Don't get snagged by a dating app cyberattack on Valentine's Day

  • AFP
  • Updated: Feb 12, 2015 11:13 IST

As Valentine's Day draws nearer, love might well seem to be all around but, unfortunately so is the threat of a cyberattack, a security breach or an identity theft.

The popularity of online dating is growing and there is little doubt that smartphone and tablet dating apps are experiencing a spike in downloads and in usage in recent days.

However, according to IBM, there's a very strong possibility that rather than finding Mr. or Mrs. Right, you could end up finding a cybercriminal instead.

An IBM study, published on Wednesday, found that nearly 60% of mobile dating apps available on the Android platform could put their users' personal information at risk.

Even though a growing number of apps now take protecting user privacy very seriously, IBM's investigation of 41 apps discovered that 73% can access their users' current and historical GPS location information which could be accessed by cybercriminals to track someone down or learn their habits.

Some apps in the study had a vulnerability that could allow access to a smartphone's camera and microphone even when the handset's user wasn't logged into the app. And of course some apps were too easy to hack and therefore open to profiles being hijacked.

But if you've just downloaded and signed up to most of the best dating apps on Google Play, don't panic because as well as highlighting potential vulnerabilities, IBM has also provided helpful steps to staying safe while looking for love online.

Be unique

The first tip is hopefully obvious. Every online account should have a unique password, because if they don't, one successful password hack will give a cybercriminal the keys to your entire mobile life.

Thank you for not sharing

It's tempting to offer tons of personal information on a profile in the hopes of standing out from the crowd, but over-sharing details such as place of work, birthdays or links to other social media profiles could be all someone needs to hijack your profile or worse.

Always judge a book by its cover

If a person's profile picture and compatibility seem too good to be true, there's a strong possibility that they're not and someone could well be trying to snare you for reasons other than not being alone on February 14.

Stay up to date

App developers push out updates and patches on a regular basis, so make sure that you don't leave it too long to install the update; it could contain a patch for a vulnerability.

Are your apps asking permission?

IBM recommends setting up a permission check review routine. In other words, frequently go through your smartphone's settings to see which apps are allowed to access what. Installing an upgraded version of an app can also change permissions -- such as enabling Bluetooth or turning on GPS tracking by default.

None of your business

Don't install dating apps on your work's smartphone and don't keep business information on a personal device if it's also running dating apps.

Shut it down

Once the cyber search is over and you're in a steady relationship, go back and delete or disable every profile on every site or in every application you've used and then, for good measure, remove the apps from your phone, too.

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