Addicted to Spying

The eblaster on my laptop wasn’t the first, or the last method my ex used to feed his compulsion to play Peeping Tom.

I’ve been told that diagnostics indicate that there was most likely another similar software installed before hubby brought out the big Spectorsoft guns. An Onstar concierge once teased me about the number of times I’d called to have my door locks opened, or to help me “remember” where I parked my car…and I’d only called for the first time right then…

Then there was Flexispy on one cell phone, SpyBubble on the next. (Look those up! Terrifying capabilities, and they were available 4 years ago!) Add the occasional car I don’t recognize tailing me until I pulled into the nearest police department…hell yeah I’m paranoid! But I’ve been paranoid and right!

So after the eblaster and creepiness and petition for divorce, I did what any smart woman would do: I ran home to mommy and daddy.

And it crept up on me so slowly that I was stunned to turn around one day and see a very familiar elephant in the room with me. He was doing it again.

He knew where I was, all of the time. He knew if I made plans to go somewhere overnight, out to lunch with a friend or talked to an old boyfriend.

I couldn’t figure out how…it wasn’t just from internet activity. I changed phones a couple of times, using the opposite of the fancy android models, going with a decidedly not-smart phone, with no internet or apps. That didn’t seem to help. I had my car inspected for tracking devices, and finally just quit driving it.

For the last 2 years, I had just about convinced myself that he had somehow installed something on my moms computer, maybe my phone too. My parents and I live in the sticks, on about 1,000 acres. You can’t see the house from the road, and there aren’t any neighbors or buildings even close.

Because we live in the boonies, we use a verizon wifi jet pack to access the internet. And slowly our billed monthly usage crept up to over 30 gb per month – with no netflix or other streaming media coming in. Unplugging the wifi and taking the battery out didn’t lessen our bandwidth use.

In December 2013, my moms computer died, after months of error messages telling us that we were showing two devices with the same IP address, the Blue Screen Of Death constantly, our online passwords being changed by unseen forces.

For 10 days, December 5 to the 15, we were without a computer. The wifi sat with its battery out, for lack of a device to bring the internet to. On the 16th, dad brought home a shiny new computer. Untouched, untainted, uncompromised. Mom fired it up, connected the wifi…and within an hour, on what was only the 6th day that month we had connected to the web, we were getting text messages from verizon that we had exceeded our data plan. Another hour later, we had used our first overage of 2 gb in addition to the 26 gb on our plan.

If I was creeped out by purchased, mass produced software, that was nothing compared to what a private investigator friend told me: our bandwidth use wasn’t because, as verizon claimed, we had programs running in the background or were streaming video IN. We were streaming something OUT.

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Investigation vs Investigating

This has been a frustrating endeavor the entire way, but this week more so than usual.

The police department (McAllen, Texas) that is in charge of my case against my exhusband has moved far more slowly than I would like (of course!) but for the last three weeks I’ve been told that all they lack before they can, in good conscience, ask a judge to sign an arrest warrant, is one thing. That one thing is a court reporters transcript of my ex’s testimony in divorce court, where he confessed under oath, on the stand, to installing the software on my laptop. This confession happened on December 17, 2013, and I notified the investigator immediately. I have spoken to the court reporter, and he has told me that the transcript is ready and waiting for the police to pick it up. And has been for a week.

Geez. Investigation, by my definition, is an action. Something that someone is doing. It seems that the definition of investigation to the PD, however, is more of an object…a noun, not a verb.

In my pushing and prodding and questioning and efforts to kick this into high gear, I have been very, very thankful that I have not had to rely on the sleuthing skills of any agency. This has been spoon-fed to the police, with all of the evidence being provided by what I had believed to be America’s dumbest criminal… But since it’s been 8 months from the time the “investigation” was opened, with no arrest or consequences in sight, perhaps my ex isn’t as dumb as I thought.

I’m grateful for the support of my family (including my in-laws!) and a few very close friends. And I am horrified for any woman who is having to go through this without such a support system, and without the clear and verifiable evidence that my case has. If any single item of my proof that this crime occurred, was missing or questionable, it is painfully obvious that absolutely nothing would have even have pretended to be moving towards a legal and logical conclusion.

I feel like all I can do is escalate. Not back down or be quiet. But make sure that too many people know and are watching, to allow this stalking to go unpunished or this case to be swept under a rug.

