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As Domestic Abuse Goes Digital, Shelters Turn To Counter-surveillance With Tor 133

Posted by Soulskill
from the finding-new-ways-to-hide dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Almost every modern abusive relationship has a digital component, from cyberstalking to hacking phones, emails, and social media accounts, but women's shelters increasingly have found themselves on the defensive, ill-equipped to manage and protect their clients from increasingly sophisticated threats. Recently the Tor Project stepped in to help change that. Andrew Lewman, executive director of the project, 'thinks of the digital abuse epidemic like a doctor might consider a biological outbreak. "Step one, do not infect yourself. Step two, do not infect others, especially your co-workers. Step three, help others," he said. In the case of digital infections, like any other, skipping those first two steps can quickly turn caretakers into infected liabilities. For domestic violence prevention organizations that means ensuring their communication lines stay uncompromised. And that means establishing a base level of technology education for staff with generally little to no tech chops who might not understand the gravity of clean communication lines until faced with a situation where their own phone or email gets hacked.'"
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As Domestic Abuse Goes Digital, Shelters Turn To Counter-surveillance With Tor

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know somebody in an abusive relationship. Her husband monitors the messages that she sends and receives on her cell phone. He demands to have access to her Facebook and email accounts. She has a second email account that she only accesses it from the public library. I don't really know how Tor will help in an abusive situation. It's not so much that somebody is tapping the lines, but that the abusive party tries to control what they do on the devices that they know about. She can't use her cell phone,
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HBI (604924)

      If you need to be private from your spouse/so, you should examine why. Then, alter your current relationship or find a relationship where it's comfortable enough that you don't feel like you have to keep secrets.

      If you're keeping secrets, you're not all in, and bad things will come eventually. If you think that not being able to keep secrets constitutes abuse, I think you have a problematic definition.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mr D from 63 (3395377)
        Exactly. My wife is free to read my email any time she wants, and vice versa. Can't imagine needing to hide anything.

        I've also learned there are two sides to every story. Be very careful judging if you've only heard one.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          My wife knows my email password. She has full file permissions on my porn folder. I even have location sharing enabled on my phone.

          But I will never share my Spotify playlists, lest she find out my hidden love of One Direction and Rebecca Black.

        • by bitt3n (941736) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @05:21PM (#46943577)

          Exactly. My wife is free to read my email any time she wants, and vice versa. Can't imagine needing to hide anything. I've also learned there are two sides to every story. Be very careful judging if you've only heard one.

          the other side of the story: "my husband thinks he has access to all my email."

      • by Jason Levine (196982) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @03:25PM (#46942583)

        If someone is actively hiding something from their spouse because they think their spouse will react negatively to it, then there's a problem with the relationship. However, this doesn't mean that the spouse has a right to see EVERYTHING that person says/does. In the parent's comment, they related the tale of a husband who monitored every cell phone message, Facebook post, and e-mail message his wife made/received. That's not normal behavior. I don't monitor my wife's messages. In fact, I'm not even on Facebook and she is. She could easily be saying nasty things about me there without me knowing. However, I don't demand to see/approve everything she says because I respect her. She's not "property" for me to "manage", she's my spouse and my equal in our relationship.

        And lest anything think it only works one way, there are plenty of women who are as controlling as the example above. Either way, if you are demanding to see everything your spouse writes/says, there's a problem in the relationship.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Hear-hear, in my 35 years of marriage I can't remember ever even looking through my wifes purse let alone email or phone/messages. The thought of doing so seems repugnant. In an intimate relationship if there's not room for individual privacy one or the other will end up being controlled or smothered if even by their own devising. If my wife wasn't allowed the privacy to stash money for a rainy day we would have washed out years ago. That's just one small area secrets can be immensely useful.

      • by khellendros1984 (792761) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @03:31PM (#46942645) Journal
        It seems like you have cause and effect backwards, here. Having privacy, even within a married couple, is healthy. There needs to be trust that your spouse isn't going to purposefully do something to harm the relationship. For instance, my wife texts and calls friends, and I generally don't know the content of those conversations. My wife telling me if I ask is trust, and it's healthy. If I demanded access to her E-mail, phone history, etc, that's not healthy, and it wouldn't be her fault if she wanted to maintain a corner of privacy in her life. You can't blame my jealousy and irrationality on her actions.

