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Valentine’s Day: You got a match! With a cyber-criminal!

DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Feb 14, 2020, 6:57 am IST
Updated Feb 14, 2020, 7:23 am IST
Popular dating apps often become a bait used to spread mobile malware.
For the singles, this requires an additional step – finding a companion — and dating apps are here to help. Or are they?  (Representational photo: Pixabay)
 For the singles, this requires an additional step – finding a companion — and dating apps are here to help. Or are they?  (Representational photo: Pixabay)

The past decade has brought digitization into practically every aspect of our lives and communication has probably transformed the most. People’s love lives are no exception and with Valentine’s Day approaching, singles and couples alike are under intensifying pressure to solidify their plans for this Friday. For the singles, this requires an additional step – finding a companion — and dating apps are here to help. Or are they?    

Swiping right is simple, but on the way to finding your new true love (or just a date, if you prefer to keep things light), nothing comes as easy as you hope, even in the digital world. Kaspersky researchers evaluated the risks and challenges on the path to romance and found that cybercriminals are no strangers to love affairs.

 

Popular dating apps used worldwide, such as Tinder and Badoo, often become a bait used 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.

The analysis of malware using the names of over 20 popular dating applications and the keyword ‘dating’ showed 1963 unique files were spread in 2019 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 recognized worldwide.

 

The danger these malicious files bring varies 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 rather than a message from a potential date.

For instance, one of the applications that at first glance looks like Tinder 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.

 

Cybercriminals who specialize in phishing also do not miss the chance to feed on those seeking to find love. Fake copies of popular dating applications and websites, such as Match.com and Tinder, flood 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: the data will later be used or sold by cybercriminals, while the user will be left with nothing.

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 Valentine’s Day.

 

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

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