Did Your Spouse Pay These Guys To Hack Your Email Password?

http://m.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/01/fbi-charge-five-us-citizens-hacking-6000-email-accounts

Lest we forget, it doesn’t take Spy vs Spy techniques or elaborate techno surveillance to get all up into your business. Brute force, lucky guesses and a list of the most common passwords just might do the trick. And thats assuming you don’t allow your browser to “remember” you and save your login info!

Even if your beloved can’t guess your password – and it’s still illegal to access your private, password protected accounts – he probably DOES know the answers to your security questions. Your mom’s maiden name, your first pet, your favorite teacher’s name or what your first car was, are far from top secret information.

My suggestion for answering security questions is to pick someone else, your dad, best friend, high school boyfriend, or (what I, briefly, used) your spouse’s information. THEIR moms maiden name, first car, date of birth, etc. You’ll still know all of the answers, but no one else will be able to guess, because they aren’t “your” answers.

Baby steps

Unfortunately, this will be a long slow process. Patience isn’t one of my strong suits.

The police in my case, asked me to file an identity theft report with the three credit bureaus. (Actually, I believe that you can file with one of them, and they will share the information). Www.experian.com was pretty user friendly. Make sure to ask your responding officer before you do this; identity theft is a pretty serious crime and I imagine that a false report of it is also serious. I was told to make the report because my ex had used my email and personal accounts to send messages to other people without telling the persons he was corresponding with that it was not me. In my responding officers eyes, this was identity theft. I see his point, but still don’t think online impersonation by my ex has much in common with my credit score.

The other step I was told to take, which seemed equally useless, was to file a report with http://www.ic3.com. This is an online form to fill out, supposedly for the FBI, if you have been the victim of a cybercrime. Again, the crimes they seem to be focusing on didn’t really seem to fit my problem; their focus looks to be more toward Nigerian scams or other financial schemes.

Reporting identity theft and to ic3 will both leave you with something to print out for The Binder, but little else. I’ve never been contacted as a result of either of these reports. But it gives the police something to distract you with I suppose!

Next topic will be advocacy groups.

Inaction, In Action

Creepy ex spouse? Check! Scads of neatly organized, legally obtained proof that aforementioned ex has outgrown their skeevy skivvies and is ready for a new monochrome orange wardrobe? Well let’s get a move on! You’ve got a lot of walls to beat your head against!

Two disclaimers: first, I live in Texas and while I’ve been on hold with some of the finest organizations anywhere, I can only tell you what ultimately got me results or…well, didn’t. Second, I am neither a lawyer or a cop, and your mileage may vary.

Ok…so you are pretty darn sure that your ex is pretending he’s the NSA and batman all rolled into one. Don’t try to undo anything – no removing the tracking device in your car, or spyware on your computer, or the nanny cam in your air vent. Locating the stuff is fine, but no touchy. You don’t want to smudge HIS prints, and broken bits of surveillance spy gear don’t prove much. Call the police if you’re in city limits, the sheriff if you live in the sticks like me. While you are waiting for an officer to arrive, get your id out, and neatly write out your full legal name, address, phone numbers; Add the names and DOB for anyone who lives with you. Also write down as much of the same info as you have for your ex. (I finally just typed all of that out and printed a stack to keep in The Binder. You may as well start one. You’re going to be collecting lots of paper.)

Remain calm, and when talking to the officer stick to the facts – not a good time to break out your elaborate theories – but stick to your metaphorical guns as well. Your main goal in this encounter is to file a report. Make sure you have a case, incident or report number before the officer leaves. It will usually be given to you written on a business card along with the officer’s badge number and name. (Go ahead and tape it to The Binder. Not kidding. ) In a few days you can get a copy of the official report – which you are also going to add to that 3 ring binder that will become your life. Ask how much a certified copy of the report is, and if you will need to bring exact change or a money order.

Getting this incident on the record is important. Making a report to the police SHOULD help with the ticking Statute Of Limitations clock. In some states, you only have 2 years from the time you became aware of the spyware, to do “something” about it.

This calm, reasonable interaction with the officer is also important because he can try to take this either of two routes: we prefer the I’m-going-to-investigate-this-as-a-potentially-serious-crime option. But what an awful lot of cops would really like to do is shake their had sadly and say “aw shucks! This sounds like A Civil Matter”. This is a much less stressful choice for them. Less paperwork. They probably won’t have to talk to you about this matter again.

Politely but firmly insist if necessary, on that report. In The Binder I also keep copies of the state and federal laws, to gently drive home the fact that this is criminal. Puh-leez. My ex and I haven’t been civil in years!

