Pandemic sexting safety: digital security tips with Steve Kent

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way we connect with sexual partners. Membership and participation on dating apps has surged, and many folks are looking for ways to get sexy remotely with partners they can’t see in person. It’s a time when your privacy and security on the interwebs is more important than ever.

I’m all for sexting, and I’ve been doing it for years…but I haven’t always considered the risks, and what can be done to make things safer. Yesterday I spoke with Steve Kent from Chicago, USA. He’s the Chief Technology Officer for Onshore Security, a firm that manages cyber-security threats….and he had a LOT of useful advice to give!

Here are some of the points we covered.

Key takeaways read this first!)

  • No sex is risk-free – it’s always going to be a trade-off between risk and convenience. Online is no different!
  • It’s your job to consider the level of risk, based on who you’re interacting with. Is it a partner, someone you know a little, or a stranger? Different levels of risk (and different precautions) should be applied.
  • Danger comes from many directions. There could be risk from the person you’re interacting with, or from the service provider you’re using (such as the app, platform or internet connection). Or it could be you – is your device secure? Are you storing your pictures safely?
  • The pandemic means there is an increased risk of scammers and hackers going after your personal data – not just via scam emails but also through other channels such as talking to strangers online. It’s good to be aware of the dangers, when speaking to people you don’t know.
  • Think about only putting things out into the world that wouldn’t destroy your life or cause you to lose sleep, if it became public. Put some limits on what you’re willing to show or communicate, to give yourself a little more peace of mind.

Strategies for staying secure

  • Make sure your devices are password-protected (boot-up AND screen lock). Use longer ‘pass phrases’ rather than passwords.
  • Use secure apps such as Signal which have end-to-end encryption – but be aware that even secure apps share different pieces of data! For example, Signal is connected to your phone number and therefore might be better suited to conversations with partners than with strangers.
  • Some apps (such as Snapchat, Signal) make images disappear after a period of time, or prevent screen grabs, but nothing is 100% guaranteed. It’s just a matter of making things more difficult for someone…there’s no failsafe.
  • Many apps we use daily (Facebook, google, etc) are built around taking your personal data and using it for marketing and advertising purposes – This includes private messages. So if the service you’re using is free, it’s worth doing some research if you’re concerned about your privacy…or simply keep your personal conversations off those apps, and use something more secure.
  • Having separate Facebook and google accounts for private and public areas of your life might not work, because those apps are very good at working out when accounts are related (based on behaviour, location, IP address, etc)
  • Turn off location services on your devices, especially if you’re communicating with someone you don’t know.
  • Be careful about your image EXIF data / metadata. It can include not only your location information, but also specific camera information that could identify you when it’s compared with other pics you’ve posted to the internet and social media. Some apps (such as Twitter) strip out EXIF data…but some don’t. If in doubt, use a different camera, run it through an image editing program and resave, or use a special program to strip out your image data.

Remember folks – this shit can feel really technical at times, but it’s usually nothing a good ‘googling’ can’t fix. Not sure what something means or how to get something happening? Chuck it into Google search, chances are you’ll find a tutorial or a quick explanation. ‘This is all too hard’ might not be the best approach, if you’re serious about getting sexy safely.

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