Dating Apps Aren’t Secure from Hacking — Here’s How to Use Them Safely
by Diana Byeon
As SEWORKS’ CEO Min Pyo-Hong is reporting on VentureBeat today, many of the world’s most popular dating apps are vulnerable to hacking, containing exploits that would enable breaches similar to the infamous attack on Snapchat in 2014 or just last December, the leaking of users’ data from an HIV-positive dating app. And the dating apps we reviewed are extremely popular, used by tens of millions of people everyday.
If you’re a regular dating app user, however, don’t panic just yet: there’s some easy but important precautions you can take while using them:
Avoid inserting credit card information through the app
If your credit card data is not securely stored in the app, hackers can steal it (and often have). Of course, many apps require credit card registration for use. In that case, use a credit card with a good reputation for protecting and insuring customers from fraud, and set it up to send you alerts anytime a card purchase is made. (Chase, Citibank, American Express and others offer this feature.)
Keep personal info to an absolute minimum
Not just personal info entered into your dating profile, but also details shared while texting with potential dates/hookups — for instance, the specific location of your home or apartment, parents’ and pets’ names, and specific town of origin. Hackers can and do exploit these to steal credit card accounts, or sell this data to stalkers. The more information about you that’s made public, the more information people can use to try and steal your account credentials or identity elsewhere.
Avoid sexting — yes, really
This might seem like counter-intuitive advice for dating/hookup apps, but as “revenge porn” sites have painfully illustrated, there’s a massive demand for stealing and posting unauthorized sexual images online. Some hackers take great pleasure breaking into an app solely to do just that (especially against women), dumping thousands of stolen images on a public website or using them for blackmail.
Don’t click links in chat
Dating apps are one of the few places on the Internet where we expect to get and read hundreds of unsolicited chat messages from random people — which have made them ripe territory for hackers transmitting messages embedded with malware links. Good rule of thumb is just don’t click — period.
Check for excessive permissions, battery/data use — and always update!
Sometimes apps are decompiled, repackaged into dummy versions installed with malware or worse, then uploaded to an app store for unsuspecting users to download. That’s why it’s important to regularly check if a dating app requires unnecessary permissions to be used, or causes excessive battery drain and data consumption. Often these are signs that the app is not legitimate and doing something behind your back. Related to all this, be sure to update dating apps whenever one is available, because they often include important security patches.
All this advice might seem pretty daunting, but it really just means taking the same precautions with dating apps as you would with dating in real life. Like any other young single woman, I’m very careful about where I walk, who I meet in non-public places — and when arranging a first date, I make sure the person I’m meeting respects my privacy and safety. Now that I work for a security company, I’m even more aware about how careful we all need to be with dating apps. Taking precautions can make all the difference in avoiding danger, and help you meet the special person you want to be with next Valentine’s Day.