To be continued….(and I’ll get to work with posting an area here with some printable copies of the documents I’ve needed so far)

Evidence

It seems like I had a silver platter of evidence for law enforcement to sink their teeth into:

  • Hubby gave me the original eblaster program disc, with his handwritten login info, the email address and password to the gmail account where Spectorsoft sent his reports and custoner service information.
  • He sent pages of my email that he had accessed from computers other than mine, from his lawyer to my lawyer in a packet of documents during the discovery portion of our divorce.
  • He confessed to the installation of eblaster on my computer under oath while on the stand in our divorce trial.
  • He provided proof of purchase for Spy Bubble (a cell phone monitoring product) in a bank statement also produced in discovery.
  • Spectorsoft complied promptly with a subpoena for information regarding his purchase, access and use of eblaster.
  • I kept the compromised laptop in the pristinely tampered with condition it was in, packing it away to be used as evidence – not even turning it back on til it was given to the police.

…and yet it took a year, once all of the evidence was handed over,  to get the “investigation” to arrest level.  All I could think of, was holy hell, what if anyone had actually had to go out and FIND evidence??

Next up:  It’s not my job.

Dr Steven Curley trial postponed

A search of the Harris County District Courts website revealed that the trial for former MD Anderson doctor accused of installing E-Blaster on his wife’s computer during their divorce, has been delayed.

Instead of going to trial today (01/22/2014) his criminal case is set to go before Judge Maria Jackson of the 339th District Court in Harris County on 02/26/2014.

Something’s not right….

That creepy feeling was pretty much the first inkling that I had a problem.  From what I have learned over the last few years, the gut instinct that something is not right, is exactly how most people figure out that their spouse is spying on them.

The first twinges happened when I took a job bartending for the month of Spring Break on South Padre Island, Texas, for the month of March 2010.  I was not very creative at conjuring passwords, and used about 3 different ones, depending on a given account’s requirements for length, special characters, numbers, uppercase letters, etc.  I suddenly started having problems logging into my cell phone account, email and Facebook. I would get pop-ups that claimed I had previously exceeded the allowed number of incorrect log-in attempts (as with my AT&T account), or the password I’d used the day before (AOL  and Facebook) simply wouldn’t work.

About the same time, my husband started making odd comments or statements.  He would say things that, upon reflection, I would later realize that he could have only said if he had read my email to my sister, or had known exactly what time I had called my mom.

This was moderately annoying, because my husband was quite possibly the least forthcoming person on the planet.  HIS privacy was of utmost importance: he would lock his cell phones in his car at night, along with the keys (getting in with the keyless entry code that I of course did not know), and he never, to the best of my knowledge, used that Gateway laptop of mine to access his email, cell phone account, insurance or car payments… His mail went to locations other than the house… The list goes on (yes, I was unbelievably stupid.  I know.).

Because of his annoying habit of hiding his stuff, and his apparent new hobby of checking out mine, I changed all of the passwords.  Didn’t help.  Then I changed all of the answers to the security questions.  That helped very briefly.  My guess is right up until the day he purchased the E-Blaster program.

Soon I was getting questions about all of the dating websites I was getting email from.  And the emails about Viagra.  Did I think he needed Viagra?  Who was I getting Viagra for?

Apparently knowing what I was doing online soon became inadequate; that left far too many hours in the day unaccounted for. He began trying ridiculously hard to get his grubby hands on my cell phone.  This wouldn’t have been much of a concern, except that he had oddly left his cell phone in the bathroom one day, so of course I took the bait, and looked through his text messages. And there was a conversation talking about how to install Flexispy on his wife’s android phone. Sigh.  Be careful what you look for.

My sweet hubby soon gave me a brand new android phone!  Obvious much?  He would, after I changed cell phones again,  also purchase a program called SpyBubble, which I only found evidence of during the divorce proceedings, when he kindly supplied copies of his bank statements to me…including a transaction for the purchase of the SpyBubble….

One day when I called OnStar to unlock my car (oops. locked my keys in), the attendant on the other end commented on how often “we” seemed to call for car location service.  Hmm.

Finally, he filed for divorce.  But kept reading my email and Facebook messages. I confronted him, and in a moment of stupidity, he handed me the original E-Blaster disc, with it’s security code and all of the information I needed to uninstall it from my computer.  As much as I appreciated the evidence, er, information, I did not uninstall the program.  I did put the disc in the tray, check to see if the admin screen popped up…then packed the whole kit and caboodle away for future use.

