As the pandemic is driving the use of dating apps, attackers are increasingly taking advantage of these platforms to cyberstalk and dox victims, global cybersecurity company Kaspersky has warned.
“Online dating has gained popularity since the pandemic began as it is becoming difficult to meet in person,” Tatyana Shishkova, a security expert at Kaspersky, said via a virtual conference entitled “Love In The Digital Age: What Does The Future Hold For Us?”, as part of Mobile World Congress 2021.
In March 2020, Tinder marked a record 3 billion swipes in a single day while OkCupid saw a 700% jump in dates from March to May in the same year.
Kaspersky analysed a total of nine popular dating apps — Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Mamba, Pure, Feeld, Her, Happn and Badoo — and found that while they are safer compared to 2017 from a technical standpoint, major privacy risks remain.
Most dating apps allow users to register their accounts through social networking sites such as Instagram, Facebook or Spotify, Ms Shishkova said. The user’s profile is automatically populated with information from that social network.
Users are also invited to share information such as their place of work or university and this data makes it easy to find users’ social media accounts.
Additionally, access to data such as users’ location and workplaces leave them vulnerable to cyberstalking or physical stalking as well as doxing in which private information is made public to harm or shame victims, according to Ms Shishkova.
Mumba is the only app that lets users blur their photos for free and Pure is the only app that prohibits users from taking screenshots of chats, she said. This makes it possible for chats and photos to be leaked without permission, leading to blackmail or doxing.
Ms Shishkova warned users against sharing too much personal information such as their last names, employers, photos and political views.
Users should also select their locations manually and delete and hide their profiles if they no longer use the apps.
She said some apps also have paid versions that include additional features that can enhance user security.
For example, Happn offers “incognito mode” in which users can hide their profile from those they haven’t swiped right on and strangers.
According to her, in the paid versions of Tinder and Bumble, users can manually tie their location to a specific region, making it difficult to determine their exact whereabouts.