Tinder Spammers Still Going Strong Despite Security Improvements

  • Sunday, October 19 2014 @ 11:08 am
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Dating app Tinder has had to deal with a lot of security issues, despite the app’s verification system using Facebook Connect.  In theory, because of Facebook’s security measures, only “real people” can join Tinder, so users can sign up with some reassurance the profiles they'll encounter will be real. But lately, this has not been the case.

Spammers and scammers have been able to lure users away from Tinder and onto their sites, typically, with spam bots - fake accounts pretending to be real people that flirt with users in order to redirect them to adult sites - and take their money. In the past, Tinder users could block profiles, but they couldn’t report spam.

According to website Tech Crunch, things have changed. Users can now not only block accounts but also report spam. Tinder also made a technical update to address the issue, and the update was effective at cutting down on the in-app spam. Unfortunately, the spam bots just found another avenue - SMS. Phone spam for Tinder users skyrocketed.

Instead of luring Tinder users away while they are inside the app, the spam bots changed their scripts and started collecting mobile numbers from the users, sending those users text messages with links to the spammers’ websites. 

It can be really misleading for users to receive text messages from spammers who are pretending to be people. One example Tech Crunch used that came from a spam bot read like this: “sorry my phone’s almost dead and out of mins too. If you go on ill be there. Im sweetgirl4u on it. Sorry its free tho if you confirm your email.”

Tinder is still racking up complaints, so it seems the technical update hasn’t actually made a difference. According to security researchers, this is beacuse Tinder was successful in getting rid of the in-app spam bots but not the spam bots themselves. Lead researcher Raj Bandyopadhyay explained to how they conducted their research, and what it meant for Tinder:

“Our topic modeler looks for phone number related complaints, and then classifies them using Data Scientist to validate correlation. In this case, we isolated complaints related to Tinder, and then compared them to historical complaints. This gives us a high degree of confidence that the spike is specific to Tinder activity and not just an overall spike in spam. In addition, it is important to re-emphasize that this is a pattern we have frequently seen – fraudsters migrating to phone after being thwarted online.”

So it seems text messages are becoming the spam bot avenue of choice, since online technology has improved so much. Now, mobile security needs to catch up.

Would You Let the App Healthvana Share Your STD Status So You Don't Have To?

  • Wednesday, October 15 2014 @ 07:00 am
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Today in “Yes, there’s even an app for that”: Healthvana, a new service helping to halt the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

These days we do everything online - from paying our bills to booking appointments to meeting the loves of our lives. And it’s great. There are clear benefits to living in a faster, more connected world. But where do you draw the line on going digital? Would you store your STD status online?

Healthvana is banking on the answer being “yes.” The service launched earlier this summer in partnership with the AIDS Health Foundation to offer people easy access to their own health records. Healthvana sends patients' results directly from the laboratory to their smartphones, via their website or their mobile app.

Healthvana founder Ramin Bastani told ABC News "It's a digital version of, 'I'll show you mine if you show me yours.'" Armed with your results on the digital device of your choice, you can show potential partners and new doctors a time-stamped status on prevalent STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. (Note: Though common, HPV and herpes are not currently included in the app’s interface.)

"It's no different if you went to the doctor and got a printout and showed [your partner] that," Bastani explained. "We want to eradicate that idea that no news is good news."

Whitney Engeran, head of public health at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is also predicting a bright future for Healthvana. "It allows us to move faster with our patients and gives them a lot of quick information," he said. "Because right now if they're negative, we don't necessarily call them –- because we see so many people, we really only call them if they’re positive."

The problem, of course, is one that plagues everything in our digital age: security. What happens if Healthvana is hacked? Or if you lose your phone?

The service supposedly follows U.S. patient privacy laws known as HIPAA, because users can only access their results after entering through a secure portal, and no sensitive info is sent via email. Patient records are stored in a secure data center that only a limited number of Healthvana employees have access to.

