Online dating is often compared to a landmine with catfishers, scammers and abusers symbolizing the many dangers. However, even if you manage to avoid these obstacles, there is no guarantee that someone won’t ultimately stab you at the finish line. We are, of course, talking about hackers, who seem to make it a sport to compromise dating sites. 2016 was an especially busy year for them, where they leaked the personal information of millions of users. Luckily there are a few methods to avoid any major headaches and not becoming a victim.
The Year of Hacking
2016 was a pretty terrible year for dating sites in terms of PR. One after another, several popular matchmaking services were targeted by hackers, who leaked the personal information of millions of singles. You probably heard the sad ballad of adultery site Ashley Madison in 2015, where more than 37 million users had their sensitive information – such as their real name, job and financial status – compromised. But this breach was only the herald of a series of upcoming disasters.
During April 2016, anonymous individuals cracked the defense of Beautiful People, a dating site exclusively for good looking singles. The casualties: over 1.1 million profiles leaked to the public. The next victim was Muslim Match in June, an attack that impacted ‘only’ 150,000 users but the privacy breach heavily hit Muslim daters all across the globe considering that private messages were also stolen alongside personal information. And finally, the biggest catch of the year: AdultFriendFinder, with the massive hacking operation exposing around 412 million user accounts.
The Terrible Aftermath of Privacy Leaks
Security breaches on dating sites are absolutely no joke. In most cases, the attackers exploit weaknesses in the site’s authentication system to force their way into the database. Although companies often deploy encryption as a secondary line of defense, cracking it at that point is not a big challenge. The intruder’s loot is tantalizing since dating sites keep all your sensitive information on file, including IP address, username, password, income, sexual orientation and – as seen with Muslim Match – even private messages.
Even if you never disclosed your real name, guessing your true identity from the leaked data is child’s play. If an unscrupulous individual manages to get their hands on a treasure trove of information like this, they would most likely send blackmailing messages to demand money. And as we learned from the Ashley Madison incident, there are a high number of government employees, entrepreneurs and police officers on adult dating sites who cannot afford for their public image to be ruined.
Can Your Identity Be Protected?
There is very little you can do after such a leak has happened, therefore you must concentrate on prevention and be protective of your privacy. First of all, don’t use your Facebook profile during registration. Most dating sites offer the chance to link the two accounts to save time on the profile setup, but it’s a huge security risk. Use a custom email address created just for this purpose. Also, come up with a different password so the hackers can’t get access to any of your other accounts. Next, consider using a VPN while accessing the dating site; matchmaking services love to collect information about you, including your IP address.
And our final advice: never disclose any information online that can be used as blackmail. It’s easy to make a slip during a heated chat session, but keep sensitive family information, credit score and workplace information to yourself.