New Texas Law – Tx HB 2268

In summer 2013, Governor Rick Perry signed into law0 Texas House Bill 2268

This has been hailed as a boon to consumer privacy, as it requires that law enforcement obtain a warrant if they are requesting, for example, a persons actual email content or IP address information.

More importantly for people like me, who have been the victim of cyberstalking, this law also gives companies like Twitter, Google / Gmail, AOL, etc, NO MORE THAN 15 DAYS TO COMPLY WITH THE WARRANT. If the magistrate signing the warrant chooses, he or she may pare down that time to three days if they feel the urgency is required. The law also requires that a warrant signed by any judge in the state of Texas be honored by any company that does business in the state of Texas. Proof of doing business in the state may consist of that little check box you click, swearing that you’ve read the Terms Of Service for the company. (I know you haven’t read any of them – just read one. Like Facebook’s. Scary stuff)

That’s pretty important, because Google and the others (I’m picking on them because they are the biggest thorn in my butt) have a tendency to claim that they only will honor warrants obtained in the same county as their base of operations. Fun game of hide and seek when a company’s HQ is in Denver and they are incorporated in Delaware – or outside the USA.

The caveat here is that the warrant must be “properly worded”. That might suck, depending on the literacy and competence level of your investigating agency.

I have heard, probably a dozen times, that we were waiting on _________ to comply with a warrant and it just takes time, gosh darn it.

Well, it takes 15 days now in Texas. Make sure that your own Keystone cops know the law, and know that YOU know the law.

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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.