        If I'm being abusive, then I'm not going to want her to find outside help, and I'm not going to want her to talk to her friends about her problems. I'll want to control every aspect of her life. That's the situation we're looking at, not an otherwise-stable relationship with communications issues.
        • by bitt3n (941736)
          finally some common sense! what my wife confides in her girlfriends during their weekly book club sessions is none of my beeswax. If they're meeting at our house that week, I make a point of scheduling some time at the driving range and let them have their fun. likewise, she has sense enough not to ask what exactly I'm doing hanging out at the local highway rest stop between the hours of 2 and 4 am every Saturday night.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Exactly.

          When your partner stops you from seeing your family, colludes with your ex-wife to keep you away from your children, lies to her family about you, bites you, slaps you, grabs you, tries to pull your genitals off, puts a knife to your throat when you're asleep, and THEN tries to commit suicide when you finally leave her, perhaps you're not the one with the problem.

      • Having privacy is not always about keeping secrets. It's about having your own life. I don't tell everything about my life because I'm not someone who needs to talk about me all the time. Also, frankly,it is because most of I do for work is boring, and she doesn't really want to hear about it. If she asks about the work conversation I had with a female coworker over lunch, I'll tell her but there's really nothing to tell, and I don't want to feel compelled to discuss/report everything.

        Also privacy is not a

      • by BobMcD (601576)

        Not only that, but if my wife didn't come home from work at her usual time - without calling me - I would be pretty upset. We'd all be sitting at the dinner table, wondering if she was okay, and I'd damn sure call. If she was 'out with friends' without telling me her plans beforehand, I'd be pissed.

        Whether or not this has any bearing on "Sarah's" situation I can't say. But the article didn't make me feel very sorry for her.

      • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @04:18PM (#46943035)

        If you need to be private from your spouse/so, you should examine why. Then, alter your current relationship or find a relationship where it's comfortable enough that you don't feel like you have to keep secrets.

        If you're keeping secrets, you're not all in, and bad things will come eventually. If you think that not being able to keep secrets constitutes abuse, I think you have a problematic definition.

        As I'm very good at this sort of thing because I work in the industry and nothing goes in and out of our network without me knowing about it, it's come up. I explained to her that she would have to trust me that I would never read her mail (which I dont), and I would have to trust her that all of her secret emails involved surprise birthday parties or generalize complaints about me to her sisters (which I could understand). If she did feel the need to be sending the kinds of emails that if I read them we'd have a real problem, just divorce me instead. It will make the emails a lot easier, and I can hit on all her friends.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Any person so obsessed with controlling everything you say or do and everyone you see won't let you live a normal life, because it's perfectly normal to have friends or family or colleagues or people with the same hobby you spend time with without your significant other glued to your side. It's like joining a sect where they want you to cut all contact with the outside world, surveillance is only the first step, then interrogation whenever you've been out of their control and finally they make up all sort o

      • by jythie (914043)
        Well, one rather typical example would be handling emails dealing with other people's private information. If Alice and Bob are married and Carol has something private she wants to talk to Alice about, Bob should not get automatic access to Carol's private issues.
      • If you need to be private from your spouse/so, you should examine why. Then, alter your current relationship or find a relationship where it's comfortable enough that you don't feel like you have to keep secrets.

        I don't, strictly speaking, need to have my email private from my wife. However, if my wife felt the need to surveil my email, I would have serious questions about her mental state and trust issues.

        We do not read each other's email. I suppose I technically have access to her email since I run the email server, but I've already told her that while I won't read her email, if she intends to have an affair or something, she really ought to get a gmail account, just in case.

    • Putting the TOR Browser Bundle on a thumb drive or a CD might be a usable solution. Take the flash/CD out when you're done using it and it leaves nothing on the computer, assuming there is no keystroke logger.

      If there is concern that there might be a keystroke logger, then TAILS is the way to go. Boot from the removable media, and remove the media when you are done. Just make sure it's not found.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @03:08PM (#46942411)

    why do none of these articles ever address the bunny boilers and child killer women? there are a LOT of them out there... David Letterman had a particularly noxious lady stalker nut after him.

    but these articles always just Shit on Men....

    • by hondo77 (324058)

      Because there aren't shelters filled with abused men and their children they took with them when they escaped the abusive relationship (that I'm aware of). I'm sure that won't stop your miserable whining, though.

      • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@gmail. c o m> on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @05:10PM (#46943489) Homepage

        Because there aren't shelters filled with abused men and their children they took with them when they escaped the abusive relationship (that I'm aware of). I'm sure that won't stop your miserable whining, though.

        Fun fact: That's because there are very few shelters for men.

