With Valentine's Day right around the corner, expect heightened activity on popular online dating websites like Match, OkCupid, eHarmony, etc. What threat does this pose? Recently I sat down on a weekly program called “Coffee Break With Sabra” to discuss the issue further. The program offers quick expertise in finance/money, real estate, law and relationships.
Protect your clients' and employees' online information by reading the interview below. You will learn:
- About the danger of dating sites (and it’s not what you think)
- What they don’t want you to know about dating sites
- What you can do to protect yourself (and your future offspring)
Online Dating Sites and Cybersecurity
Sabra: Welcome to The Coffee Break with Sabras, where we answer burning questions, the questions you didn't ask, didn't know to ask, or were afraid to ask…we ask them for you. Each week we bring you another 20 minutes so you can get your answers and get back to having a productive and fabulous day. Today, we are here with Raj Goel. He's the founder and CEO of Brainlink, a New York City-based IT consulting firm. He's also an author, entrepreneur, an IT expert, and a public speaker. Raj Goel is globally known as the go-to man in cyber security and privacy law. He's committed to educating individuals and organizations about online safety and how to protect their most important assets, people and data. His expert advice helps individuals, companies, and conglomerates navigate their way through the world's ever-changing technology and increasingly complex IT compliance laws. He often appears in the media and at conferences worldwide to educate the public on cyber security and digital privacy--a subject he is passionate about. Welcome to the program, Raj.
Raj: Thanks Sabra, good to be here.
Sabra: I am so thrilled to have you here, especially with a bio like that. I feel really great to have you on my program. And I know that today, you are talking on a really pertinent topic. As you know, I work with a lot of people and individuals, and you're talking about dating. And specifically, your topic today is dating sites - members beware. So I thought it'd be a great thing to bring to the public and have someone like you talk about what's going on with dating sites, and gain your perspective for what some of the dangers are. A lot of people are on these things - millions and millions of people. It’s a very big industry, and a lot of money is involved as well. So I'd like to hear your perspective and what you could share.
Information That's TMI If Released
Raj: Yes, it's a fast-growing industry from my perspective as a security researcher and a privacy activist, and somebody who works with the corporations around New York City, helping them address their security and privacy threats. Dating sites attract a researcher because they're a great place to go and get data on people that you don't get otherwise. Take for example some of the corporate bios you see on their websites, or look at LinkedIn. You get a very clean, almost antiseptic view of who they are. When you go to the dating sites, however, you learn so many other things about people including stuff that they probably never even revealed on Facebook: what they like to drink, their sexual activities, restaurants they go to. You get a complete profile of the person. On the attack side, it's a great way to go and get information on a person. And then it gives us social engineering or other attack vectors. On the defense side, what I find frightening about dating sites is people reveal so much. And once they're in a relationship, or they pull up the account or they stop paying the dues, the information never goes away.
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The second danger with dating sites is that 10-15 years ago, there were maybe one or two; now there are thousands around the world, each one claiming tens of millions of members. Most people join between 1 and 15 dating sites when they're actively looking. But, in reality, your data will be on several hundreds to several thousands of dating sites around the world, because every dating site start-up either buys, steals, or sucks in the data from other dating sites to bulk their member portfolio.
What Happens on Match Doesn't Stay on Match
If you look on television, especially in the evenings and late nights, almost every other commercial is for a dating site. They all claim millions of members. If you actually do some analysis, you'll find there's a lot of overlap because either people join multiple sites or because each site copies content from the others. As an example, let's say on Match you put in you like chocolate. Great. And then you go and change your mind a few months later. You know what, I really don't like chocolate. I like coffee. (I'm speaking on a fairly benign topic because we're on radio and I don't want to be nailed by the FCC.) So let's replace coffee and chocolate with something a bit more embarrassing or a bit more adult. These changes on your primary site will be updated on the other clone sites, or the sites that stole the data or copied data from Match. They're going up on all of these sites.
Love Makes Fools of Us All
So we have found numerous cases of executives and business owners being compromised because they put something out there on their dating sites that they would normally not admit to in public, or on LinkedIn, or on their corporate bios, or the other people they were dating, or they thought they were having an online relationship with someone who wasn’t actually the intended partner.
Dating services have been going on almost as long as people have been dating. This predates the internet, predates technology. The mail order bride of the 60's and 70's has never gone away. The immigration part has never gone away. All the Internet has done has accelerated the speed with which people can be scammed, and the number of people you can scam simultaneously.
Sabra: Wow. What you’re telling me is really scary because I’ve used dating sites myself, and it's the furthest thing from my mind. I'd like to believe that people are honest and they want the same things. But I think you're right, now that you mention it. It's important to be aware and bring it to the forefront that there are people out there who aren't trustworthy.
Erase Every Trace of Them
Raj: Not only that, as you said you have used dating sites yourself, and we all know friends who have. Did you ever go back and delete your profile on the dating sites once you were done with the site, or you got in to a relationship?
Sabra: Highly doubtful.
Raj: Exactly. Most people never think about deleting data once they’ve released it, and the dating sites make it very, very painful, almost impossible. Let me rephrase that. They make it impossible to delete your data. You have to jump through a lot of hoops. And so as a result, people don't bother, because it's not in the dating site's interest to have their membership count drop. They all brag, "We've got 50 million fish in the sea for you."
For the complete interview, click here or go to