Visiting adult websites might be satisfying short-term, but there is always a long-term issue. Your privacy and security are at risk from everything from tracking cookies to adult website scams.
Here's why you need to be careful using free adult websites and what scams to look out for.
Free adult websites might sound great in theory. You get the material you're looking for without paying, subject only to a few adverts. While there are issues with ads (see below), you're probably not aware that you're also being tracked online.
Thanks to cookies, advertising networks can track where you go on the web. They can also log which actions you take and which links interest you the most. Using this data, they can build profiles on you.
These profiles are usually innocent and marketing related. They'll show advertisements that you'll find relevant to your interests. But these profiles can be used to compile your browsing history. In the context of adult sites, this may make you uneasy.
So, what can you do?
One option is to subvert online tracking using private browsing modes, a more reliable solution than clearing browser cookies. You might also use an anti-tracking extension---particularly useful if you visit an adult website while signed into your favorite social network.
For full online anonymity, however, use a VPN. See our guide to the best VPNs to find one to suit your budget.
Thanks to mobile devices, you can watch your favorite movies and other adult content wherever you are.
This brings along its own set of risks. Sharing options mean that one stray movement or gesture can beam the video to a TV where your friends or family are happily enjoying a TV quiz show. Or you could accidentally share a link to your new favorite adult movie on Facebook, Twitter, even LinkedIn.
Preventative measures are recommended here before you engage with any mature content. Be sure to close all other apps before viewing, signing out of social networks. To avoid accidental casting to Chromecast or other streaming box, access the content via a VPN installed on your device.
One visit to a bad adult website could result in you being blackmailed or extorted. Whether it's an actual porn site or a more innocent online dating site, your history could be used against you.
Just ask all the users who trusted Ashley Madison. When this online cheating site had its database hacked and publicly leaked, 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 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. Each of the victims was left susceptible to digital identity theft.
It's bad enough when your Target account gets hacked. This is a hundred times worse.
Scams are another common sight when adult websites are concerned. People who willingly pay for porn are especially susceptible to the trickery that awaits behind every link.
We've already seen how free sites are risky. But as most porn buyers seek specific, niche categories, they sometimes find they're 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 browsing an adult site, you may become infected with malware that locks down your PC and threatens you. The malware might threaten to release your internet history online, falsely report you to the FBI for child pornography, etc,
As with all ransomware, you feel compelled to pay the ransom of a few hundred dollars.
We already mentioned ransomware, but malware 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. After all, they want you to return again and again. Legitimate adult websites aren't out to get you.
However, there's something else: malvertising. Malicious advertising is the real issue. Malware is more commonly distributed through advertising networks. Our guide to malvertising explains this in more detail and what you can do to block it.
Adult webcam sites have exploded in popularity over the past few years. While these are mostly well run, there is a lot of spam associated with them.
Messages might come from bots (automated messaging accounts) on Skype, WhatsApp, Twitter, and other messaging services. Email is also a problem here, as are popups on standard adult gallery websites. You might even end up chatting to someone real, only to find out they're reeling you into a cam session. This is usually a one-on-one video call with a stranger for "shared" (in reality, your) gratification.
There are various risks with all these scenarios.
- You're likely to pay more than you would like
- You don't know if the call is being recorded
- Other people could be watching
The recording issue is particularly concerning. It could be used to blackmail you.
Meanwhile, if the unsolicited cam model is aware that you're happy to pay, they're likely to contact you repeatedly.
The answer is to avoid adult cam sites and refuse offers from strangers online. For the best results, don't even use "regulated" cam sites.
While not a direct threat, your recent online activity might convince you into thinking this scam is real.
This is an email scam in which scammers claim to have footage of you "enjoying" adult content. It even features the subject line "You Should Be Ashamed Of Yourself," or "You were not clever." The play is that they threaten to share the footage with your contacts if you don't pay a ransom. Naturally, the ransom is in untraceable Bitcoins, a cryptocurrency.
Of course, this is a scam. Almost certainly no one is watching you---such phishing emails have been received by people who don't watch adult material. Further, timed threats (e.g. "I give you exactly 24 hours…") can be ignored if there is no read receipt to let the scammer know when the message was opened.
It's easy to be fooled if you have been viewing adult websites. But take a moment and you'll realise it's a very clever scam.
Find out more about the cam extortion email scam to learn how to stop extortion phishing.
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.
If you were to catch this kind of malware from an adult website, you would spend years in prison. The "I didn't know" defense is what a real pedophile would say.
Not all adult websites are about free video streaming, photos, or even premium membership. Some adult websites are provided purely for peer to peer filesharing.
People who get their adult content through filesharing sites 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.
With 1000s of new adult movies released every year, it's clearly big business. Copyright infringement is sought out with as much gusto (if not more) as Hollywood, resulting in illegal filesharing sites dedicated to adult movies being targeted.
The next time you're thinking about visiting an adult or other unsavory website you may want to reconsider. At the very least, keep up to date with the latest scams and install a trusted real-time security suite.
Also, be certain that the site is secure. Watch out for root certificates on any sites you browse.