Online dating and sexual harassment
Kylie* had been chatting with Marco* for about a month after having connected on OKCupid, but they hadn’t yet met in person. One night, after over an hour of increasingly flirty texts, Marco suggested that they switch to a more visual forum – he wanted to Skype sex.
The next day, Kylie was horrified when one of her friends called to tell her that she received a recording of the encounter. An hour later, Kylie got a message from Marco: pay up, or the recording would be sent to even more people in her social network.
Online dating is where women are most vulnerable to cyber-sexual harassment.
That’s because unlike most social networks, dating sites are where you go with the express purpose of meeting, and potentially getting intimate with strangers. Whereas on other sites strict privacy settings could serve as a shield, on dating sites those tactics for staying safe would just result in another solitary Saturday night.
While dating apps are supposed to be fun, they’ve also been known to lead to some pretty unpleasant encounters.
For instance, Esme* met Raphael on the app Happn. After chatting on the app, the conversation moved to WhatsApp, but when Esme checked his profile picture, she noticed Raphael looked different and his profile did not match the one on the dating app. Not wanting a confrontation, she told Raphael that she had some personal issues to work out before she was ready to date. Instead of accepting her explanation, he started bombarding her with aggressive questions about where she was and who she was with.
Finally, Esme blocked him and reported him to Happn. Knowing he would seek her out on social media she also blocked him on Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. And when he tried to call her, she blocked his number too. Whether Raphael finally got the hint (unlikely) or simply found it too hard to maintain contact, Esme was able to stop the abuse – but not all women are this lucky.
What happened to Esme is known as catfishing – or when someone misrepresents themselves online, often using fake photos and profiles. While Esme was able to clearly see that the person on the Happn profile was different from the person in the WhatsApp profile, most catfishers are smart enough to better hide their tracks.
Similarly, it’s pretty easy to unknowingly become the accomplice of a catfisher. Take Cori*, for instance. One day she got a call from a friend that her Facebook profile picture was being used on someone else’s dating profile. Cori reported the fake profile and it was deleted, but who knows how many people saw her face and information before then?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to both meet people online and ensure you’ll never be a victim. However, there are ways to protect yourself.
3 Ways to Protect Yourself on Dating Sites
- Do a Background Check
When you first connect with someone online, search them on Google, Facebook, and other dating apps if you’re on them. Look for inconsistencies in their pictures and profile descriptions. If you find any, report the profile to your app.
- Get to Know Them on the App
Chat on the app before moving the conversation to a different platform. This gives you a sense of who they are before exposing further details about your personal life. Once you do feel comfortable enough to move the conversation to another platform, be aware of what they can see there. For instance, both WhatsApp and Telegram allow profile photos, WhatsApp allows status updates, and Telegram lets you write a little bio about yourself. Both apps also have a “last seen” feature that shows your contacts when you were last on the app. If you don’t want someone to see any of this information, change your privacy settings. And if you do end up getting together in person, make sure to meet in a public place, and let a friend know where you’ll be.
- Keep Your Social Media Accounts and Pictures Private.
This minimizes the chance of someone stealing your pictures and using them on dating sites.
Most adults are familiar with safe sex. But what they may not have given much thought to is safe sexting.
This is especially important, since sexting is on the rise. In fact, according to one study, nearly half of the adults surveyed said that they sext.
However, the fact that a lot of people do it doesn’t mean it’s not without its risks. Stories of revenge porn and hacks that have exposed people’s intimate photos are commonplace. And it’s not hard to imagine how having your nudes fall into the wrong hands could devastate your professional and personal life.
The easy answer would be to tell you to stop sexting, but we’re not going to do that. Sexting can be a fun and fulfilling part of your relationship or dating life, and we’re not here to deny you a good time.
What we are going to do is give you some easy tips on how sext safely. Some of these may seem like common sense, but we’re also going to get into some high tech hacks so you can relax while your smartphone gets steamy.
7 Ways to Protect Yourself While Sexting
- Don’t Include Your Face or Other Identifiable Features
Your first line of defense if your photos go public is plausible deniability. That means making sure your pics don’t include your face, unusual birthmarks, or tattoos.
