Security researchers have discovered that two of the world’s most popular mobile dating apps can be hacked, exposing sensitive user data in the process. The team from the University of South Australia ran a series of tests, proving that a number of personal details could be extracted from the apps relatively easily.

Capturing network traffic reveals all

The two apps in question, Tinder and Grindr, claim to keep personal details private until users select a match, someone they want to make.

The two apps in question, Tinder and Grindr, claim to keep personal details private until users select a match, someone they want to make contact with. It is only at this point email addresses or usernames are shared, allowing people to connect directly.

The team of experts found that a determined hacker could capture information as it passed between the user’s phone and the Internet. Flaws in the apps themselves could also be exploited to reveal even more information directly on the Android smartphone.

Using the same techniques demonstrated by the university team on the Tinder app, hackers are able to recover all the profile images viewed by the user, along with details of each “match”. Further probing reveals the user’s unique Facebook token – a string of numbers and letters that could be used to personally identify the app user.

Security tests suggest that Grindr is even less secure. Among the information recovered were the details of profiles the user had viewed, along with their own email address. Even more worrying was the discovery that messages from private chats could also be accessed by hackers.

Why does it matter?

Romantic relationships are built on trust by sharing private thoughts and feelings with another person. We make ourselves vulnerable by discussing things we wouldn’t share anywhere else.

This kind of deeply personal information is extremely attractive to hackers who can use it to blackmail the user, or to build a personal profile for advanced social engineering attacks. The secrets revealed in private conversations can often be used to guess passwords, or “trick” people into handing over valuable information like bank account numbers.

How to protect Tinder against hacking

Tinder and Grindr were both criticized by the University of South Australia for failing to properly protect users’ data. In the conclusion of their report, users were urged to be extra careful about the apps they install on their Android phones.

Ultimately the responsibility for these problems lie with the app developers who need to improve their security provisions. In the meantime, Android users can enhance their own protection using Panda Mobile Security to prevent personal data from being accessed without permission – as was the case here.

Panda Mobile Security prevents malicious apps from stealing data, and can be configured to limit data sharing between legitimate apps, helping to keep your sensitive personal information away from hackers. Which means you can focus on finding love without someone accessing your private chats.