19 April, 2018
Online dating is difficult enough without worrying about hackers, data privacy, or device security. When antivirus and internet security software company Kaspersky Labs studied the most popular dating apps to identify security risks, their investigation uncovered numerous weaknesses. Many dating app users were unknowingly at risk of having their personal information, social media profiles, and/or physical location data accessed by hackers.
One common security risk was connected to how users are authenticated upon registration to an app. A token is created as a unique identity marker, and these are often verified by requesting access to Facebook. Authentication is important to ensure users are registering with their real identity, but “these tokens are often stored or used insecurely” and “can be easily stolen and used to gain access to victims’ accounts without needing login and password details.” Other areas of weakness found by Kaspersky Labs include message histories, geolocation data, and unencrypted data sent via HTTP protocol.
Given the nature of online dating, the security risks can be compounded. Users want to offer personal information to their potential partners—as one naturally would in a developing relationship—but sharing information about your workplace, email addresses, or interests can reveal your real identity, making it easier for criminals to engage in hacking, identity theft, harassment, and stalking.
To increase security, Kaspersky suggests “using a VPN, installing security solutions on all of your devices” and avoiding syncing social media accounts or using apps on unprotected Wi-Fi networks.
Those are good practices for all online usage, but some new dating apps have taken it a step further with the implementation of blockchain technology. Blockchain can allow for authentication without leaving personal information at risk and can provide an additional level of security and privacy currently lacking in dating apps.
Blockchain could be a valuable solution for users because not all app developers are as cautious as they should be about protecting user data. Although many of the flaws found in the study were eventually corrected, according to Kaspersky, “not every developer promised to patch all of the flaws.”
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