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Digital Assets & Divorce: Your Fresh Start

During a contentious divorce, be aware of cyberthreats that can come from those who used to know you best. Read on for tips to consider.
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Cybersecurity is not just about protection from foreign actors and fake callers. It also means guarding yourself and your assets from whatever direction threats may come. Going through the slog of a contentious divorce could heighten the risk of a former spouse using your digital assets to hurt you. To help protect yourself, we recommend reviewing your digital assets according to the following five domains:

  1. Identify: Inventory your digital assets. Typically, financial accounts will be handled through court proceedings, but there are many other assets people may not think about that could be used to reputationally damage or blackmail you during a divorce. Consider the digital assets below that could be leveraged against you to impose personal harm, inside or outside of court proceedings:
    1. Email accounts: Your email address probably contains more information about you than any other asset.
    2. Shared cloud drives: Shared cloud drives such as iCloud, Google Cloud, etc., can contain your photos, videos, critical financial documents, GPS data, etc.
    3. Social media accounts: Social media accounts contain a large amount of private communications as well as single sign-on for other accounts.
    4. Cell phone: Phone records, pictures, text messages, etc.
    5. Password managers: Password managers contain stored passwords for many different accounts. The main password to access the system should be changed.
    6. Online payment methods: PayPal, joint customer accounts where credit card info is stored, “tabs,” etc.
    7. Security systems: Home cameras, burglar alarms, and keyless entry.
    8. IT equipment: If you’re remaining in your home, your spouse may know the administrator password to the Wi-Fi router and may be able to log into it remotely to snoop on your internet browsing activity. 
  2. Protect: For all of the assets you’ve identified above, consider the following protection steps:
    1. If possible, establish new accounts to replace any current accounts the other individual may have access to—especially your email. Do not use any passwords that are similar to any you may have shared with your former spouse.
    2. Consider changing answers to security questions for critical accounts. Your former spouse knows a lot about you and may be able to guess your maiden name, the name of your first pet, etc. Change the answer to these security questions to a “lie,” or a “half-truth,” to throw them off. 
    3. Consider freezing your credit via each credit bureau.
    4. Implement multifactor authentications for all accounts that offer authentications. This means any time someone logs in from a computer the system doesn’t recognize, it will first request you to approve it via text, email, or approval through an authentication app such as Duo or Microsoft Authenticator.
    5. Remove the other party’s email address and other information from the authorized contact lists. This will prevent them from initiating password resets through websites or customer service personnel.
    6. Check your email address for any forwarding rules the other party may have set up. All your emails may be sent to other individuals if they have set up forwarding rules without your knowledge.
    7. Consider replacing or performing factory resets on all smart-home and IT network equipment.
  3. Detect: Create ways to detect attacks on your data.
    1. Investigate your various accounts to find out if there is a way you can set up email notifications any time there is an attempted login from an unknown computer.
    2. If you are ever locked out of an account, consider whether it was you who caused the lockout or if someone else has been trying to guess your password.
    3. Tell friends and loved ones to notify you if they get strange questions coming from accounts purporting to be you.
    4. Set credit bureau notifications to alert you to new account openings.
  4. Respond: Develop an action plan.
    1. Work through worst-case scenarios of data that may have been breached or could be breached and have an action plan ready to go if any data is exploited.
    2. Be aware of the contact information and processes you can use to recover stolen accounts, e.g., contacting Facebook, Instagram, dating apps, etc.
    3. Have a crisis management team of helpers you can call, e.g., your attorney, your financial planner, other family members, etc.
  5. Recover: Take back control.
    1. Work to restore your reputation/credit with the necessary parties.
    2.  Change all passwords to systems that may have been breached.

As you begin your fresh start, consider whether it also is time to work with new financial advisors and tax preparers or if you need a digital asset security health checkup. If you have any questions or need assistance, please reach out to a professional at FORVIS or submit the Contact Us form below.

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