Communication has probably transformed the most over the past decade in which digitisation has brought into practically every aspect of our lives. People’s love lives are no exception and with Valentine’s Day today, singles and couples alike are under intensifying pressure to solidify their plans for this Saturday. Only for the singles and open-minded couples, this requires an additional step – finding a companion — and dating apps are here to help. Or are they?
Swiping right is simple, although nothing comes as easy as you hope, even in the digital world when trying to find your new true love (or just a date, if you prefer to keep things light). Cyber criminals are no strangers to love affairs according to Kaspersky researchers' evaluation on the risks and challenges on the path to romance.
Popular dating apps such as Tinder and Badoo are used worldwide, and they often become a bait to spread mobile malware or retrieve personal data to later bombard the users with unwanted ads or even spend their money on expensive paid subscriptions. Such files have nothing to do with legitimate apps, as they only use the name and sometimes the design of authentic dating services.
In 2019, the analysis shows malware using the names of over 20 popular dating applications and the keyword ‘dating’ showed 1963 unique files were spread under the guise of legitimate applications. Notably, two thirds of them were masking under Tinder (1262 files) and another sixth was linked to Badoo (263 files); both are applications recognised worldwide.
The danger these malicious files bring are different from file to file, ranging from Trojans that can download other malware to ones that send expensive SMS, to adware, making it likely every ping a user gets is some sort of annoying ad notification instead of a message from a potential date.
An incident occurred where one of the applications that at first, looks like Tinder, but it is in fact a banking Trojan that constantly requests Accessibility service rights, and upon getting them, grants itself all rights necessary to steal money from the user. Another names itself as ‘Settings’ right after installation, shows a fake ‘error’ message and later disappears, with a high likelihood it will return with unwanted ads a few days later.
To those seeking to find love, cybercriminals who specialise in phishing also will not miss the chance to take part. There are fake copies of popular dating applications and websites, such as Match.com and Tinder, flooding the internet. Users are required to leave their personal data or connect to the applications via their social media account. The result is not surprising: As the user will be left with nothing, the data stolen will later be used or sold by cybercriminals.
Statistics also demonstrate that the interest towards the topic of love does increase ahead of Valentine’s Day. For instance, the number of clicks on the phishing version of the PeopleMedia website grew more than two-fold almost a month before the Valentine’s Day.
“Love is one of those topics that interests people universally, and, of course, that means that cybercriminals are also there. Online dating has made our lives easierand yet uncovered new risks on the path to love. We advise users to stay attentive and use legal versions of applications that are available in official application stores. And, of course, we wish you best of luck finding the perfect date for this special day”, comments Vladimir Kuskov, head of advanced threat research and software classification at Kaspersky.
To avoid cyber risks ahead of Valentine’s day, Kaspersky recommends:
Always checking application permissions to see what your installed apps are allowed to do
Not installing applications from untrusted sources, even if they are actively advertised, and block the installation of programs from unknown sources in your smartphone’s settings
Finding out more information about the dating website you are planning to visit: look into its reputation on the internet and try to find user feedback
Using a reliable security solution like Kaspersky Security Cloud that delivers advanced protection on Mac, as well as on PC and mobile devices
To use dating apps safely, Kaspersky recommends:
Avoiding sharing too much personal information with strangers
Making sure that the person you are meeting is real, as fraudsters often use fake profiles for scams