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Securing Your Online Accounts in Divorce

5.04.20 Posted By Taylor House Divorce

If you are preparing to file for divorce or have already started the process, it is essential that you secure your online accounts to prevent your spouse from accessing your email or social media accounts. This is especially important if you are represented by a Chandler divorce attorney. If your spouse is able to access your communications with your attorney, this could reveal confidential and privileged information that may be detrimental to your case.

These steps will ensure that your online accounts are secure from the prying eyes of your soon-to-be ex.

1. Create a secure password

The first step to protecting your accounts is creating a secure password. You should not create a password using words or phrases that are familiar to your spouse—pets’ or children’s names, birthdays, phone numbers or nicknames are all out of the question. You also shouldn’t re-use passwords that you’ve used in the past, as they may already be compromised. Any passwords you used during the marriage should not be used again—especially if those passwords may be saved in your browser history or on your spouse’s computer.

There are many different methods for creating a secure password. One simple method is to pick up your favorite book and turn to a specific page—if your favorite number is 12, use page 12 so it’s easy to remember. Pick a sentence on that page and use the first letter of each word to create the password. For example, if the sentence is “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” your password would be Tqbfjotlg. You can add special characters or numbers at the end to make it even more secure. If you forget the password, you can pick up the book again and re-create the steps above.

You should use different passwords for each account. That way, if one of your passwords is cracked, it will only compromise one account. You can use a password manager such as Dashlane, LastPass or 1Password to keep track of them all. These applications will also generate hard-to-crack passwords so you don’t have to create them yourself.

2. Enable two-factor authentication

You’ve probably used two-factor authentication (or 2FA) already. Have you ever logged into your bank account and been asked to enter a numeric code that was texted or emailed to you? That’s two-factor authentication at work. It requires a secondary method of verification in addition to your password to access your account. Even if someone knows your password (or can guess it), they won’t be able to gain access to your account without the numeric code.

You should enable 2FA for your email account, bank accounts and major social media accounts. Even if your spouse knows your password or is able to guess it, they won’t be able to access your account if you have 2FA enabled. All major online accounts now have 2FA as an option (typically in your password or security settings). It can sometimes be a hassle, but it’s worth it for the extra layer of security.

3. Log out of compromised devices

Do your kids have an iPad? Is that iPad logged into your email account or Facebook account? Does your spouse have access to the iPad during their parenting time? These are all questions you need to ask yourself at the beginning of a divorce. If your spouse can access the iPad, it’s possible they can access all of your emails and social media accounts—including emails between you and your attorney.

Most online accounts allow you to “log out of all devices” in your security settings. If your account is logged in on another device—your spouse’s phone, the kids’ iPad, etc.—this setting will log them out and require a password to log in again. The best practice is to change your password first and then log out of all accounts (you can enable 2FA at the same time). You’ll need your new password to log back in again.

If any compromised devices are in your spouse’s possession, it’s important to review your security settings carefully to make sure they can’t access your accounts. You can create a new account just for the children so they can continue using their devices without compromising your security.

4. Do not access your spouse’s accounts

What if the situation is reversed? If your spouse leaves their email account logged in on the family computer, should you peruse their emails? It’s OK because you’re married, right? The answer is NO. You should never access anyone else’s online account without their express permission. It can be a criminal offense if you do so, and any evidence you might find would likely be inadmissible in court. Plus, it’s just not the right thing to do.

5. Talk to your attorney about your concerns

Are you concerned about your online security? Are you worried your spouse might be spying on you? Are you having trouble deciphering the security settings for Facebook, Gmail or iCloud? Did you notice suspicious activity on your account? Talk with your attorney right away and ask for help. If we can’t solve the issues ourselves, we’ll refer you to an IT professional who can.