We were hoping that one positive outcome of the Anthony Weiner sexting debacle would be that, if you can't keep it in your pants, at least keep it off the Web. And if you can't do that, it's time to get better tech to help protect your private…er, messages.
Fortunately, app developers feel your pain and have been spitting out a rash of secure messaging apps, all of which promise military-grade encryption of your messages and the ability to self-destruct. There are other uses for these apps other than cheating. For example, you might want to use one to plan a surprise party for your bestie, or organize a launch event for a top-secret product. No matter your intentions, these apps can give you peace of mind when carrying out clandestine communications with your partners in crime.
Snapchat (Free; iOS, Android)
The phenomenally popular Snapchat photo-sharing app — which allows you to quickly send images or videos to your friends that will disappear in seconds — has been downloaded by some 8 million U.S. users . Although intended to facilitate "a connection between friends," according to Snapchat's About page, the app has been widely used to send naughty images, thanks to the fleeting nature of its messages.
You will be informed if/when someone takes a screenshot of your Snapchat, and you can block strangers and specific friends from sending you images. You can only send pictures via Snapchat, so if you want to text, you'll have to turn to another app.
CoverMe (Free; iOS)
CoverMe messages can be remotely wiped or recalled, are encrypted before transmission, and can be set to self-destruct. You can see when a message has been read, and the app comes with a Personal Vault for your private information that cannot be accessed without a password — even if your phone is lost or stolen.
The app will even snap a picture of "intruders" who try to access your phone, so you can see who has been snooping around your business (perhaps a distrustful spouse?). Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to block screenshots or inform you when one has been taken.
TigerText (Free; iOS, Android)
Developers X Sigmas Partners swears the app wasn't named after the pro golfer, but Tiger Woods sure could have used TigerText. Launched a few months after the 2009 Tiger Woods cheating scandal, TigerText allows messages to be deleted from both the sender's and the receiver's phones after a timed expiration. The messages cannot be saved, copied or forwarded by recipients. Unfortunately, the app doesn't protect against screenshots.
Wickr (Free; iOS)
Developed as a way for families and kids to communicate privately, Wickrlets you decide who sees your texts, photos, videos, voice messages and PDFs, and for how long. Featuring an easy-to-use interface, the app even offers support for cloud services Box, Dropbox and Google Drive, so you can send files from those places securely. The company claims its app offers the best available privacy, anonymity and secure file-shredding features on the market. Despite a family-friendly background, Wickr can still provide military-grade security for nefarious purposes.
More: Best Android Security Apps 2013
Silent Text (Subscription; iOS)
Silent Circle's secure texting app Silent Text comes with a Burn Notice feature that allows you to decide how long your message lives. It allows encrypted transfer of not just messages, but also peer-to-peer sharing of images, documents and other files up to 100MB.
You can also send your location with messages, images and voice recordings. The app is free to download but requires Silent Circle's suite of security services ($120 annual subscription). Although Silent Circle has pre-emptively shut down its email encryption service, the subscription still includes use of Silent Phone and Silent Eyes for secure voice and video communications, respectively. We bet Edward Snowden wishes he had thought of that.
iDelete (Free; iOS)
iDelete comes with a nifty feature to prevent screenshots of your messages from being taken, along with the standard self-destruct timer. You can even recall a message if your intended recipient hasn't seen it. Plus, a Confirm Send notification ensures you are aware of the settings of your message before sending it. With a blur effect that prevents the message from being seen in its entirety, the app will ensure that your messages are safe from a prying spouse's eyes.