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Pornography addiction is on the rise and there are no signs that this trend will end any time soon. But here’s the thing: while pornography is often discussed in the context of morality, there’s a huge security-and-privacy angle that tends to get overlooked.
And if you think that these issues won’t ever affect you, you may want to reconsider. Even the most vigilant security experts can make mistakes, and one mistake could be all it takes to ruin your life. That might sound alarmist, but it’s unfortunately true.
The important thing is awareness and humility. If you know what to look out for, and if you aren’t so confident as to think these things could never happen to you, the safer you’ll be.
1. User Tracking & Profiles
Did you know that agencies can track where you go on the Web? They can also track things like which actions you take and which links interest you the most — and using this data, they can build profiles on you.
These profiles are usually innocent and marketing-related (e.g. to only show advertisements that you’ll find relevant to your interests), but the scary thing is that these profiles can be used to compile your browsing history. In the context of adult sites, this may make you uneasy.
Online tracking can be subverted with methods like private “Incognito” browsing, clearing out browser cookies, and installing anti-tracking extensions, but nowadays even these tactics may not be enough.
2. Data Leaks & Breaches
One visit to a bad adult website could result in you being blackmailed or extorted — and I’m not just talking about victimization by revenge porn. Whether it’s an actual porn site or something more innocent like an online dating site, your history could be used against you.
Just ask all of the users who trusted Ashley Madison. When this online cheating site had their database hacked and released to the public, millions of cases of infidelity came to light. Not only that, but the released information included things like sexual preferences and geographical data.
Due to all of this, some people have faced so much humiliation that they’ve been driven to the brink of suicide. Others have had to deal with blackmail and sextortion, while some have even had their lives threatened.
It gets worse. Earlier this year, AdultFriendFinder’s database was breached and nearly 4 million subscribers had their information leaked, leaving them susceptible to digital identity theft. It’s bad enough when your Target account gets hacked. This is a hundred times worse.
Note: Worried that your identity may have been stolen? Here are the most important warning signs of identity theft to be aware of. If something seems fishy, don’t hesitate!
3. Scammers & Fraudsters
Scams are another common sight when adult websites are concerned, and people who willingy pay for porn are especially susceptible to the trickery that awaits behind every link.
With so much porn freely available on the Web, you might be wondering why anyone would ever pay for it. The truth is that most porn buyers are those who seek very specific, very niche categories — and these are so rare that they’re worth paying for.
This also means that there are plenty of scammers who will gladly capitalize on these insatiable desires. Once you’re lured in by cheap or free trials, these scam subscriptions will automatically renew at exorbitant rates. Suddenly, you’re blindsided with a $120 bill every month.
But ransomware is even scarier. While browing an adult site, you may become infected with malware that locks down your computer and threatens to do something you wouldn’t want (e.g. release your porn history to the public, report you to the FBI for child pornography, etc) unless you pay the fee of a few hundred dollars.
We already mentioned ransomware above, but malware as a whole is one of the more serious issues you could encounter when browsing adult websites. (It’s also a risk when you visit any website that deals in illegal activity, like pirating and warez. Pirating TV shows like Game of Thrones can also give you malware.)
The thing about malware is that the adult websites themselves aren’t distributing said malware. They want users to return and keep using their websites, so it doesn’t really make sense to put their reputations on the line for a quick buck. Legitimate adult websites aren’t out to get you.
However, there’s something called malvertising, and this is the real issue. In short, malware is more commonly distributed through advertising networks. One bad click here or there and you could end up downloading a virus, Trojan, worm, or whatever else is out there. Malvertising also poses a big security risk on mobile devices.
5. Legal Consequences
People who visit adult websites could find themselves in legal trouble if they aren’t careful. Child pornography is rampant and the problem is only getting worse. But even as someone who has absolutely no intention of participating, child porn could affect you.
On the one hand, it seems that browser cache files don’t count as possession, so viewing something illegal online won’t also count as possession of that media even though a copy of that file does reside on your computer. However, illegal files can still find their way onto your system by other means.
Back in 2010, criminals stored their child pornography on the computers of unsuspecting innocents through the use of a virus. If you were infected, your computer would have child porn on it without you even realizing it — and the scary thing is, the “I didn’t know” defense is what a real pedophile would say.
If you were to catch this kind of malware from an adult website today, you could lose years of your life to prison.
As for people who get their adult content through filesharing sites, you could end up being sued for copyright infringement. This is also a potential issue if you access adult content with a torrent-streaming method like Popcorn Time.
Adult Websites Are Risky
The next time you’re thinking about visiting an adult website — or any website that deals with sketchy subjects — you may want to reconsider. At the very least, keep up to date with the latest scams, regularly scan for viruses and infections, and install a trusted real-time security suite.
Wondering which companies you can really trust? Take a look at these companies that don’t really care about your security. And watch out for root certificates on any sites you browse.