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How to enjoy a safe, physically distanced Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day, like every other recent holiday, will look pretty different this year — and this may be especially true for anyone who’s been looking for love throughout the pandemic.

After all, finding that special someone is difficult enough without the awkward hurdle of having to meet them for the first time on a video call. But at least if it isn’t going well, you can just say that your internet died instead of trying to leave through the fire escape.

Admittedly, as cyber security experts, we may not be the first people you’d think to turn to for advice about love and dating. But we can at least tell you how you can go about it in a secure way online. Whether this is your first or fifteenth date, here’s how to enjoy a cyber secure Valentine’s.

Protect your heart (and your network)

Sure, newfound love is exciting. But don’t fall too fast. Slow things down by taking some pre-emptive measures to secure your home network before you get on a call. You can do this by making sure your network devices are up to date and that your router’s username and password have been changed from the default names given by your service provider to something unique.

If you’re meeting with someone that you don’t know very well or if you’re video chatting with your date somewhere outside of your home, you should also consider using a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs essentially hide your IP address from potential cyber criminals so that they can’t find or connect with you. This will help keep your private information protected, even if you’re using public Wi-Fi.

Basically, when it comes to your date, feel free to spend it sharing as many personal stories about your beloved schnauzer as you’d like, as long as you’re protecting your online privacy at the same time.

Beware of love at first click

You may be feeling the love this Valentine’s Day, but cyber criminals definitely aren’t. Hackers will try to exploit any holiday, and this one is certainly no exception. Stay vigilant by keeping an eye out for phishing messages from suspicious senders. They may come as emails, texts or even direct messages on a dating app to try to seem more legitimate. Be on the lookout for signs of phishing like typos, pixelated images or absurd threats. Whatever you do, don’t click on any links or give out any information to messages that seem fishy to you.

You should also be suspicious of a “date” who tries to pressure you into sending odd gifts before you’ve even met – like sending an e-transfer or prepaid gift cards. The same goes for intrusive requests for personal information that no one would normally need to know, like your mother’s maiden name, your social insurance number or your credit card information. No real love connection would ask you for this kind of information. If it doesn’t feel right, trust your heart (and this blog post) and know that they aren’t the one.

Plan the perfect (virtual) date

So, you’ve set up your home network, vetted your date, and now you’re ready to talk. What’s next? You can start to plan your perfect virtual date night by making sure your operating system’s software is up to date, along with any video chat apps that you might be using. Running software updates is essential to your device’s overall functionality. Not only do they often come with cool new features and settings, but they also include critical bug fixes and security updates. You can save time by setting updates to run automatically or running the updates as soon as your device prompts you.

The same goes for any apps that you might be using to chat. Ensuring that they’re updated can help you stay secure while you’re chatting and potentially reduce the risk of a dropped call interrupting your conversation.

If you successfully survived your first (and hopefully last) physically distanced Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to cover your webcam after you hang up. Lonely-hearted hackers could turn your cameras on when you don’t expect it – and you can trust us when we say that they definitely aren’t looking for love.

Conclusion

Finding love may be a challenge this Valentine’s Day but staying cyber secure while you’re looking for it doesn’t have to be. By doing your part to protect your heart (and just as importantly, your devices), you’ll be all set for a physically distanced date. Just be your most cyber safe self and you’ll be fine.

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