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Technology Other News 30 Oct 2017 Love in the time of ...

Love in the time of Cybersecurity: Are online dating apps safe?

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Oct 30, 2017, 2:52 pm IST
Updated Oct 30, 2017, 2:52 pm IST
The most popular mobile online dating apps (Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Mamba, Happn, Paktor), are identified as the main threats for users.
Researchers discovered that four of the nine apps they investigated allow potential criminals to figure out who’s hiding behind a nickname based on data provided by users themselves. For example, Tinder, Happn, and Bumble let anyone see a user’s specified place of work or study.
 Researchers discovered that four of the nine apps they investigated allow potential criminals to figure out who’s hiding behind a nickname based on data provided by users themselves. For example, Tinder, Happn, and Bumble let anyone see a user’s specified place of work or study.

With a growing step taken every day towards digitalization and a surge in the sales of Smartphones, Indian youngsters are now giving a chance to the dating apps to make them fall in love. But the question to be raised is: Are youngsters falling in love or falling a prey to cyber criminals?

According to a survey conducted by Kaspersky Lab and research firm B2B International found that as many as one-in- three people are dating online. People turn to online dating for a variety of reasons- 48 per cent do it for fun, while some look for more meaningful relationships and one-in- ten are simply looking for sex (13 per cent). The experts studied the most popular mobile online dating apps (Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Badoo, Mamba, Zoosk, Happn, WeChat, Paktor), and identified the main threats for users.

 

Researchers discovered that four of the nine apps they investigated allow potential criminals to figure out who’s hiding behind a nickname based on data provided by users themselves. For example, Tinder, Happn, and Bumble let anyone see a user’s specified place of work or study.

Using this information, it’s possible to find their social media accounts and discover their real names. Happn, in particular, uses Facebook accounts for data exchange with the server. With minimal effort, anyone can find out the names and surnames of Happn users and other info from their Facebook profiles.

 

If someone wants to know your whereabouts, six of the nine apps will lend a hand. Only OkCupid, Bumble, and Badoo keep user location data under lock and key. All of the other apps indicate the distance between you and the person you’re interested in. By moving around and logging data about the distance between the two of you, it’s easy to determine the exact location of the ‘prey.’

Most apps transfer data to the server over an SSL-encrypted channel, but there are exceptions. Researchers claim, one of the most insecure apps in this respect is Mamba. The analytics module used in the Android version does not encrypt data about the device (model, serial number, etc.), and the iOS version connects to the server over HTTP and transfers all data unencrypted (and thus unprotected), messages included. Such data is not only viewable, but also modifiable.

 

Almost all online dating app servers use the HTTPS protocol, which means that, by checking certificate authenticity, one can shield against MITM attacks, in which the victim’s traffic passes through a rogue server on its way to the bona fide one. The researchers found out that most apps (five out of nine) are vulnerable to MITM attacks because they do not verify the authenticity of certificates.

Regardless of the exact kind of data the app stores on the device, such data can be accessed with superuser rights. This concerns only Android-based devices; malware able to gain root access in iOS is a rarity. The result of the analysis is less than encouraging: Eight of the nine applications for Android are ready to provide too much information to cybercriminals with superuser access rights. Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Badoo, Happn, and Paktor all store messaging history and photos of users together with their tokens. Thus, the holder of superuser access privileges can easily access confidential information.

 

The study showed that many dating apps do not handle users’ sensitive data with sufficient care. That’s no reason not to use such services — you simply need to understand the issues and, where possible, minimize the risks.

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