10 February, 2022: The amount of information we share online is on the rise, and this is particularly true when it comes to online dating – especially as looking for love requires us to open up about our personal lives to form connections. The scale of this information sharing has led some users to fall foul of digital risks, such as doxing – the gathering and public exposure of personal data online. Ahead of Valentine’s Day 2022, Kaspersky reports intensified scamming activity and encourages users of online dating apps and websites to protect their data and ensure their digital privacy.
Dating app usage has exploded over the past couple of years: Tinder hit a record three billion swipes in a single day in March 2020, while OkCupid claims to make 91 million matches annually. But a recent Kaspersky study found more than half (55%) of respondents are afraid of being stalked by someone they met online, while every sixth dating app user (16%) had been doxed.
Many of those apps now request users to register their account through social networking sites, which automatically populate a profile with photos and personal information such as a place of work or study. This data makes it easier for potential doxers to find users online and discover information about them.
The data stored on dating app profiles is extremely sensitive and highly desired by scammers. This has made the urge to protect such personal information stronger and dating apps have become safer as a result. According to Kaspersky’s study, the five most popular dating apps have improved their encryption protocols and started to pay more attention to user privacy. To keep data secure, such apps have introduced paid versions which allow users to manually specify their location or blur photos, for example.
But the issue is not always related to personal data available in public. Year on year, Kaspersky researchers observe intensified scamming activities around Valentine’s Day and this year is no exception. Besides imitating popular dating apps to gather victims’ personal information, cybercriminals started to spread emails claiming to be women looking for partners. The scheme involves emails that include a link to a phishing page mimicking a dating website profile and asking people to complete a form with their personal preferences in a future partner. Lastly, the user is asked to add their banking credentials. Needless to say, the victim ends up with data and money loss and does not get the chance to meet new people.
“Dating apps open up a world of possibilities for people looking for a partner. However, all the information stored online can be picked up by fraudsters, scammers and abusers. On top of that, cybercriminals are quick to seize on this channel for financial gain. The good news is that dating apps are moving in the right direction, letting users connect more safely. As great as these interactions can sometimes be, caution is critical, as no matter how savvy you think you are online, there are always ways to improve your digital safety. That way, you can let the conversation flow, knowing that you and your personal information are safe and secure”, says Anna Larkina, Security Wxpert at Kaspersky.
The need for a more secure approach to online dating is even more pertinent around Valentine’s Day when an increased volume of users may turn to dating apps and websites to meet a potential match. To counter these risks, Kaspersky has detailed the following steps that people can follow to safely enjoy online dating, now and in the future:
- Don’t tie your Instagram (or other social media accounts) to your dating app profile. That gives away too much potentially usable information about you. Even if you’ve already set up Instagram for privacy and security, there’s more risk than reward in tying the accounts together.
- Don’t share your phone number or other messaging app handles. Dating apps strongly recommend sticking with their built-in message platforms, and it is wise to do so until you are sure you can trust the person you’re chatting with. Also, when you are ready to move to another messaging app, set it up to keep your private info secure.
- Cybercriminals may try to phish some of your private data, so be wary if your match asks you to install an app on your phone, visit a certain website, or starts asking questions about, say, your favourite teacher or your first pet (common website security questions). What do you have to lose? Well, the app may be malicious, the website may be a phishing page, and that information can help someone steal your money or identity.
- Be wary of bots that may lure you into giving away your money or data. They are always automated, so if you get a funny feeling about a chat, and if the other person’s replies don’t quite match up with your questions, it’s safe to assume you’re talking to a bot
- If possible, try to change your settings within the app so that it only reveals your profile to those people that you’ve matched with. That way, the whole world doesn’t get to see your data. Narrowing that view to a limited number of people lowers the odds of your profile information getting into the wrong hands.
If you want to learn more about how technologies can change dating and relationships, follow this link.
Learn about the ways users can be doxed and discover how to minimise the risk of having personal information stolen by watching the free “Doxing: dangers and prevention” course, developed by Kaspersky privacy experts together with Endtab.org.