One in four dating app users in UAE have had private information leaked online

Cybersecurity experts warn about sharing too much information during conversations with strangers

The TrulyMadly dating app from India
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The next time you are about to swipe right on a dating app you might want to think twice about the information you choose to share with potential matches.

A study has found more than one in four people in the UAE have had sensitive personal information leaked online as a result of using dating apps.

The report compiled by cybersecurity company Kaspersky said the gathering and revealing of private information, known as doxing, was a major concern for many people who were looking for love online.

They’re likely to be doing it because they are looking for revenge
Vladislav Tushkanov, Kaspersky

About 60 per cent of people who took part in the study said people they had been communicating with had shared screenshots of their conversation without permission, threatened them with personal information they found online, leaked intimate photos or even stalked them in real life.

“Doxing is a type of cyberbullying, it’s nearly always done by someone you will never have met in the real world,” said Vladislav Tushkanov, a senior data scientist at Kaspersky.

“It’s often the case it’s being done by someone who wanted to meet you but you decided against it.

“They’re likely to be doing it because they are looking for revenge.”

Online dating has seen a surge in popularity in recent years.

The most common victims of doxing were women, said Mr Tushkanov, but campaigns against politicians, actors, reporters and other public figures were also frequent targets.

About three quarters of respondents in the UAE – 72 per cent – said they were afraid of being stalked by someone they spoke to online.

This was despite the fact 62 per cent said apps had made dating easier for them.

And a quarter of the people who took part in the global survey admitted they had linked social media accounts to their profiles on dating apps.

The demographic most likely to share personal information on dating apps were 18 to 24-year-olds, with seven per cent of all respondents saying they were explicitly using dating apps to promote their social media accounts.

About 19,000 people took part in the global survey in countries including the UAE, France, UK, China, US, and Russia.

There were more than 500 respondents from the UAE alone.

About one in three people said they had been the victim of cyberstalking, with 32 per cent saying they were stalked on social media by someone they had not matched with.

Some of the most appealing information for doxers are victims' names, phone numbers, home addresses and places of work.

“The goal of the perpetrator is to cause psychological distress,” said Mr Tushkanov.

“In some cases they will spread rumours about someone and try to engage with that person’s friends and family to cause as many problems as possible.

“In some cases they will even spread the rumours to the person’s employer.”

The issue of doxing was bound to increase in frequency with more people than ever communicating online due to the pandemic, he added.

Another cybersecurity expert said people needed to pay particular attention to what they were sharing online, no matter how trivial it might seem.

“People posting regularly on social media platforms about their personal lives, work, family, and travel plans can give stalkers a treasure trove of personal details and information that can be used to harass an individual,” said Sam Curry, chief security officer of Cybereason.

“Doxers want to harass, stalk and try controlling their victims.”

He said the amount of information freely available online is often carte blanche for those looking to harass or stalk others.

“Don’t engage with strangers on social media accounts and never share personal information such as phone numbers, email and home address on your accounts,” said Mr Curry.

“The best protection is to keep your data private and minimise broadcasts of anything you want kept private.”

The practice is nothing new, said another cybersecurity expert, but it has become extremely prevalent recently, with further instances only expected to grow in numbers.

“I believe the public is very much aware of ‘doxing’ but not familiar with the term,” said Morey Haber, chief security officer at BeyondTrust.

“With more information being available on the internet, I think this is a long-term problem.”

He said the purpose of doxing someone was often to shame someone into defending their actions or explaining their position.

“Doxing... is designed to damage a person’s reputation,” he said.

“Unfortunately, even the smallest doxing campaign can cause a flurry of disinformation that can snowball into additional false information.”

Updated: September 22, 2021, 1:46 PM