Of course, Healthvana can only reveal the results of someone’s most recent test - which isn’t definitive proof of a clean bill of health and is no guarantee it’s safe to skip using protection. Still, if this app makes users more aware of their health, helps people approach a sensitive topic, and encourages more responsible sexual practices, it’s a welcome step in the right direction.

So far the instant record feature is being tested in three locations in Florida, and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation plans to roll out the updated app nationwide within the next two months.

Tinder Hackers Getting Creative in Looking for Matches

  • Tuesday, October 14 2014 @ 07:05 am
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Tinder is no doubt the latest craze of online and mobile dating. Most singles have heard of it, if they aren’t already using it. But despite the fact that Tinder requires you to sign up via your Facebook profile (which keeps out the fake profiles and supposedly keeps people honest about who they are) – hackers are finding ways to game the system for their own benefit.

A recent article by such a hacker appeared in Android Central, where the author Cage Michaels - who is happily in a relationship - enjoys just being on Tinder, flipping through photos and judging each woman's hotness. He has decided to share his strategy with the masses (“FTW” – “for the win” - as he says). To him, Tinder has nothing to do with his relationship and his “real life,” but considers it a game or a way to pass time entertainingly. He says, “I'm in a relationship. I'm happy. I just find it really entertaining to swipe through photos of real people. Some people spend all day looking at photos of cats. Personally, I'd rather look at photos of women. To each their own.”

Of course, in order to look at photos on Tinder you have to be on Tinder. This created a problem for him, because his friends (and her friends) noticed he was on the app and were wondering if he was cheating or had broken up with his girlfriend. According to him, neither was the case. Hence his dilemma – how could he Tinder without all the hassle?

Instead of setting up a fake Facebook profile (which can take some effort), he decided to outsmart Tinder’s GPS capabilities and fake the app into thinking he was visiting another city (where he had no friends or connections). This made his Tinder habit easy to maintain.

He goes step-by-step in the article, guiding people first through downloading a fake GPS app. Once you download, you can pick the city where you want to anonymously browse Tinder profiles. When you hit the “play” button within the fake GPS, you can then enable a fake GPS signal. Once you open Tinder, it will pick up the fake GPS location from your phone and use that for its search.

While this is one way of creating a fake profile on Tinder, it certainly isn’t the only way to outsmart the app. There are new apps being launched that take advantage of Tinder’s functionality by allowing people to match en masse without even looking at profiles, just to increase your odds of success.

Between these and the hackers, you might want to question whether your Tinder match is real, or just another person who’s gaming the system. 

New Dating App Siren Puts Women in Control

  • Saturday, August 30 2014 @ 09:37 am
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For the single women reading, how many lewd messages have you received on OkCupid in the past month? How many guys have stalked you over Tinder? If you answer “too many” for either one, you might be ready for a new kind of dating app called Siren.

Siren is an alternative to the typical dating apps like Tinder, where many men swipe right to have more women in their cue - meaning, they play the numbers. They make the first move, often approaching women in a way that makes them feel pressured, uncomfortable, or just plain creeped out. It’s become a kind of risky game for some women, where they aren’t sure if they will meet someone and feel safe. If they don’t, the whole dating app experience becomes tainted.

Tech-Saavy Users are Manipulating Tinder for more Dates

  • Wednesday, August 27 2014 @ 07:04 am
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  • Views: 1,087

Like with online dating, Tinder seems to give females the advantage over males, at least in terms of your chances for getting a date.

Many guys complain that women have it better in the dating world because women can choose who they want to date, while guys are left saying "yes" to every woman's profile they view online or on an app like Tinder, just to improve their chances of meeting someone. (Women tend to be more picky, and say "no" to most men, probably because so many men just swipe right to everyone.) While online dating does seem skewed, apparently some tech geniuses have decided to make the odds work in the guys' favor.

