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How safe are online dating apps?

Even as more and more youngsters use dating apps for fun or to find the love of their life, new research warns that these apps are vulnerable to hacks, putting the users at risk of getting their locations and real names revealed.

The study by global cyber security company Kaspersky Lab 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, minimise the risks,” Kaspersky Lab said in a statement on Monday.

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In a survey conducted in association with research firm B2B International, Kaspersky Lab found that people turn to online dating for a variety of reasons — 48 per cent do it for fun, 13 per cent are simply look for sex while some want more meaningful relationships.

People share information with others too easily when they are dating online, with a quarter admitting they share their full name publicly on their dating profile.

The experts studied nine popular mobile online dating apps — Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Badoo, Mamba, Zoosk, Happn, WeChat, Paktor — and identified the main threats for users.

The researchers discovered that four of the nine apps they investigated allow potential criminals to figure out who is hiding behind a nickname based on data provided by users themselves.

Using this information, it is possible to find their social media accounts and discover their real names.

“We informed the developers in advance about all the vulnerabilities detected and by the time this text was released some had already been fixed and others were slated for correction in the near future. However, not every developer promised to patch all of the flaws,” the experts said.

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The researchers found that eight of the nine applications for Android were ready to provide too much information to cyber criminals.

“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’,” the researchers warned.

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