- Don’t Drunk Sext
You may be feeling frisky after a couple of margaritas, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best time to unbutton your top and bust out your camera.
Fortunately, there are several apps available that can prevent morning after regrets. For instance, Drunk Locker is a really comprehensive app for when you know you’re going to be partying. Besides finding you a designated driver, it can also block certain contacts so you can’t get in touch via calls, texts, and social media.
- Make Your Photos Self-destruct
The app Disckreet is specifically designed for sexting, and requires that both the sender and the receiver input a passcode in order to see a sent image. The main benefit Disckreet offers is that it allows you to delete you images from the phone of the person you sent it to. That said, there’s nothing stopping the person receiving your photos from taking a screenshot and saving them.
An app that somewhat gets around the screenshot issue is the popular SnapChat, whichautomatically deletes photos a few seconds after they’re opened. Although SnapChat allows screenshots, it’ll send you a notification when one is taken. That said, it’s not a perfect solution, because a little Googling provides several ways to bypass the notification – so it’s still possible for someone to save your photo without you knowing.
Confide, a well-encrypted app that automatically deletes messages and photos, doesn’t allow receivers to take screenshots. But again, if someone is really committed to saving your nudes, they’ll find a way.
- Password Protect Your Phones and Photos
To ensure that no one accidentally gets an eyeful when scrolling through your or your partner’s phone, both of you should protect your phones with passcodes.
You can also download an app that will keep your sexy photos in a seperate, password protected folder. Some options are KeepSafe and Gallery Lock. One of the cool things about Gallery Lock is that you can choose to keep the icon hidden, so others won’t realize it’s on your phone. Plus, if someone repeatedly tries to login and fails, the app will take their picture.
Be aware, however, that not all these apps provide encryption, meaning you could be at risk of having your photos hacked.
- Securely Save Your Photos
If you happen to snap a pic that makes your butt look like the work of art you know it to be, you may opt to save it rather than have it self-destruct. In that case, it’s better to store it on a desktop, rather than a mobile device, which is more likely to get lost or stolen.
Bear in mind though, even on a desktop it’s possible to get hacked. Therefore, you should save your sensitive photos in an encrypted file. VeraCrypt is a free open source program that allows you to encrypt individual files on either your Mac or your PC.
Bear in mind though, that once your photos are in an encrypted folder, you still need to permanently erase them from your computer. It’s not enough to put them in the trash and then take out the trash.
Until that data is overwritten by new data, it still exists and can be found by an enterprising hacker. Fortunately, there’s software out there to permanently delete files. For Windows, one of the most popular free options is Eraser, and for a Mac you can use Permanent Eraser.
- Don’t Sync Your Photos
If you have an Android, it’s likely that your photos get automatically saved to to Google Photos, and if you have an iPhone, they get saved to the iCloud.
You may recall the infamous iCloud hack of 2014, in which the private photos of several (mostly female) celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence and Kirsten Dunst, were leakedfollowing a phishing attack. Since you don’t want that happening to you, you’re best bet is to keep your sensitive photos off the cloud.
That said, we don’t recommend disabling automatic syncing, since that can lead to your losing your info in the event that your phone gets lost or stolen. Instead, you should log into Google Photos or iCloud and delete them individually. Be aware though, that if you have automatic syncing on, this could result in the photo also being deleted from your phone the next time it syncs. So if you want to save the photo, back it up somewhere else – preferably in an encrypted folder (see above).
- Don’t Send Pictures to People You Don’t Trust
We know, this seems really obvious, but with 16% of people reporting having sent sexts to complete strangers, it’s worth emphasising.
Not sending potentially compromising photos to someone you’re not sure about is especially important, since as you may have noticed from this list, there’s no condom for sexting, so there’s no way to stay totally safe. So take the precautions you can, and choose your sexting partners wisely.
COME BACK TOMORROW TO READ ABOUT ATTACKS IN REAL LIFE
* Names have been changed to protect identity
Info courtesy vpnMentor.com