Instead of manually going through all the matches Tinder sends his way, one techie decided that he could automate responses. According to website ValleyWag, former Microsoft developer Yuri de Souza details "how he reverse engineered Tinder to mass-like every girl on the network." He was sitting around one Sunday afternoon mindlessly swiping right on all of his female matches, hoping that one would swipe right back, when the idea struck him.

" [I] recalled my friend telling me how he would spend hours swiping right on Tinder just to accumulate as may matches as possible," de Souza told ValleyWag. "This had me thinking, why can't I reverse engineer Tinder and automate the swipes? After all, I'm pretty darn good at taking things apart!"

He was successful, and went to share his idea with other guys, only to find he wasn't the only one or even the first to try to game the system.

While it seems counter-intuitive to accept matches that you don't even see in the hopes of having more choice in who you want to date, this is the thinking behind guys looking to game the dating app system. (An article in New York Magazine last year naming the most successful online daters included a guy who admitted to saying "yes" to all women on Tinder to improve his chances, so this might have inspired a lot of guys to follow his lead.)

Other tech-savvy users have created shortcuts and automation to help them (and other guys) avoid the challenging task of looking through so many women's profiles. It turns out, people aren't even willing to spend the time to look at photos anymore, let alone read words in a profile.

What does this mean for dating? While it's understandable that guys are frustrated with their lack of choice (and womens' general avoidance of swiping right unless a man really intrigues her), is reverse-engineering the best way to meet a woman? Maybe apps like Tinder, fun and game-like as they are, are not the best avenue for many people. Instead of casting a large net and hoping to catch someone - anyone - why not try to focus on what you want? If you're putting it out there that you can't seem to meet a woman, then likely creating an automated way to say yes to everyone on Tinder isn't going to improve your game.

Maybe it's time to try another site or app that is more conducive to your search. Better yet, try something more old-fashioned. How about you approach a woman in person and ask her out? That will make you stand out from the Tinder crowd.

For more on this dating app please read our Tinder review.

Zoosk Introduces New Date Feedback Feature

  • Wednesday, August 20 2014 @ 06:49 am
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Oh boy. Just when you thought online dating couldn’t get any more stressful, you now have to worry about what feedback your date is sharing with the site that connected you.

Zoosk recently announced the launch of Date Feedback, a new feature that will allow members to provide commentary on their online dating experience. When Zoosk’s system recognizes that two users have exchanged a significant number of messages, Date Feedback will ask each to offer their opinions on how the conversation progressed and the likelihood of an off-line meetup. Zoosk hopes the new feature will provide valuable insight into the matchmaking process.

“At Zoosk, we are constantly improving our technology to help our members discover fulfilling relationships, and Date Feedback will be one of the first ways we’re able to add offline dates to the list of signals our algorithm can take into account for matchmaking,” said Shayan Zadeh, Co-Founder and CEO of Zoosk. “With the launch of Date Feedback and the important data points it adds, our platform will have the ability to become that much more adept at understanding how a member’s online dating experience transitions into an in-person meeting, and hopefully, a relationship.”

The goal is to offer each member a more personalized experience. By gathering data on what conditions are most likely to lead to in-person dates (and, afterwards, relationships), Zoosk is hoping to improve its Behavioral Matchmaking engine. The matching system will be better able to predict which introductions will lead to successful offline connections, making the website a more powerful tool than ever before.

It’s no surprise to see Zoosk taking a more technological approach to dating. The company has always espoused a tech-based methodology for matching, rather than a strategy based on self-reported questionnaires. The Behavioral Matchmaking engine works by tracking a user’s actions on the site – like where the user clicks and what messages s/he sends and responds to – in order to deliver better matches. Rather than using a one-size-fits all, static approach to dating (like a quiz or fixed profile), Zoosk constantly updates to accommodate your preferences and adapts its dating experience to your actions.

Now is a particularly good time for Zoosk to bring out the heavy artillery. Though it has yet to turn a profit, revenue continues to grow and the company filed documentation to become a public company in April. Zoosk plans to raise $100 million in its initial public offering later this year.

For more information on this dating site you can read our review of Zoosk.

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