155. Safe Sex on the Internet
By Andrew D. Wright
It shouldn't come as a surprise that you can find sexually provocative
material on the Internet if you go looking for it. It should be even less
of a surprise that people do indeed go looking for it.
Without getting into questions of morality or legality, there are
parallels between safe sex in real life and safe sex online. You don't
have to approve of the sexual behavior in either case to recognize that
making sure people know the facts and act upon them is in everyone's best
In the online world, surfing for porn can bring you into the equivalent of
the bad part of town. Porn websites are commercial enterprises - they can
make money by selling access to their sites to the paying public or they
can do the equivalent of slipping someone a mickey and stealing their
wallet by taking over the user computer with malware.
Some sites are run by honest business people selling a product or service,
but others are not. Sites telling you that you need to download a special
file to play their videos for instance are trying to trick you into
running their malware program. Other sites will directly host malware and
install it using flaws in your Internet programs to infect your computer
without you knowing.
There are two main concerns for Internet porn viewing - security and
privacy. Surfing for porn on a shared computer can have unintended
consequences in both respects.
For safe porn surfing, nothing beats doing it on a virtual machine. A
virtual machine is like running a computer within a computer. It is
independent of the host operating system and can be set with the option of
deleting all changes after an online session. In other words, a clean
slate with no files saved and nothing that can be found by accident by any
third parties unless they're doing a forensic examination of the computer.
The virtual machine can become infected but those changes can be
completely deleted like they never happened. It's still a good idea to use
a secure up-to-date web browser and an updated antivirus program on the
virtual machine in case the malware is very, very clever but the vast
majority of malware won't be.
On a personal computer that isn't shared, using the Linux operating system
to surf porn is one way to dodge most malware, since almost all malware is
written for the Windows operating system. This doesn't prevent anyone with
access to the computer from finding what you've been doing, but "private"
material can be stored in encrypted folders with password protected access
readily enough and you can delete the web browser's cache when you're
Linux can be run on pretty much any computer right from a CD drive using a
Linux bootable CD.
For people not worried about others using their computer and who don't
want to set up a virtual machine or use Linux, the best advice is to make
sure Windows is updated, have an updated anti-virus and anti-malware
program, and use Mozilla Firefox or Opera as your web browser since unlike
Internet Explorer they are not integrated into the Windows operating
system. Firefox supports Private Browsing (under the Tools menu) where no
details of the online session are saved to the computer when the session
Be careful what you click on or say yes to. If the bad guys can't
break into your computer, they can still trick you into doing it for them.
There's an Internet meme called Rule 34, which says that if something
exists, then somewhere on the Internet there is porn of it. I'll add that
whatever it is you're looking for, you can find it available for free, but
remember to play safe and respect the law.
Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 (free):
Mousepad on setting up Virtual PC:
Ubuntu Linux (free):
TrueCrypt encryption software (free):
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Originally published 17 July 2009
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