Share Your Heart, Not Your Identity: Here’s How You Can Stay Safe on Valentine’s Day

I love Valentine’s day, it’s the one day of the year exclusively dedicated to sharing: we share our feelings, our affection, and special gifts with our loved ones. It’s a great time to show the people in our lives just how much they mean to us. Thanks to social media and mobile friendly retailers, giving your loved ones the world is just a few clicks away.

Tech devices have made it so much easier to share our hearts with the people we care about. But, could our emotional vulnerability ultimately leave us vulnerable to cyber-attacks? Historically, Valentine’s day has been a big day for cybercrime. Criminals have found clever ways to take advantage of retail, online dating platforms, and social media to launch attacks against romantic hopefuls. If you’re wondering how to avoid the most common V-day scams, here are a few things to remember when sharing the love online, and some useful tips to keep your precious data safe.

Dating Apps Are a Data Goldmine

Apps like Tinder or Zoosk are very attractive to hackers around this time of year. Considering the amount of intimate details shared on these platforms, dating apps are prime targets for cybercriminals looking to gain access to personal data and even payment information. In fact, online dating has seen a growing number of cyber-threats since 2015.

If you’re wondering “what’s the worst that could happen if my Tinder account is hacked?”, look no further than the hundreds of pages of data that the app keeps stored on its users. This particular dating app doesn’t just match singles looking to spark a connection, it also collects behavioral data, such as how often you connect, when and where you connect, and even your “likes” and posts from other associated accounts. Some of this data might seem trivial to unsuspecting users, but if placed in the wrong hands this information could be detrimental to the security of your identity.

Florist Are a Favorite for Phishing Scams

A bright, beautiful bouquet of roses is my favorite gift to receive when February 14th rolls around. Unsurprisingly, flowers make one of the most common gifts given around Valentine’s Day but, sending and receiving flowers may not be as harmless as it seems. In 2016, cybercriminals leveraged the popularity of flower services to attack unsuspecting vendors through a series of DDoS attacks designed to extort money from them. While these attacks did not result in leaked information, it’s important to be cautious of which vendors you allow to keep your credit card information on file. After all, you’re expecting your florist to deliver an assortment of beautiful flowers, not a bouquet of personal data to cyber criminals!

If an attack on your friendly florist isn’t enough to peak your senses, hackers have also been known to take advantage of admirers looking to send flowers. Cybercriminals prey on the likelihood that you’ve sent flowers to your loved ones to launch phishing scams, using bogus packages and “Failure to Deliver” notices to collect your data.

Social Media Isn’t Always Your “Friend” 

Valentine’s day is easily one of the most socially sharable days of the year. With so much love in the air, you can’t help but share pictures and posts about your loved ones with other friends and family online. Although most people associate cyber-attacks with some form of malware, many do not realize how vulnerable they are when sharing personal information on social media. Through social engineering, hackers use the information you share online to exploit you. The more personal information you choose to share on social media, the easier it is to exploit that information. Through social media, hackers can find out information about your job, the places you frequent, and even your mother’s maiden name. But don’t worry, we’ve got a few tips up our sleeve to help you share all of the love you want across social.

Seasonal events, like Valentine’s Day, present an opportunity for cybercriminals to leverage their schemes. But don’t be deterred from sharing the love— here’s how you can connect securely and keep your data safe from hackers:

  • Get friendly with your privacy settings on your social media apps. Social platforms like Facebook are making it easier to adjust your privacy settings through a  “privacy center” so you can stay on top of the information you share and who you share it with.
  • Be careful of which accounts you link. Being connected to your online community is great, but linking accounts across platforms only gives cybercriminals easier access to your data. While Tinder does require you to link your Facebook account to sign up, you can turn off Tinder Social so that Tinder won’t be able to post anything to Facebook. And, when possible, avoid linking your dating profiles to other personal accounts.
  • Think before you click that link. Hover over it to see if the URL address looks legitimate to avoid phishing scams. If you know you didn’t send flowers, send that scam to your spam.
  • Double up on your security software. There are plenty of apps that keep your phone safe from malicious attacks. Consider using a service for your phone that offers web protection and antivirus.

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