1. Document, document, document.  Take screen shots of weird error messages and pop ups that say you have tried to log into accounts when you have not. (Hit the “print screen” button on your keyboard, go to the “paint” program, right mouse click and select paste.  Email to someone else. Print out a copy. Save for later.  Do not just save on the infected computer!)

2. Beware of gifts.  Cell phone spyware can be hidden on the SD card, the SIM card, the internal memory.  It probably won’t be in a file that says “sneaky shit”.  The programs can change the install dates, file names and files sizes to look like something that should be there, or something you want to be there.  It can be installed with a cute picture of puppies or your kids that your ex sends from his cell phone or a computer, that your phone downloads.

3. Don’t destroy evidence. I don’t mean just removing the software from your phone or computer, but also don’t take your own stuff off either.  Nude selfies?  Maybe not what the cops want to see, but everything you remove before you hand it over to the cops will be found with forensics, and everything you erased will make you look like you have something to hide. Remember that the spyware is illegal.  It doesn’t matter WHY he installed it.  It doesn’t matter if he thought you were cheating, or if you really are cheating.  The spyware is a crime.  Cheating is not.

4. Protect yourself.  Use strong passwords to access your computer, your accounts, your files. Don’t save anything to your computer or device that you don’t want someone else to see.  It is not generally a crime to access documents or communication stored on the physically accessible device itself.

5. Educate yourself.  Learn what to look for, and what laws are possibly being broken.  Check my links for my favorites.

For only $159.95…

As best I can tell, around February 2010, my husband began a life of crime.   For less than the cost of our monthly cell phone bill, he obtained a program called E-Blaster, made by SpectorSoft.  He installed it on the Gateway laptop that he had purchased for me – ironically during marriage counseling – and began his long siege on my sanity.

E-Blaster and its ilk have legitimate and legal uses.  Government agencies and privately owned businesses use such software on computers used by their employees, and monitor those employees internet usage as well as general time wasting activities.  I can certainly see the value in making sure that your employee isn’t using a company computer to access kiddie porn or purchasing illegal goodies on a Silk Road type venue.  Parents of minor children may also legally use such software to monitor the internet activity of their kids.   SpectorSoft quite explicitly states on their website that using their product to monitor a spouse is almost certainly illegal in the United States, and to be safe, any adult using any computer that the product is installed on should be notified that such software is monitoring their every cyberstep.

My hubby neglected to mention this installation.  In the early summer of 2010, I was pretty sure that I was going nuts: my husband began quoting, word for word, excerpts from my AOL email account, my Facebook private messages, and my text messages.  These were in addition to apparently “following” my sisters and friends on Facebook, and commenting to me on THEIR activities as well.

I’ve learned a few things over the last few years in dealing with being stalked – both in the cyber and real world.  I am nearing the end of my journey with uncooperative law enforcement, the bureaucracy of various Alphabet Soup government agencies, a narcissistic ex, and figuring out who has your back.  I sincerely hope that I can help others avoid some of the unnecessary missteps I have made.

Lesson #1:  You will sound crazy.  Really.  Get used to the eye rolling when you try to tell your family, friends and various law enforcement personnel that you are being spied on, cyberstalked, followed etc.

Lesson #2:  It is NOT a “civil matter”.  It IS a crime – from a selection of state and federal felonies, in fact.   Law enforcement does NOT want to get involved in the crime if you are involved with the perpetrator.   Be the squeaky wheel.

Lesson #3:  Document everything.  Call the police or sheriff’s department to document when needed.  That is, in fact, their job.

Lesson #4:  Don’t stoop to his level.  Nothing will stop your progress faster than law enforcement believing that YOU have violated any law, but particularly a law you are trying to bring him to justice for.

Lesson #5:   Be patient.  This has taken me FOUR YEARS.   But in the immortal words of my dad, “Give ’em enough rope to hang himself”.  It works, because this type of person is so arrogant as to believe that they have the right to terrorize you, are too smart for someone like you to catch them, and won’t really get in trouble anyway.

Lesson #6:   Be safe.  This is a sickness, and becomes an obsession.  Eventually, my hubby couldn’t NOT monitor my activities.  I literally am never alone, nor do I plan to be until he is safely wearing an orange jumpsuit.  See #1; yes, some people still think I’m overcautious and maybe a little crazy.  Those closest to me have had enough “coincidences”, odd happenings with their cars, computers, cell phones,

home alarms, vehicles following them….  Better thought of as crazy and alive to testify than have your headstone read “She Was Right”.

Great cost at a small price.

 
Great cost at a small price.