Netflix’s Tinder Swindler might have highlighted the predatorial, scammy and frankly a-hole behaviour of some people when using dating apps, but these apps are on ASIO’s radar, too.
Every year, the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) – the national security agency responsible for the protection of the country and its citizens from espionage, sabotage, acts of foreign interference and the list goes on – delivers an annual threat assessment.
It usually details the concerns ASIO has in the broader national security landscape, calling out trends from the year (such as the heightened risk of cybercrime when everyone is working from home or shopping online). Social media sites are still of concern to ASIO, too, but this behaviour is spreading to dating apps.
“In the last two years, thousands of Australians with access to sensitive information have been targeted by foreign spies using social media profiles. These spies are adept at using the internet for their recruitment efforts,” Director-General Mike Burgess said in his speech last night.
“On any of the popular social media or internet platforms, they make seemingly innocuous approaches—such as job offers. This then progresses to direct messaging on different, encrypted platforms, or in-person meetings, before a recruitment pitch is made.”
Burgess said the pandemic has seen this threat spread, and that there’s also been a jump in suspicious approaches on messaging platforms like WhatsApp, for example.
“It’s an easy way for foreign intelligence services to target employees of interest,” he added.
But this year, Burgess also called out dating apps as being of growing concern to ASIO.
“ASIO is also tracking suspicious approaches on dating platforms such as Tinder, Bumble and Hinge. My message for any potential victims on these sites is a familiar one—if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!,” he said.
“The threats facing Australia are serious, but not insurmountable. Our adversaries are sophisticated, but not unstoppable.”