        We've got a couple here in Canada, and they're heavily used. The abuse industry, and I will call it that for good reason has done quite a bit of work pushing the "only men can be abuses" belief. And have pushed it so hard that it's skewed court and family court against men. It of course also doesn't help that there's a huge social stigma on the "the wife/gf/so/etc" beat up the guy. With the "why didn't you stand up for yourself, etc.," bit. Police don't care one way or the other in the case of a domestic here, and try to find the primary person who instigated it. But if the women is the one, there really isn't anywhere for the guy to go.

        But let's move onto the homosexual side. Depending on what study you want to cite, the abuse rates between both same sex couples hit as high as 70%, for the women again there's a place they can go to. For the men, not so.

        • by Elky Elk (1179921)

          The women that founded women's refuge in the UK was demonised and started receiving death threats for suggesting that much domestic violence was reciprocal and that some women sought out abusive relationships. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E... [wikipedia.org]

      • A female abuser with any intelligence would use the police to torture the man since that option is easily available to her, so any male victims would be in jail. Certainly no man is going to "escape" with a mother's children! Meanwhile women are getting government services so they don't have to experience the "trauma" of separating from pets
      • Look at actual statistics and you'll discover that contrary to what the mainstream media is spoon-feeding you, women abuse men equally often. Open your eyes. Men often experience it worse, not just because of the stigma, but because there are no "men's shelters" to run to, and because society's view is "it's always the man's fault". Leaving isn't always easy when there are kids involved. Often these men end their suffering other ways like committing suicide. Stop perpetuating the common myth, and let's st
    • Some fun facts and figures:
      * "A University of Florida study recently found women are more likely than men to "stalk, attack and abuse" their partners"
      * "A University of Washington study recently found women were nearly twice as likely as men to perpetrate domestic violence in the past year"
      * "Virtually all sociological data shows women initiate domestic violence as often as men, that women use weapons more than men, and that 38% of injured victims are men. California State University Professor Martin Fie
      • by Reziac (43301) *

        What's hilarious (in an ugly way) is that the same women who claim abuse only comes from men because men take advantage of their greater strength, also claim that women can do anything men can do and that sheer physical strength is not a factor.

        Okay folks, which is it??

  • I expect to get modded down for blaming the victim, but ill say it anyways. From everything in TFA crisis teams and even the local police department went to great lengths to ensure Sarah could be evacuated from the immediate viscinity of her threat. Instead of complying with the restraining order and severing all communication with her abuser, she allowed herself to become compromised once again by responding to an email from him.
    She returned to him and its as though technology has somehow exacerbated do
    • by Anonymous Coward

      "I'm not sexist but..."

    • No. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Sarah was probably abused as a child - that is all the knows. As an adult, she gravitated to a partner the was like her abuser.

      Human beings are not this completely rational animal. As a matter fact, most of our decisions are based on gut feelings ( Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow [google.com]).

      And when you mix in physical trauma, people break and do stupid things like run back to their abuser or don't leave. A lot of that is also fear - fear that the abuser will punish them.

      Or to put is this way, to expect rational actio

    • by BobMcD (601576)

      Honestly, I think it may be as simple as this:

      It takes a certain type of person to fall into a trap like this.

      Not that that means she doesn't need help, or anything of that sort. But if she was savvy she would have noticed that the guy was living a double life. If she was smart she wouldn't have tried to commit suicide with Ibuprofen of all things. Thankfully for her, she survived.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Not surprising. That's a standard abuse pattern, and it's built on the belief that "x person has changed' and "they can change them, so they go back." I've done the whole support bit before, and the cycle is so cyclical that it's scary. The victim is responsible, the problem of course is that the victim is self conditioning themselves and the abuser is reinforcing it. You can bet that following up you'll see one of the following if they went back you'd see a standard following of control from restrictin

      • Abuse victims often sort of 'model' their later relationships on childhood relationships in which they were abused. So someone abused as a child, may tend to choose abusive people into their lives, because that's the relationship pattern they've been conditioned to know. We help break out of this by understanding it better, educating more people on it, and having more empathy/sympathy and support for victims.
      • by ultranova (717540)

        That's a standard abuse pattern, and it's built on the belief that "x person has changed' and "they can change them, so they go back."

        No, those are simply rationalizations. The truth is that change is scary at the best of times, and much more so when you're tired, traumatized and afraid. And since those circumstances also make you less likely to think rationally and just go with your habits...

        It's the same mechanism that keeps people in all kinds of bad circumstances, even if the way out seems both easy an

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The city of Carson, California has just passed a law making it illegal to insult Justin Bieber online.

