purge Cache.'
NOTE: This information may not completely hide your tracks. Many browser types have features that display recently visited sites. Additionally, there is a lot of low-level software that can 'dig-up' where you have been on the Internet as well as what you have done on your computer. The safest way to find information on the Internet would be at a local library, a friend's house, or at work.
Erasing cache files
Search your hard drive for "cache" files. You should discover a folder/directory containing many files with "cache" in their names. You will want to erase all of those files.
Erasing the history list if you use an older Netscape-based web browser
Open the EDIT menu, choose PREFERENCES, choose ADVANCED, and then choose CACHE. A screen will appear where you can click on the buttons, "Clear Memory Cache" and "Clear Disk Cache." Click on each of these and then hit "OK." Your cache will now be cleared.
Click on the EDIT menu, choose PREFERENCES, and then choose NAVIGATOR. A "Clear History" button will appear on the screen. Select it, and then choose "OK." Your history list will now be erased.
If you've got a more recent version of Netscape installed on your computer, you will also want to clear your location bar list. Open the EDIT menu, choose PREFERENCES, then choose NAVIGATOR. Click on the "Clear Location Bar" button at the bottom of the window, and then choose "OK".
Erasing the history list if you use the internet explorer web browser
Open the VIEW menu, choose INTERNET OPTIONS, and then choose the GENERAL tab at the top. In the section called "Temporary Internet Files," click on "Delete Files" to clear your cache. On the same screen, in the section called "History," click on the "Clear History" button to erase your history list.
In Internet Explorer, clearing the cache and history will automatically clear the address bar on your browser.
Erasing the history list if you use an alternate browser
Other browsers will be slightly different in the detail of what's required to do these two things. But in any case, what you'll need to do is clear your cache (or "temporary files") and erase your history list. Again, this doesn't guarantee that your browsing can't be traced. Someone with greater computer sophistication will still be able to reconstruct your net travels. But it's a good thing to do to make it more difficult for someone to know where you've been.
One additional tip
When you clear the cache and the history list, you erase not only the information on where you've been, but any other information that had been previously stored there. So, if your partner checks and sees that the cache and the history list have been completely emptied, he'll not only know that you know how to do this, but he might guess that you're trying to hide something. One possible way to avoid suspicion is to clear the cache and history once you're done looking at information you don't want your partner to know about. After they're cleared, spend some time visiting sites that you think your partner wouldn't object to. This way, the cache and history list start to get filled up and your partner might be less likely to notice that old information is missing.
This material is from Speaking Up, The Family Violence Prevention Fund's Newsletter for the Domestic Violence Community and from the Safety Zone website at http://www.serve.com/zone/security.html