Being single in today’s modern technological environment is hard. Dating is complicated. Social media was supposed to make it simpler.
Some people meet through mutual friends on Facebook or Instagram. Others focus on dating-specific sites (these exist for those who are looking for long-term love and even one-night stands).
The risks of potential heartache are expected when you’re looking for a love match, but new data suggest that there are new threats to your personal data.
Last week, Neil Jones, an IT security specialist and “security intelligence” blogger for IBM, posted a report detailing the potential threats to using popular mobile dating apps.
For those using OkCupid, Tinder and Match.com apps (some of the most popular dating apps), IBM reported that their parent company, IAC wasn’t included in the study (IAC was quick to point this out in the wake of IBM’s findings).
IBM analyzed 41 dating apps using their new AppScan Mobile Analyzer. Results showed that 60 percent of mobile dating apps on the Android mobile platform were vulnerable to potential cyberattacks that could put personal user information at risk.
And it’s not just personal user information that is vulnerable. Because the popularity of mobile devices has caused a more fluid home/work environment, many employees have sensitive business data on their phones and devices. The study found that 50 percent of those apps left personal and professional data exposed.
It’s important to understand how criminals can use these apps to expose your vulnerabilities.
According to Jones, these cybercriminals can use GPS data to track your movements. This allows them to find out where you live, work and play. They can gain access to your device’s camera and microphone, even when you aren’t using a dating app, and listen in on important conversations, business meetings, and view sensitive documents.
If that’s not bad enough, cybercriminals can change your dating profile, impersonate you, and communicate with other users.
This may seem like a pretty gloomy Valentines Day column, but dating and meeting new people has always come with risks. It’s important to develop new strategies for dealing with them. Jones gives a lot of solid advice, but here are the highlights:
First, he reminds users to trust their instincts. Anyone who may seem to be a little too perfect on paper should be the subject of increased scrutiny.
Next, “keep your profile lean,” by giving only very basic information.
Dating is hard, and technology can make it easier. While we’ve been trained for years to take precautions in the real world, it’s time we start to think about how to be cautious in the cyberworld.
~ A version of the column appeared in the Sunday, February 15, 2015 "Connected" section of The Vindicator newspaper.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is associate professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about social media and technology, sports and fans.