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Dating apps still pose threats of cyberstalking, doxing to users — Kaspersky

Kaspersky experts gave a rundown of the security implications of dating apps at the recently concluded Mobile World Congress 2021. Dating apps are relatively safer as concerns over data privacy heightened in the previous years and awareness of security are now high.

“Love in the digital age: what does the future hold for us?,” presented by Kaspersky security expert Tatyana Shishkova, that in terms of transferring data, dating apps are “safe” to use. While developers have strengthened the technical aspects of these apps, users should not let their guards down and be complacent about what information they reveal or share. They could fall victims to cyberstalking or doxing. (Learn more about doxing here.)

Dating app users increased significantly during the lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. With people holed up in their homes, they nurtured their social life on social media and dating apps. According to Kaspersky, the popular dating app Tinder reached a record 3 billion swipes in a single day in March 2020, while OkCupid experienced a massive 700% increase in dates from March to May that same year.

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“It’s always challenging to find a balance between building a digital presence and maintaining your privacy online, and the shift to online dating creates yet another area where users have to determine the best way for them to forge connections while protecting their security,” Tatyana Shishkova, security expert at Kaspersky.

Dating apps

Kaspersky said the numbers prompted them to replicate its research from 2017 into the dating app landscape to see what’s improved and what hasn’t in terms of their security. The cybersecurity solutions firm analyzed highly rated dating apps Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Mamba, Pure, Feeld, Her, Happn, and Badoo.

Comparing the situation in 2017 to today, major privacy risks remain even if companies have made their apps “technically safer” meaning they have strengthened their security postures against hacking.

According to Kaspersky, in 2017, four of the apps it analyzed made it possible to intercept data sent from the app, and many used the unencrypted HTTP protocol. However, in 2021, the situation has significantly improved as none of the apps studied use HTTP, and no data is sent if the protocol is not secure.

But users still need to take precautions because Kaspersky said that there are “significant privacy concerns remain with dating apps.”

Data sharing

Linking apps with social media account means the two platforms have access to whatever data is in the other and that includes profile information, family photos, and geotags. If these pieces of information are available, users can fall to doxing or cyberstalking.

It doesn’t help that apps like Happn, Her, Bumble, and Tinder make it obligatory for users to share their location, according to Kaspersky. Some apps, like Mamba, share the distance of users to the nearest meter. Happn has additional functionality that allows users to see how many times and in what locations their matches have crossed paths with them.

“What we’ve seen over the past few years is that dating apps are moving in the right direction, letting users connect more safely,” said Shishkova. “They’re working to keep the data secure, and, in the paid versions of many of the apps, users can do things like manually specify their location or blur their photos.”

To say safe when using dating apps, Kaspersky experts recommend the following:

  • Do not share too much personal information (last name, employer, photos with friends, political views, etc) in your profile
  • Do not tie other social media accounts to your profile
  • Select your location manually, if possible
  • Use two-factor authentication, if possible
  • Delete or hide your profile if you are no longer using the app
  • Use the built-in messenger in dating apps. It’s better to move to other messengers only if you trust your match. If you finally decide to do so, set up the chat in way that keeps your private info secured.
  • Use a trusted security solution on your devices, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud. It will help you detect any malicious or suspicious activity across your gadgets, as well as check the security of the URL that you’re visiting.

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