Dating apps in 2021: technically safer but threats of stalking and doxing still loom


Technology has become permanently entwined with dating and finding love, especially after a year and a half of lockdown that made digital connections the only way possible. To understand the security implications of this trend, Kaspersky researchers conducted an in-depth study of nine popular dating apps to assess how safe they are. 

For the research, Kaspersky analyzed nine highly rated dating apps with global user bases: Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Mamba, Pure, Feeld, Her, Happn, and Badoo.

What they found was that, when compared to their research in 2017, dating apps have become safer from a technical standpoint, particularly when it comes to the transfer of data. However, these apps still pose a significant risk when it comes to exposing too much personal information about users, leaving them vulnerable to threats like cyberstalking and doxing.

In 2017, four of the apps studied made it possible to intercept data sent from the app, and many used the unencrypted HTTP protocol. The situation has significantly improved in 2021. None of the apps studied use HTTP, and no data is sent if the protocol is not secure.

Still, significant privacy concerns remain with dating apps. Most dating apps allow users to register their account with one of their social networking sites (Instagram, Facebook, Spotify, etc.). If the user chooses to do this, then their profile is automatically populated with information from that social networking site, such as photos and profile information.

Users are also invited to share information such as their place of work or university. All of the aforementioned data makes it easy to find the dating app users’ social media accounts and other personal information.

In addition, apps like Happn, Her, Bumble, and Tinder make it obligatory for users to share their location. Some apps, like Mamba, share the distance of users to the nearest meter. Happn has an additional functionality that lets users see how many times and in what locations their matches have crossed paths with them.

Access to all these data make users vulnerable to cyberstalking, physical stalking, as well as doxing where previously private information is made public in order to shame or harm the victim. 

Meanwhile, out of all the dating apps studied, Mamba is the only application that lets users blur their photos for free, and Pure is the only one that prohibits users from taking screenshots of chats for extra security.

On the paid versions of Tinder and Bumble, you can manually choose your location to a specific region. Since only a region is available rather than a specific distance, it’s much harder to determine a user’s exact location. And some paid versions of apps, like Happn, offer users an “incognito mode”, whereby users can hide their profile from those they haven’t swiped right on and strangers.

How to stay safe when using dating apps?

Kaspersky experts recommend the following:

  • Check the security of the dating app on Securelist
  • Do not share too much personal information (last name, employer, photos with friends, political views, etc.) in your profile
  • Do not tie other social media accounts to your profile
  • If possible, select your location manually and use two-factor authentication
  • Delete or hide your profile if you are no longer using the app
  • Use the built-in messenger in dating apps. It’s better to move to other messengers only if you trust your match.
  • Use a trusted security solution on your devices, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud. It will help you detect any malicious or suspicious activity across your gadgets, as well as check the security of the URL that you’re visiting.

Read more: How to keep your financial data safe online


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