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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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The Vault Apps That Keep Sexts a Secret

When students were caught participating in an illegal picture ring operating out of a high school in Canon City, Colo., parents and school authorities were quick to point out that this type of thing was undoubtedly happening across the country.

They’re not entirely incorrect.

With the proliferation of mobile devices, sexting has become much more common than it was when it initially gained national attention. A study of numerous Texas high schools found that more than a quarter of the kids reported sending a naked photo of themselves, despite feeling uncomfortable by being asked for one. They are following in the footsteps of adults, who, according to a recent Drexel University survey, say that sexting makes them feel more sexually fulfilled.

Many persons who indulge in the practice, regardless of their age, would want to keep it a secret. This is when the so-called vault apps come into play. Here’s how it works.

They’ve been around for years.

So-called vault apps have existed at least since Snapchat’s popularity began to surge in 2012, and they have provided a comprehensive suite of privacy tools for roughly the same amount of time.

That same year, a writer for the appropriately named Naked Security blog analyzed various vault apps, noting that several of the free versions, such as Secret Pictures and Photo Safe, lulled the user into a false sense of security.

So-called vault applications have been around since at least 2012, when Snapchat’s popularity began to rise, and they have offered a comprehensive array of privacy options for roughly the same amount of time.

That same year, a writer for the fittingly called Naked Security site examined numerous vault programs, noting that several free versions, like Secret Pictures and Photo Safe, lulled users into a false sense of security.

When you launch Secret Calculator Folder Free, you’ll see the face of what appears to be a simple calculator. However, if you enter a passcode that you’ve created for the app, you’ll be able to access your private stash of images.

People shop around.

Nowadays, there are various apps available for keeping sexts private; many of them are free, and users aren’t afraid to look for them. There are multiple threads on the question-and-answer site Quora dedicated to Android users learning how to conceal apps and photographs on their phones, and Reddit members debated the best solutions for Apple users.

Despite their strange names, the apps are more popular than you may imagine. There are over 800 separate reviews for Secret Calculator Folder Free. According to App Annie, a mobile app measuring firm, Private Photo Vault is the 28th most downloaded photo and video app on the App Store, with over 1,500 individual ratings.

“A few of months ago, a friend recommended this software to me after I mistakenly revealed a few ‘pics’ of my ex-girlfriend,” one user, Appleman7934, commented. “I love the decoy password option.” Assume someone notices your phone’s photo vault and wonders what’s inside. When you reveal them the phony password, it opens up an entire collection of fake secret photographs, and people lose interest.”

The law is trying to keep up.

But what about users under the age of 18? That’s a completely distinct set of issues.

The illegal photo-sharing network that was operating at Canon City High School may appear noteworthy due to its scale, but Colorado is not the only state where regulators are warning about vault applications.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge alerted parents in September about vault apps hidden on phones, such as Calculator%, Keep Safe Private Photo Vault, and Best Secret Folder. Ms. Rutledge pleaded with parents to educate themselves about the tool, according to THV 11 in Little Rock.

“Ask them what technology they use,” Ms. Rutledge said. “Ask them to proceed farther if it appears like a calculator, such as this app.”

Several of these apps are available in app stores, and Canon City officials claim that students were using something similar. Officials are now looking into whether bullying or coercion had a role in that case.

In addition to breaching their school’s code of conduct, the pupils in Colorado may face criminal charges: Sending images of minors, storing such photos, or sharing them with others is a Class 3 felony in Colorado, according to George Welsh, superintendent of Canonn City schools, on Friday.

The present version of the legislation makes teenagers accountable for sending images of themselves.

“The wording of the law indicates that under the age of 18, you cannot provide consent to share your naked image,” Mr. Welsh explained.

What parents should be on the lookout for.

Parents who are concerned about vault apps might take preventative action by enabling parental controls. Parents with iPhones can use a feature called Ask to Buy to screen apps before they are downloaded to their children’s iPhones.

When you enable Ask to Buy, whenever a child wishes to download an app (free or paid), it sends a request to the parent’s iPhone, which the parent can then approve or deny. The methods, which can be found on Apple’s website, require configuring each iPhone for Family Sharing and then enabling Ask to Buy for the child’s iPhone.

Parents with Android devices can install parental controls within Google Play’s app store to allow children to download apps only when they reach a specified maturity level. For tighter controls, parents can install AppLock on their child’s device and use a PIN code to lock down any app they believe is a vault app.

Websites devoted to digital learning for teenagers offer advice to parents on how to recognize a hidden app. Common Sense Media, for example, outlined some of the ways they employ vault apps and other programs that are used to collect images secretly.

Stealth Cam, Private Ninja Cam, and Top Secret Camera, for example, are meant to conceal photo preview panels and activate the camera using a motion sensor.

According to a post on TeenSafe.com, parents should be vigilant in checking for warning indicators that their children are utilizing vault apps: According to the site, hiding phone screens, refusing to hand up passwords, and a sudden rise in gadget usage are all red indicators.

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