Techno-senator tells Tinder to hook up its app with better security

Swipe-a-shag tool gets the dreaded sternly-worded-letter treatment from Wyden


Cyber-senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is asking execs from the parent company of Tinder to please use protection when spreading the love around.

Wyden, a ranking member on the US Senate committee on finance (and a member of four other committees), said in a letter addressed to Match Group CEO Greg Blatt that he wants Tinder to use secure connections for all traffic the app transmits, including photos and actions.

This after a January report from researchers at security firm Checkmarx found much of Tinder's app traffic was sent over a mix of encrypted HTTPS and unsecured HTTP connections that would allow an attacker on, say, the same Wi-Fi network to view things like profile views and swipe decisions.

"These security oversights leave Americans vulnerable to snooping in their most intimate activities," Wyden tsk-tsk-tsked [PDF] on Wednesday.

Wyden asked that Tinder adopt secure connections when transmitting all data in order to keep people using public Wi-Fi networks from having their privacy compromised. Actions, such as swiping left or right, should not be discerned from packet sizes, for example. The application emits over HTTPS a 278-byte block for a left swipe to reject a lonely heart, 374 bytes for a right swipe to approve of a potential lover, and 581 bytes to really like someone. Combining this with profile data over HTTP, it is possible to work out who someone fancies and wants to shag by snooping on their network traffic.

Getting all up in Tinder's swipes must be a welcome departure for Wyden from the other maddening tech cases he has got mixed up with. The Oregon senator is also currently in the thick of the FBI's debate over backdoors in phones and has been critical of parts of the government's surveillance policies.

By contrast, with Tinder all Wyden really wants is for the site to use HTTPS connections, with suitably padded packets, when transmitting data between phones and servers.

"Tinder can easily enhance privacy to its users by encrypting all data transmitted between its app and servers, and padding sensitive transactions to thwart snooping," the congresscritter wrote.

"These common-sense security fixes would provide Tinder users with the level of security and privacy they expect from a service that holds some of their most private information."

Tinder did not respond to a request for comment on the letter. ®

Updated to add

A spokesperson for California-based Tinder has been in touch to say:

We appreciate the concern raised by Senator Wyden. At Tinder, we take the security and privacy of our users seriously and employ a network of tools and systems to protect the integrity of our platform, including encryption.

As part of our ongoing efforts in this area, we recently updated our mobile app and web platforms to encrypt profile images, in addition to swipes and other data which were previously encrypted. Like every other technology company, we are constantly improving our defenses in the battle against malicious hackers.

However, we do not go into any further detail on the specific security tools we use or enhancements we may implement to avoid tipping off would-be hackers.

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