Cybersecurity best practices on Valentine’s day & beyond

cybersecurity best practices

Cybersecurity best practices are becoming part of humans in this digital age. However, on certain occasions like Valentine’s day, people do tend to overlook cybersecurity rules. And they end up becoming victims of some sophisticated online scams, malware attacks and even lose personal data and money.

Valentine’s day comes every year. But for cybercriminals, it remains one of the favourite events in the calendar to hit the users online. This year’s Valentine’s day is a bit unusual compared to all these years as its happening in the post-COVID-19 times.

The COVID-19 pushed humans and businesses online like never before. And that’s where cybersecurity best practices have become extremely important not just for businesses but even for humans.

Today, most businesses and organisational aspects have somewhat moved online to an extent in 2020. Even humans’ basic need for communication and relationships have moved in that direction via mobile dating apps and online chat and video services.

These apps and online services have existed for many years more. But COVID-19 phased witnessed a significant surge in the usage of those apps and services. And this surge has attracted cybercriminals and hackers to target users of such apps and services.

Security experts have cautioned users to be more vigil and follow simple cybersecurity best practices on this year’s Valentine’s day. That could even be doing simple things like having password manager, two-factor authentication or lock code on devices. These all will help to improve the cybersecurity of users, according to experts.

“Even if there’s just one cybersecurity thing that user have been meaning to do for months. “Such as getting a password manager, turning on two-factor authentication or setting a proper lock code on phone,” says Paul Ducklin, Principal Security Researcher – Sophos.

“Why not use Valentine’s day to show a bit of cybersecurity love to yourself by actually doing it? And then keep on doing it!” says Ducklin.

“Cybersecurity improvements that you make in your own digital life help everyone else at the same time. Remember that if one of your accounts gets hacked, the crooks are almost certainly going to use that account to try to scam or trick your friends and family, using your name to win their trust. So, if you protect yourself better on Valentine’s Day, you protect your loved ones better, too,” adds Ducklin.

In the pandemic’s aftermath, human relationships and personal bonding have suffered and impacted. As they have been asked to follow social distancing norms, travel bans and restrictions on human touch and more.

Such scenarios have increase technology usage many folds than before. Besides, the new technology of AI, VR, robotics and algorithms are being used and experimented to take the virtual relationship and dating experience to a new level.

During this pandemic phase, technology usage across age groups increased substantially to overcome loneliness and establishing human contact through technology. But this new tech-driven aspect in human relationships does come with cybersecurity threats and challenges.

According to What Works Wellbeing’s study, young people are more likely to seek ‘human’ contact through technology. The research revealed that detachment from human contact led to 64% of 18-24 year-olds and 66% of 25-34 year-olds respectively, spending more time using tech than pre-COVID times.

The surge in technology usage is not just among young but it is also seen among older age groups. Digital aids have also breached the older generations with 64% of the Baby Boomer and Silent Generation demographics feeling that tech has helped to combat their loneliness.

Some experts predict that by 2050 robot relationships and even marriages will be the norm.

In 2007, Dr David Levy, International Chessmaster and Writer predicted that about human and robots relationships. “By 2050, people would not only falling in love and having sex with robots but also would marry them. And I believe that timeframe is still very valid,” says Dr Levy.

“It might be that gradually people get over this idea that sex must be between two people. Many of us might form relationships with somebody that’s, not a real person,” says Dr Anders Sandberg, Research Fellow – Oxford Future of Humanity Institute.

While that sounds more futuristic for most people but coming back to reality in 2021– there’s been tremendous growth in the online dating business. Online dating apps Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Zoosk, and more are not growing their revenues but even their subscribers.

For cybercriminals, this scenario is also an opportunity to target online dating apps’ users, steal their data and misuse them. And it makes sense for users to follow cybersecurity best practices while performing digital activities or using applications online.

On the other hand, bots and crooks look for prey on dating platforms. The more data user gives or shares on the platforms’ activities, its easier for malicious elements to succeed.

Given the present scenario, Kaspersky has come up with a guide to safe and private online dating. It’s one of the aspects of cybersecurity best practices for online dating apps which remains significant throughout the year and on the eve of Valentine’s day.

How to set up your safe and private Tinder profile

Your Tinder profile should contain only three items. (the following is broadly true for other apps as well.)

  1. Your photos. Use real photos of yourself. But choose ones that don’t give away unnecessary information such as your address, employer, and so on. Choose photos from trips or of landmarks, with no personal data and no other people. Remember that someone can use your posted photos to find your social media profiles. So choose photos that don’t appear anywhere else, and don’t forget to set up your social media accounts correctly.
  2. Your name. Whether you use a pseudonym or your real name, don’t give up your full name here. Consider that using a nickname may result in confusion, though.
  3. Your interests. If you’re looking for a relationship. Fill in at least a few, keeping in mind that hobbies and interests may be important criteria for potential partners.
  • Some don’ts
    Using dating apps, you may encounter some traps as well. Here are a few to avoid.
  1. Don’t tie your Instagram (or other social media accounts) to your dating app profile. That gives away too much potentially usable information about you. Even if you’ve already set up Instagram for privacy and security, there’s more risk than reward in tying the accounts together.
  2. Don’t share your phone number or a messaging app handle. Dating apps strongly recommend sticking with their built-in message platforms, and it is wise to do so until you are sure you can trust the person you’re chatting with. Also, when you are ready to move to Telegram or another messaging app, set it up to keep your private info secure.
  • How to communicate safely on Tinder
  1. Once you have a match, it’s probably time to talk to them. But don’t rush to tell your whole life story — and not just because that would be awkward. Basically, before telling your match something, consider how you would feel if it became totally public. If you wouldn’t be comfortable with that, keep it to yourself for now.
  2. Remember that you’re talking to a stranger. They might become the love of your life, but for now, they could be anyone, so, unfortunately, you have to keep doxing and stalking in mind. Those kinds of assault can begin with personal information given to the wrong person. So, again, don’t rush to share private details.
  3. The person you’re talking to maybe every bit as kind and understanding as they seem, but they could also be a crook who has taken on someone else’s persona. Crooks commonly build trust before asking for money (urgently) or information. Being asked for money or gifts in a dating app is perhaps the hugest of red flags. So, no matter the reason and whether it’s a small amount of money to get to your place or a larger sum to pay a ransom on your match’s life — if they ask for money, cut off communications. The chances they are telling the truth are negligible.
  4. Crooks may also try to phish some of your private data. So be wary if your match asks you to install an app on phone or to visit a certain website. Or even starts asking questions about, say, your favourite teacher or your first pet (common website security questions). What do you have to lose? Well – the app may be malicious, the website may be a phishing page and that information can help someone steal your money or identity.

Being cagey online can help you stay safe. But it’s also important to have a good security solution that can automatically scan web pages and new apps.

Another kind of account you may run into on dating services belongs to bots. They are here for the same reasons: to try to lure you into giving away your money or data. Unlike those of the crooks, however, these accounts are automated.

If you get a funny feeling about a chat, and if the other person’s replies don’t quite match up with your questions. It’s safe to assume you’re talking to a bot and stop replying completely.

Hopefully, this guide and cybersecurity best practices should help people using online dating apps. And help protect their data and vital information from scammers.

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