Anyone who is separating or has separated from their partner
needs to take immediate steps to ensure the security of their
computer and other digital devices.
Increasing use of computers
With the increasing use of computers in many areas of life such
as financial management and social interaction, there has been an
increase in the use of computer evidence in property settlement and
children's proceedings in the Family Court. It is important for
anyone who is separating from their partner to be mindful of how
information obtained from a computer, mobile phone or other digital
device can be used by an aggrieved or angry spouse.
Sending or posting confidential information
The safest policy is not to use your computer to send
confidential information. Even if you think you have deleted
information from your computer, it is possible for a computer
expert to retrieve that information. Similarly, do not post
information which may be damaging or embarrassing if used in
If you share a computer with another person, do not expect that
any information that is stored, sent or recorded is private. There
are computer programs designed to access information that has been
deleted from computers, as well as programs which record passwords.
Keylogging software or hardware can be installed to record every
key stroke, make a record of websites visited, take screen shots
and record printing activity. Software and hardware of this nature
can be hidden so that you may not know they have been
A few precautions for safeguarding computer security
Be careful of what you write in chat rooms, internet forums and
social networking sites. There have been family law cases in which
the evidence used by an ex-spouse was freely available on the
In particular, Facebook and other social networking sites
should be used with great caution as these sites are often targeted
by angry spouses in family law proceedings. For example, they may
access the site to obtain damaging information about you in terms
of your fitness as a parent or your spending habits.
Be aware that when you post messages online, your computer
address is recorded and anything you write can be traced. It is
safest to assume that there is no such thing as an anonymous
If you are involved in a parenting dispute, you should avoid
potentially damaging websites (for example, 'adults only'
Change your password regularly on your computer, as well as for
email and social networking sites. Use a strong password containing
a combination of numbers, upper and lower case letters and special
characters (for example, # or $). Do not use elements which could
be easy to guess, such as your name, initials or date of
Be aware that if your spouse knows or can guess your passwords,
they can log in to your account and post or send messages
pretending to be you.
Don't be lulled into a false sense of security because your
" spouse knows nothing about computers. He or she can employ
the services of someone who does.
Back up any important information off site.
If you suspect that someone has tampered with your computer,
consult a computer expert and/or speak to your lawyer.
Swaab Attorneys was the highest ranking law firm and the
13th best place to work in Australia in the 2010 Business Review
Weekly Best Places to Work Awards. The firm was a finalist in the
2010 BRW Client Choice Awards for client service and was named the
winner in the 2009 Australasian Legal Business Employer of Choice
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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