The conveniences of modern life also come with downsides. One drawback that can have an outsized impact on a person is digital stalking—the use of your digital footprint to keep tabs on you online and in the real world.

But you can take steps to minimize that risk. You don’t need to go to extreme lengths to maintain your privacy, either. Basic precautions will set you up well for the future, like turning off public sharing for social-media posts. hacker hands stealing data from laptop top down

But you can go even further to increase your security measures to prevent cyberstalking—and most people concerned about digital stalkers will want to do so. Vulnerabilities can overlap. For example, social media can reveal facts that can make stalking you digitally and physically easier. And having the same user name across all apps and services could make finding you on the web and discovering one of your long-forgotten accounts with a weak password much simpler. (Both can lead to further intrusion into your life.)

This article breaks everything down for you, with bolded text that highlights key action items. Use it as a checklist to shore up your defenses.

Quick privacy tips

As you read through this article, you can use an incognito or private browsing window (right-click on these links and choose “Open link in incognito window” or “Open in private window”) if you feel that your computer might not be secure from an in-home threat.

Also, digital stalking can lead to real-world danger. If you believe you’re at risk, don’t stop after implementing these tips. Resources for people experiencing stalking, domestic abuse, and other violence exist, and you can consult with them and local groups (as well as local law enforcement or your national police force, e.g., the FBI) to get further help. And keep a paper trail if you believe someone is stalking and/or threatening you. Write down incidents of concern and take screenshots (or video) as much as possible.

Ways people can monitor your online activity

Your profile is set public

Your public posts on social media are viewable by anyone. They don’t need an account to see what you’ve shared.


PCWorld Facebook page

Your social media accounts or other apps and services may be broadcasting all of your posts or information for anyone to view. Remove the information or set your privacy level to friends-only (at minimum) to keep those deets away from prying eyes. Unfortunately, you can’t always predict which companies will do this, so you may have to comb through a lot of apps and websites for a thorough lockdown.

Also, when you’re tagged or otherwise named in other people’s public posts, someone can see into your life. You can change your settings to block others’ ability to tag you.

Your user name

Many people use the same user ID across all services. To avoid someone following you around the internet, mix it up. Use a unique login name for some services, if not all of them. If you use a password manager, you’ll be able to easily keep track of your user IDs.

Through your friends

Not only can other people’s public posts divulge specifics about your life, but your “friends” on websites or apps can also become a vulnerability. You won’t always know who they know, and what ends up getting shared indirectly.

You can minimize this risk by limiting your posts’ reach to trusted individuals, removing people you don’t know well from your friends list, and/or simply not sharing as much online.

Account infiltration

Person typing on a desktop PC keyboardIf someone can access your accounts, they can dig into all the personal info stored in them.

Another person can access your account if you have a weak, leaked, or shared password, or through any linked third-party services that have been compromised. Let’s say that you use Facebook to log into other websites. If someone gains access to your Facebook account, that could open up access to a ton of other sites as well.

At its most benign, you might find yourself with a freeloader on your Netflix account. But even in that case, that person can still see your viewing habits and some of your billing details, as well as your email address and possibly phone number, too. Such data can allow deeper digging into your life and snooping on personal messages or email if your security is weak overall. Your financial information, intimate conversations, and private photos could end up exposed.

To root out a spy, check your account activity. Many major services (Gmail, Facebook, etc.) show a list of IP addresses and the devices associated with them, as well as the time and date of the access. You can figure out your IP address by typing “what’s my ip” into Google or another search engine. (Your phone may have a different IP address than your PC if you use its cellular data connection.)

If you see any unknown IP addresses, log out that device or end its session. Also change your password as well to something strong and random. A password manager (even a good free one) will make that simple. Enable two-factor authentication to raise your security level even further, and limit third-party access to your accounts. Even if you don’t see any suspicious activity, you can still go through these steps to ensure you (and only you) have account access.

Physical access to your device(s)

Chrome incognito window

Incognito windows in Chrome are a way to keep people with access to your device from knowing your browsing history. The same mode exists in other browsers too but are named differently.

Checking IP addresses in your account activity will tell you when people outside your home are monitoring you, but not necessarily when someone inside your home is doing the watching. You might catch them that way on their own devices, but not when they use yours.

Maybe you don’t have a screen lock on your phone or an account password on your PC. Or perhaps you’ve shared that info in the past with a housemate, friend, or family member and never changed it. They can then have a look at any website or app you’re logged into. No need for the passwords to those accounts.

Keep people out by adding an authentication method to the device—or changing your existing credentials. If that’s not an option, log out of websites and applications when you’re not using them. For web browsing, you can also use an incognito window in Chrome, InPrivate window in Edge, or a private window in Firefox to avoid leaving a history of what sites you visit.

A private browsing session won’t prevent someone on your home network from being able to see your traffic requests, though. To cover that completely, you’ll need to use a VPN. Alternatively, you can use your phone’s cellular data connection.

Remote access to your PC