(Reuters) - The millions of people using dating apps on company smartphones could be exposing themselves and their employers to hacking, spying and theft, according to a study by International Business Machines Corp.
IBM security researchers said 26 of 41 dating apps they analyzed on Google Inc's Android mobile platform had medium or high severity vulnerabilities, in a report published on Wednesday.
IBM did not name the vulnerable apps but said it had alerted the app publishers to problems.
Dating apps have become hugely popular in the past few years due to their instant messaging, photo and geolocation services. About 31 million Americans have used a dating site or app, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center study.
IBM found employees used vulnerable dating apps in nearly 50 percent of the companies sampled for its research. Using the same phone for work and play, a phenomenon known as "bring your own device," or BYOD, means users and their employers are both open to potential cyberattacks.
"The trouble with BYOD is that, if not managed properly, the organizations might be leaking sensitive corporate data via employee-owned devices," said the IBM report.
IBM said the problem is that people on dating apps let their guard down and are not as sensitive to potential security problems as they might be on email or websites.
If an app is compromised, hackers can take advantage of users waiting eagerly to hear back from a potential love interest by sending bogus "phishing" messages to glean sensitive information or install malware, IBM said.
A phone's camera or microphone could be turned on remotely through a vulnerable app, which IBM warned could be used to eavesdrop on personal conversations or confidential business meetings. Vulnerable GPS data could also lead to stalking, and a user's billing information could be hacked to purchase things on other apps or websites.
IBM said it had not so far seen a rash of security breaches due to dating apps as opposed to any other kind of social media.
Meanwhile, it recommends that dating app users limit the personal information they divulge, use unique passwords on every online account, apply the latest software patches and keep track of what permissions each app has.
IAC/InterActiveCorp, which owns some of the most popular dating apps, said its services were not at risk.
“IBM tested IAC’s dating apps - including Match, OkCupid, and Tinder - and they were not among the apps found to exhibit the cited vulnerabilities," the company said in a statement emailed to Reuters.
Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Tom Brown