Now that we’re a few weeks into COVID-19-related quarantine, our habits have changed a lot. Baking bread and endlessly scrolling through TikTok have lost their thrill, and even masturbating to pass the time is starting to get old (*gasp*). Basically, people want actual connection, stat.
And considering it's definitely not a good idea to hook up with someone you're not social distancing with right now, what’s a horny person to do? Two words: cybersex. Tons of singles (or couples in unintentional LDRs thanks to the coronavirus) are heading to FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype to fulfill their ~needs~. And honestly, it’s kinda genius. Thank you, modern technology.
But because Zoombombing, hackers, and revenge porn exist, it’s not as simple as just opening an app and getting down to business. In the infamous words of Taylor Swift, this is why we can’t have nice things. So you should def be taking some precautions before getting off via video chat.
Here, eight tips that’ll keep you safe while having *special* video calls with your S.O. (or, hell, even a Tinder match).
Make sure you have strong passwords.
The "soccergirlxo" password you’ve been using for all of your accounts since the sixth grade isn’t gonna cut it, says Jessy Irwin, cybersecurity advisor and information security expert. Instead, you need strong, unique passwords for each of your logins to make sure that attackers can’t gain access to your accounts (especially the one you use for hooking up, duh).
Please update your phone and computer.
Can’t remember the last time you updated your computer? Get on that ASAP. "That’s going to be the way that you protect your computer and you protect yourself from potential viruses or security vulnerabilities," says Irwin. In other words, updates protect you from shady people gaining access to things you don’t want them to see—like your naked bod in front of your webcam.
The same goes for your phone. Keeping up with software updates ensures that you’ll get the latest security fixes on your device—which means fewer opportunities for it to be hacked.Continue reading below ↓
Set up an anonymous account.
If the video chat platform you want to use requires an email to sign up (and a lot of 'em do), Irwin suggests creating an anonymous email. "It might be worth making it so that you have an anonymous email that you only use for this purpose. That way, any evidence of this behavior doesn’t accidentally pop up in your inbox or get moved into the rest of your day-to-day life," she explains.
Basically, having an account that’s not tied to your name will offer a bit of protection if images or videos from your chats somehow get leaked.
Choose an encrypted platform.
If you really wanna be safe from potential security breaches, Irwin and Joseph Jerome, privacy and cybersecurity expert, agree that your best option is to use an encrypted video chat platform. "The lack of encryption creates a scenario where unnamed third parties can eavesdrop or listen in on what you’re doing," explains Jerome. (This is why people have been Zoombombed.) Both he and Irwin recommend an encrypted app called Signal that offers end-to-end encryption, which means that your call will be wrapped in super strong protection. "It’s very hard to break and it makes sure that what’s being shared is only for your eyes and your partner’s eyes. And that’s it, there’s no one in the middle," Irwin explains
FWIW, FaceTime is also end-to-end encrypted, if you’d rather go that route. Good to know!Continue reading below ↓
But if you're gonna use a different platform, check the privacy settings.
This means not settling for the defaults, people. "I can’t convey this strongly enough when it comes to things like privacy and security, settings absolutely do matter," says Jerome. Read over those long-ass agreements and make sure you're not secretly giving the company all your data or that they now have legal use of anything they record. (Aka your nudes.)
If you’re ok with some risk, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom are fine to use, says Jerome. They all offer about the same level of security, which is moderate but not incredible.
Just pick a platform that you don’t use for anything else, warns Irwin. If you already use Zoom for happy hour and remote yoga classes, you don’t want to use it for sex too and risk having a friend or family member drop in unexpectedly.
And whatever you do, definitely don’t use your work Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts account for intimate calls. DUH.Continue reading below ↓
Set expectations with your partner.
Just like you’d have a conversation with your partner about contraception before the main event, you should talk about what you two are gonna do in terms of cyber protection, says Irwin. Ask what their privacy settings are and if they plan to record or screenshot the call. This way, you can have a legit convo to see if you're both okay with what you decide.
Use your phone rather than your laptop.
"It’s easier to have bad things happen to you on your computer rather than just your mobile phone," says Irwin. That’s because mobile devices are designed to be a little more secure, so they’re less susceptible to bad software that could put you at risk.
"There’s a long history of people creating viruses and extremely bad software for your computer that basically hijacks your web camera and waits until you might be sitting in front of your computer in a bra or without a top on or something like that,” she explains. And that’s definitely not something you want to be worrying about during sexy Skype.
Don't show any identifying factors.
That means not showing your face but also things like tattoos, piercings, and even freckles that might let people know it’s you if the contents of your video chat get leaked for some reason. Things you might not think of, like your manicure, could make you identifiable, says Irwin.
The same goes for your background. Make sure there’s nothing in the frame that makes it clear that this is your house or bedroom. When in doubt, use a virtual background, suggests Jerome. (Who wouldn’t wanna get it on lying on a tropical beach or underneath a waterfall?)
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.