If you were single before the Covid-19 pandemic hit then it is a safe assumption to make that your relationship status wouldn’t have changed much in the last two years. Dating is already hard even in the traditional way but when you add online dating to the mix, it gets even challenging. From navigating misleading profiles and being ghosted to miscommunication and many choices for us to swipe right, every single day.
While we acknowledge the challenges of online dating, have we considered if dating in the virtual realm is safe? I have downloaded a few dating apps during the movement control order and was pretty active for a while. Then my wake-up call came in the form of “Clickbait” – the limited series on Netflix. It is a story of family man Nick Brewer being abducted in a crime with a sinister online twist, those closest to him race to uncover who is behind it and why.
Some Dangers of Online Dating
It made me wary of online dating and the profiles I swiped on. Here Check Point Software researchers warns of the dangers that many users of popular dating apps face on a daily basis. Cyber risks that can be avoided by simply knowing what threats exist:
- From “sexting” to “sextortion”: One of the greatest risks to users, who share racy photos with their dates, is the possibility of those images becoming used as blackmail for financial gain. When registering for an app, a large amount of personal information is revealed, which can also be used by cyber criminals who sign up to the app to blackmail its members.
- Malware on the prowl: a simple photograph can be the perfect hook to gain access to an entire device. One of the best techniques that cyber criminals use in dating apps is creating an attractive profile, one which every victim would want to be “matched” with. They can host any type of cyber-attack in the file sent, such as a photo, which could contain malware with spyware capable of obtaining the user’s application passwords.
- Fake romance: In dating apps, it’s common for cyber criminals to create fake profiles with images and descriptions that attract the user’s attention. Their modus operandi is to establish an interest in order to initiate a conversation with the victim. Over days, weeks or even months, the attacker gradually gains the victim’s trust and seduces him/her. A long-distance relationship is initiated. Most often, this relationship starts without the parties actually seeing each other, but there is a promise to “meet soon.” The cyber criminal asks the victim to send money “so that they can travel to meet up” or because a “serious problem” has arisen.
- Impersonation: Although these cyber attacks are most likely to target the users of these apps, there are instances when an outsider can be targeted. Any individual with someone else’s data, documents or files is capable of impersonating an identity. In fact, now that most internet users expose a lot of their data on the web, it is accessible to everyone. With this data, cyber criminals are able to create profiles pretending to be someone they are not, in order to fraudulently act for financial gain. This act can undoubtedly cause great damage to a person’s image.
- Account theft: when you go on the dark web, you will find hundreds of hacked dating app profiles available to buy at a high price. In 2016, a dating website was hacked and the data of 32 million users was stolen, including some who had already unsubscribed from its services. Data included emails, passwords and other personal account information that can be sold and used for subsequent phishing or malware cyber attacks, among others.
So if there are dangers lurking in the cyber space, how do we find THE ONE and be in a relationship so anymore lockdowns in the future can be bearable? Well, here are some tips for cyber-protection:
How Do We Protect Ourselves Online?
- Never give confidential information to third parties: any user who requests confidential information may be a cyber criminal, so it is essential that you never give out personal data in these apps to avoid running any kind of risk.
- Do not download images or files to your devices: everyone shows their photographs on these dating apps, but it is very important that they are only displayed on the application itself and are not downloaded or saved, as they could be hiding any type of cyber attack that could endanger all the documents and files on your mobile or computer.
- Do not trust, use common sense and do not rush: this is a basic premise and a really important one to follow I feel. but sometimes in the early stages of romance we can forget so we remind you again. If something seems strange or does not seem very real, it is better to be suspicious. There are plenty of fish in the sea, so don’t take any needless risks.
- Check profiles on dating websites: One of the best precautions you can take is to pay attention to details and be wary of newly created profiles and/or profiles with pictures that look like an advertisement. If, in addition, that user shows too much interest or asks for too much personal information… that should ring alarm bells.
“Millions of people use dating apps or websites to meet new friends and, who knows, with any luck, find their life partner. They are very convenient for users, as they allow them to make contact quickly, easily and from anywhere. However, they do not go unnoticed by cybercriminals, who take advantage of these platforms and the confidential information they contain when looking for potential victims to scam,” said Gary Gardiner, Head of Security Engineering, APAC & Japan, at Check Point Software.
The best way to stay safe, he added, is to proceed with great caution and understand the steps you can take to avoid the cyber risks that you could be exposed to.