5 Ways to Make Online Dating Safer

When it comes to online dating, it seems there are two types of people: 1) People who do it, and 2) people who make fun of it. And many single people have found themselves in both groups.

The fact is millions, if not billions, of relationships have begun online. And that number is growing as the lines between offline and online merge.

Online dating is an especially interesting issue for us because it merges many of the issues we think about most: security, online safety, content control and social networks.

The fact is by “putting yourself out there” online, you do open yourself to risks you might avoid otherwise. You may also open yourself up to the person you’ll spend your whole life with. If you want to give it a try or try it again, we recommend a few precautions.

1. Trust your instincts.
A rule of dating that is often mocked is “Be yourself.” It’s so vague and unhelpful. But what people seem to be saying is “Trust you gut.” If something gives you a bad feeling, if you regret signing up for a site, if you regret making a date, step back. The great thing about dating online is that you’re increasing your options. So don’t worry about blowing one opportunity. If something gives you a bad feeling, back off and apologize. Don’t be afraid to cut off contact or even erase emails before you open them. It’s your gut, protect it.

2. Remember that the Internet never forgets.
Anything you do online creates some sort of data trail. Any message you send can be made public. Any picture you post can be reposted. In the past, only celebrities had to worry about their private activities being made public. Now we all do. So imagine that anything you share could go public and definitely close any accounts once you’re done using them.

3. Secure your PC.
When using any social network, you should make sure all the applications and your security software are patched and protected. (Our Health Check makes that easy.) Also keep in mind that by putting your email out in the world, you’re making yourself more vulnerable to email scams. For this reason we recommend never clicking on the links in emails.

4. Get the low down.
Talk to your friends who have tried out online dating. Ask them for their tips and regrets. If you don’t feel comfortable chatting with someone you know, Match.com has a nice list of all the possible safety precautions you should be taking. Also, Google the people you’ll be meeting, and their email addresses. You may be surprised at what you find.

5. Go the extra mile.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation recommends, “Get a throw-away email address, avoid using your name, and avoid paid sites that would elicit your credit card number and billing information. To maintain the highest levels of privacy, consider taking steps to obfuscate your IP address, such as using a VPN.” Also, you should use https on secured networks whenever possible. Keep in mind that any site you trust with your data is only as good as its privacy policy and its word.

Cheers,

Jason

CC image: Julien Haler

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At Re:publica 2015, our Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen told the main stage crowd that the world's top scientists are now focused on the delivery of ads. "I think this is sad," he said. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbF0sVdOjRw?rel=0&start=762&end=&autoplay=0] To give the audience a sense of how much Twitter knows about its users, he showed them the remarkable targeting the microblogging service offers its advertisers. If you use the site, you may be served promoted tweets based on the following: 1. What breakfast cereal you eat. 2. The alcohol you drink. 3. Your income. 4. If you suffer from allergies. 5. If you're expecting a child. And that's just the beginning. You can be targeted based not only on your recent device purchases but things you may be in the market for like, say, a new house or a new car. You can see all the targeting offered by logging into your Twitter, going to the top right corner of the interface, clicking on your icon and selecting "Twitter Ads". Can Twitter learn all this just based on your tweets and which accounts follow? No, Mikko said. "They buy this information from real world shops, from credit card companies, and from frequent buyer clubs." Twitter then connects this information to you based on... your phone number. And you've agreed to have this happen to you because you read and memorized the nearly 7,000 words in its Terms and Conditions. Because everyone reads the terms and conditions. Full disclosure: We do occasionally promote tweets on Twitter to promote or digital freedom message and tools like Freedome that block ad trackers. It's an effective tool and we find the irony rich. Part of our mission is to make it clear that there's no such thing as "free" on the internet. If you aren't paying a price, you are the product. Aral Balkan compares social networks to a creepy uncle" that pays the bills by listening to as many of your conversations as they can then selling what they've heard to its actual customers. And with the world's top minds dedicated to monetizing your attention, we just think you should be as aware of advertisers as they are as of you. Most of the top URLs in the world are actually trackers that you never access directly. To get a sense of what advertisers learn every time you click check out our new Privacy Checker. Cheers, Jason

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WhatsApp Scams

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F-Secure Labs reported this week on a new WhatsApp scam that’s successfully spammed over 22,000 people. Spam seems to be as old as the Internet itself, and is both a proven nuisance AND a lucrative source of revenue for spammers. Most people don’t see what goes on behind the scenes, but spammers often employ very sophisticated schemes that can expose web surfers to more than just ads for Viagara or other “magic beans”. Spam typically tries to drive Internet traffic by tricking people into clicking certain websites, where scammers can bombard unsuspecting web surfers with various types of advertising. Profit motives are what keep spammers working hard to circumvent spam blocks, white lists, and other protective measures that people use to try and fight back – and it can pay off. Numerous spammers have been indicted and suspected of generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue from their spam campaigns, with one study projecting that spammers could generate in excess of 3.5 million dollars annually. While most spam circulates via e-mail, the popularity of services like WhatsApp is giving spammers new resources to exploit people, and new ways to make money. Here’s a few ways spammers and cyber criminals are using WhatsApp to make money off users: Following Malicious Links: One way that cyber criminals use WhatsApp to scam people is to trick them into following malicious links. For example, a recent scam sent SMS messages to WhatsApp users telling them to follow a link to update the app. But the message was not from WhatsApp, and the link didn’t provide them with any kind of update. It signed them up for an additional service, and added a hefty surcharge to victims' phone bills. Sending Premium Rate Messages: Premium rate SMS sending malware was recently determined by F-Secure Labs to be the fastest growing mobile malware threat, and WhatsApp gives cyber criminals a new way to engage in this malicious behavior. Basically the users receive a message that asks them to send a response – “I’m writing to you from WhatsApp, let me know here if you are getting my messages”, “Get in touch with me about the second job interview”, and various sexual themed messages have all been documented. Responding to these messages automatically redirects your message through a premium rate service. Spanish police claim that one gang they arrested made over 5 million euros using this scheme – leaving everyday mobile phone users to foot the bill. Manipulating Web Traffic: A lot of spam tries to direct web traffic to make money off advertising. As you might imagine, this means they have to get massive numbers of people to look at the ads they’re using for their scams. Scammers use WhatsApp to do this by using the app to spread malware or social engineer large numbers of people to visit a website under false pretenses. F-Secure Labs found that people were being directed to a website for information on where they could get a free tablet. In March there was a global spam campaign claiming people could test the new WhatsApp calling feature. Both cases were textbook scams, and instead of getting new tablets or services, the victims simply wasted their time spreading misleading spam messages and/or exposing themselves to ads. WhatsApp and other services are great for people, but like any new software, requires a bit of understanding to know how to use. Hopefully these points give WhatsApp users a heads up on how they can avoid spam and other digital threats, so they can enjoy using WhatsApp to chat with their friends. [ Image by Julian S. | Flickr ]

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