From sharing their place of work, sharing their work-related info, to even sharing trade secrets, business executives are regularly sharing sensitive corporate data on online dating apps, finds a Kaspersky study.
Over half of all corporate executives are also using their work devices to access online dating apps, thereby endangering stored corporate data.
Like many activities which have gone digital over the years, interacting with potential love interests over the Web has become much easier thanks to the presence of hundreds of online dating apps and sites, each of them offering unique features and ways to find the perfect match.
While online dating helps people reduce their stress levels, find love, and maintain a work-life balance, it also makes people open their lives to others, discuss their interests, passions, and what they seek from their partners.
'The profile is understandably a crucial part of online dating. It allows users to share snippets of their lives. It acts as a window, or a preview of a person, enticing others to reach out to them or find out more,' says Kaspersky Lab. However, such sharing of information may not bode well for many enterprises that hold sensitive trade secrets and corporate data.
A survey of 6,458 online dating users, including 1,001 users in the UK, conducted by Kaspersky Lab and research firm B2B International has revealed how corporate executives, while opening up their lives to potential love interests, are also sharing their place of work, work-related info and trade secrets with unintended recipients.
The survey found that 63% of online daters are working full-time, have around 5 mobile devices on an average, and are most likely to work as medium-level managers (20%) or qualified specialists in various fields (19%).
At the same time, the survey also found that almost 11% of the online dating population is made up of business owners, thereby signifying a significant presence of top and middle-level executives on such platforms.
So how to these executives conduct themselves on online dating apps?
To begin with, the survey found that 51% (yes, over half of them!) of such executives visit online dating apps from their work devices. What this entails is that if malicious hackers are posing as love interests on online dating sites to interact with such business owners or top executives, they can compromise security flaws in such devices to gain access to sensitive corporate information.
At the same time, Kaspersky Lab found that many users are not only adding full home addresses to their profiles, but also information on where they work, what their designations are, and other sensitive corporate information. Male executives are also quite eager to share their personal information with other 'matches' within minutes or hours of befriending someone on online dating sites. On the other hand, female executives are less likely to entrust their personal data with others.
While online dating apps have helped many in finding true life partners in the past, they are also hubs for bots, impersonators, and hackers who are just there to gain more information about others and use such information for malicious purposes. The survey found that 55% of online dating users have experienced some form of threat or problem – ranging from IT security incidents to meeting up with people that didn’t turn out to be who they claimed, or being rejected by potential matches.
'When it comes to occupations, business owners (19%) were the most likely to have had their device infected with malware or ransomware, while entrepreneurs or self-employed daters were most likely to have met someone who was not who they said they were,' the surveyors noted.
Adding that people that use online dating websites are twice as likely to experience an IT security incident than people that don’t, they added that one-in-three of online daters have had their device infected with malware or a virus, and around one-in-ten have had their device hacked, have had their data infected, shared, or become the victim of financial fraud.
The reasons behind so many online dating users facing IT security incidents are poor password hygiene (only 36% use strong passwords), and lack of security solutions in their devices. Only 27% of such users have security solutions in place.
'The boundary between online dating and the real world can very easily be blurred. Information about home addresses, once shared, can very quickly result in strangers turning up on doorsteps, personal information and sensitive photos can very easily turn into blackmail opportunities or put hacked accounts in the hands of cybercriminals.
'Far from advising people to reduce their online dating activities, we simply would like to advise online daters to exercise caution, just like they would in the physical world. If you chose to date online, be careful not to click on unknown links that could be malicious, and try to avoid using insecure Wi-Fi hotspots where data can be intercepted by cybercriminals,' Kaspersky Lab added.
In its Threat Report dated 10th November, the National Cyber Security Centre also warned that several vulnerabilities in popular online dating apps may compromise personally identifiable information of millions of users. The Centre warned that professional hackers are looking to use personal data 'for a variety of malicious purposes' and may target online dating apps that feature several exploitable vulnerabilities.
These vulnerabilities include poor security and lack of encryption during data transmission, lack of security in token-based authorisation processes, and vulnerabilities in several apps’ message history, particularly for Android users running outdated software.
By exploiting such vulnerabilities, hackers can destroy your anonymity by obtaining your personally identifiable information from such apps, and therafter blackmail you into paying up to prevent your data from bing shared on the Internet.
Earlier this year, a WIRED investigation also revealed that some of the UK's most popular iOS dating apps like Happn, AnastasiaDate, Once, HookUp Now, MeetMe and AffairD were leaking Facebook identities, location data, and pictures of millions of users to hackers.
While Happn, Hookup Now, AnastasiaDate, and AffairD were found to be transmitting data to customers' phones without adequate security, the likes of HotOrNot, Tinder, Match.com, and Bumble were found to contain adequate security and were not vulnerable to hackers.