    (No, seriously.)

  • The average worker in a violence shelter knows how to work the cursor on a computer and push the "send" button, but has a long, long way to go before beginning to understand the issues with Internet security. This problem has no technological solution. You can install the most sophisticated locks on your front door, but it won't protect you if you leave it unlocked, and it won't protect you from having your door smashed down.

    There is a solution to this, and it goes "clink" with the closing of a prison cell

    • What you say is true, but ignores reality. Yes, there is no technological solution, that's probably why part of what they're doing is educating the people who need help. You know, teaching them to throw the deadbolt in your door analogy. Also, a smashed down door is still preferable to a simply opened and shut one. A smashed down door attracts attention, both inside and outside the house. A smashed down door takes time. It takes effort. It takes a certain amount of physical skill.

      Why insist on not im

      • by mlts (1038732)

        +1. Any solution is better than nothing. There isn't a 100% secure solution, but I've wondered about using TOR, but have the traffic hit a proxy after it leaves the exit node. The reason for this is that there are a lot of sites out there that block TOR traffic either for philosophical reasons or just due to abuse. Having the proxy in front allows for full access to websites. If the proxy's userdata is kept separate from IP address logs, it would be even better.

        As for local network activity to protect

        • "Any solution is better than nothing."

          Unless the "solution" makes the situation worse. This is great for the ones installing and maintaining the technical "solution", but if it doesn't actually fix the problem then all it will do is cause a consumption of time and resources of shelter workers and give victims a false sense of security.

      • Improving what? Tor won't improve the situation. Those at risk won't use it: they'll still have their identities on the net. If you only want to surf the web, you can do that without Tor. Even if it does get used, the people staffing the shelter won't understand it, and won't be able to advise these victims sufficiently to keep them from being exposed to abuse. These people have educations in psychology and social work (if even that).

        People have been dealing with this problem for a long time. They do it by

        • I'm beginning to suspect you haven't read the article... I know, I know... but still.

          "Since then, the two groups have been working to develop a resource that will provide staff and advocates with the base level of technological know-how required to address casework with a digital abuse component."

          "The Tor Browser Bundle is free software that works like most ordinary browsers but comes configured to make it harder for individuals to be tracked, obscuring or deleting things like a browser’s history, loc

          • Your suspicions are wrong. A caseworker will not solve the problems of keyloggers, of smartphone recorders (audio and number logs), or of ignorant victims who just don't have any clue how to protect themselves. Tor won't solve any of that. If the victim needs to contact the caseworker, advocate or the police, they can do it over the neighbor's telephone or in person. This "resource" (the resource being developed by these two groups) won't fix exposures to a tech-savvy jerk who wants information from his vic

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've seen things swing both ways, where abuse is claimed (to the point of one party in a relationship injuring themselves.)

      A person who I worked with has dealt with that. From what I gather, after his messy divorce that he "lost", the other party scoring the house, kids, and both alimony and child support. Now, he is in a nasty cycle:

      1: He is unemployed.
      2: Ex hauls him into court demanding child support payments.
      3: He is unemployed, no money to pay.
      4: Judge tosses him in the county cooler for six mont

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Then he should response by fleeing and moving somewhere where they cannot find him.

        Move to a new country or stop registering where you are.

        Fuck that. I'd NEVER let someone push me around like that.

        I'd put a bullet in a few local heads before I'd bow down.

  • seems that the uses of TOR to date have been primarily 'negatively' for hackers, those avoiding the law in a number of ways (including true terrorists) and those who share (e.g. steal) copyrighted materials. 'Positive' use include or those who live in repressive regimes. This adds another positive use. How cool.
  • "establishing a base level of technology education for staff with generally little to no tech chops who might not understand the gravity of clean communication lines until faced with a situation where their own phone or email gets hacked.'"

    Yeah, they must really be idiots considering that it's the holy grail of what can happen. So you've got an angry ex-bf harrassing a woman and stalking her but besides gray area stuff, didn't technically do anything illegal. Oh wait, now he reset your password to your
  • If a woman (OR MAN) is in a shelter for the purpose of protecting themselves from physical abuse the original act of which was psychologically scarring then the folks in the shelters need to be teaching those being sheltered some common sense. Stop using socal networking.

    I have had multiple female friends and co-workers who have been properly traumatized by stalkers. The absolute first thing I tell them is to close their damn facebook account and wipe themselves off the internet. Social networking is the de

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