I recently had an experience where I met someone online and then a few days later did some cyber sleuthing only to find out the person was not who they really said they were. I felt a little violated, you know like someone had hacked into my OS and planted a Trojan virus. And this is someone I met only once for coffee!
This experience got me thinking, why can’t I run my dating life like I run my servers (computers) at work?
Opening Ports of Communication
A port on a computer is a communication channel that allows devices to talk to each on the same piece of hardware without interfering with each other. Think of it as a phone number. If you publicize that port number anyone can call it. Don’t publicize your port number unless you’re ready to communicate!
Install Anti-Virus Software
I would never open up a server at work to the outside world without first installing some sort of anti-virus software to protect it. You’ve all heard of computer viruses, those nasty little programs that hackers and spammers secretly install on your poor unsuspecting computer. In the IT world there are anti-virus software programs like McAfee, Norton and Semantic for that.
The anti-virus software in the dating world is called your gut instinct. Just like Norton your gut will raise all kinds of red flags when it senses danger. Would you ignore Norton if it popped up a message that said some malicious piece of code was trying to gain access to your computer? I think not. You would click that Quarantine or Delete button without a second thought.
So, the next time you’re on a date, and that anti-virus gut instinct software starts popping up messages, don’t ignore them! Hit that Delete button and run!
My production servers at work are locked down tighter than Alcatraz in the 60’s, unless you’re a really good swimmer/hacker. I employ something called whitelisting, which means you can’t talk to my servers unless I know who you are. This is a difficult concept to apply in the dating world, but it can be done. Before you decide to meet that person on Match.com for a cup of coffee talk to all of your friends who have been active in the online dating world. Ask them if they have come across this person before. The dating pool is small. The likelihood is that someone you know has already met this person for a date, and can give you some very valuable feedback. Positive Feedback=Whitelisting. Proceed with coffee date.
In the Microsoft world you can blacklist a website by adding it to your hosts file. The hosts file is like a guest list that meaty bouncer outside the coolest club in town has on his clipboard. Not the V.I.P. list, but the OTHER list. You know, the one that lists all the people who have been kicked out of the club at one time or another, and are banned for life. That my friends is the blacklist, and you need one.
While whitelisting is the “known good” list, blacklisting is the “known bad” list. When you log on to Match.com and come across people you work with, add them to your blacklist. Just block them. You know you’ll never date them, and do you really want them perusing your dating profile while they’re deciding whether or not to promote you? And furthermore, blacklist the people you met on Match.com three years ago. The second or third time is not the charm.
Security Certification Process
Many of the clients I work with on a daily basis require my company and my servers to pass a rigorous security clearance. The process involves a lengthy verbal interrogation and a cyber scan of my servers from the outside world to see what they can see. In a word, they are trying to find out that I am safe to communicate with, and that I am who I say I am.
Thanks to the World Wide Web this concept maps very well to the dating world. Most people give you enough information in their dating profile and their initial communications for you to find out more than you ever wanted to know about that person. If all you have is a first name and a city, you may be hard pressed to find any useful information unless the first name is really unique. However, if you have a first name, a city and an occupation you may be in luck. Plug that information into our good friend Google and you’re off and running. You can often find the very pictures they have posted on their dating profile on their business website, which allows you to verify who they are.
If you have an email address or a first and last name and a city, I suggest you get familiar with a site called pipl.com, which takes the information you input and then crawls the Web for you. Pipl.com provides a comprehensive list of all references to that individual anywhere on the Web.
For the serious cyber sleuth I recommend a service called BeenVerified.com, which will give you a 7-day trial if you really need to do a deep dive on someone. This service provides past addresses, name changes, MARITAL STATUS, and criminal records. Don’t ask if you don’t want to know.
Proceed with Caution
People are not as black and white as computers, so even if you employ all of the above methods as you navigate the murky waters of the online dating world, you still need to proceed with caution. Think like an IT manager:
- Don’t open a port of communication unless you’re ready for that person to start calling you and texting you. You can always close a port on a computer when you want to stop communicating. In the dating world it’s called blocking his/her phone number!
- Don’t whitelist someone until you really know them. Whitelisting someone gives them access to things that no one else has access to.
- Do your due diligence, and if you find some compromising information on someone ask them about it before judging them. Not all computer programs are flawless, and not everyone who looks like a criminal online is actually a criminal today.
Go forth young grasshopper, and apply these Dating Ninja skills the next time you decide to try online dating.