There’s no such thing as safe sext

from Flickr user Jhaymesisviphotography

from Flickr user Jhaymesisviphotography

Put down your pitchforks, your social justice warrior shrieking about “slut-shaming”, and your righteous indignation about, well, everything. It’s time to have a much-needed expounding upon my call to take more responsibility for the security of your personal data. The impetus is this article from the Salt Lake Tribune showing some very disturbing security practices amongst teenagers.

Teens taking dumb risks is nothing new. They’ve been doing it since, well, forever. Often, though, most of those mistakes wouldn’t end up being a permanent record. Now we have the Internet which will forget nothing about you. And yes, that includes those racy pictures that that one special person pinky swore to never, EVER show another living soul.

The report shows that 24% of men and 13% of women end up forwarding one or more of those pictures. Think about that for a minute. If you send a compromising picture to 20 individuals, you’re going to end up sharing it with between 2 and 5 other people you aren’t aware of. You have no idea if those people are going to keep it to themselves, send it to someone else, or, even worse, put it online where hundreds or thousands of others will grab it and do the same.

Once that happens, it’s more-or-less impossible to control it. Remove it from every website you can find and someone will dig it up from their hard drive, upload it somewhere, and start the process all over again. It becomes an indelible part of your online identity and it will chase you forever. If you’re under 18, you could even be facing felony charges for creation and distribution of child pornography, something that will land you on a sex offender registry for most of your life.

Even so-called ephemeral messaging apps like Kik and Snapchat are not immune as any recipient can screenshot what you’ve sent them. Video messaging products like Skype are also vulnerable to screen capturing products. There is no way to definitely ensure that the intended recipient will be the only recipient. As a security professional, I can pretty much guarantee it.

This is a huge security risk to take upon yourself. The moment you send that picture to another individual, you are trusting that they are not going to allow it to spread any further, a trust that, statistically, is poorly placed. In exchange, you face possible public humiliation or criminal charges. Given the huge risks, you should never, ever for any reason do it and run far away from anyone who tries to talk you into it.

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