According to romantic legend, St. Valentine was quite the match-maker, marrying young couples against the wishes of Emperor Claudius II and literally losing his head into the bargain. It is a good yarn but, in truth, nobody knows who he really was. In today’s modern world, however, identity is much more than just a romantic, mythological notion.
We are defined and inextricably married to our data. We form relationships with apps and live our lives through them. This is not without its risks, especially during uplifts in online activity that often occur around Valentine’s Day, whether it is shopping online for loved ones or trying to find that somebody special via a dating app.
They say that love is blind and, when passion clouds judgement, it can lead to misfortune. Cybercriminals are always trying to exploit weaknesses in bad security habits by hacking into usernames and passwords with the intention of stealing your identity or infiltrating network systems to acquire vital data.
Meanwhile, the use of encrypted communications containing malware and many other advanced techniques may subject both users and companies to malicious attacks. Recently, 400 million accounts were compromised in the AdultFriendFinder hack and millions of people who signed up to Ashley Madison were rudely exposed when their data was leaked.
According to a recent report by Business Insider, the busiest dating season runs from December 26 to January 14. During this time, there is a 60% spike in new singles registering on dating platforms. Fifteen million new photos are uploaded, one million dates take place and 50 million messages are sent. As online dating trends evolve, so too do the risks to both businesses and users.
Interestingly, St. Valentine’s name derives from ‘Valentinus’, which is taken from the Latin word for ‘worthy, strong or powerful’. These are the very traits e-commerce firms and dating app pioneers should be seeking in their security solutions for protecting users’ identity and data. Ideally, this will include a flexible authentication solution, whereby businesses can apply different controls to the same user depending on where they are, what device they are using and when they attempt to access. This also gives robust control to enforce correct levels of authentication while minimising disruption for valid users when they log into systems. The technology typically used here is known as an intelligent authentication proxy. This kind of service provides a centralised user login facility, which establishes a user’s identity in one or more ways and then proceeds to authenticate them into different applications.
While this is good to know, it is also our own individual responsibility to be vigilant. Think of your personal information as a valuable asset. If a cybercriminal is only a few clicks away from invading your world, you have to do everything possible to protect the door to your data. Understand that credentials, such as passports, health details, bank accounts and academic qualifications, are all unique and must be safeguarded.
Identity theft is a nightmare if it happens, because your unique information sometimes cannot be changed, especially date of birth, mother’s maiden name, identity number, etc. Therefore, be aware of who you are engaging with and how your data is being used. Always double check that the company you are dealing with is genuine. Do you really trust them? If there are any doubts, it is your right to refuse to share sensitive information. Always secure your data with robust passwords and change them regularly. Remember, true harmony is having the right security measures in place.
Love your data
There is no doubt that our passion for technology in the romantic season has opened up new opportunities to engage with others more effectively, including the way we find a partner or simply to conduct relationships through social media or business channels. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are also taking advantage of inconsistencies between apps inside the data centre and those in the cloud.
Taking the heartache out of data breaches and tackling cybersecurity is a collective responsibility. Firms need to implement comprehensive and advanced controls to fortify their operations and we, as consumers, need to take more control in how we manage our personal data. Whether love is in the air or in the app, make sure your personal data is protected and chances are we can start to kiss cybercrime goodbye sooner rather than later.
By Martin Walshaw