Catfish is a fun demonstration of an active man-in-the-middle attack against users of the Tinder dating app. Using fake female Tinder profiles, Catfish establishes a Tinder "match" with two victim men from the same city. Messages are then relayed between these two men, creating the illusion that they are communicating over a private channel. The two victims are chatting (and likely flirting) with one another, whilst each believes he is talking to a girl.
In the following example, the two women are bot accounts controlled by Catfish. The men are the victims. The first bot receives a message from a new match, and the second bot uses this message to initiate a conversation with a match of its own:
In case you were wondering… yes, that is a real-life opening line that Catfish once observed. Any reply from the guy on the right-hand side will be relayed back to the chap in the hat. Catfish does not modify messages – it only relays them. We store all messages in our database. These messages are subsequently reviewed, and we publish the most entertaining conversations online. All messages are anonymised before being posted. Many Tinder users are quick to exchange phone numbers, Snapchat usernames, and various other personal information. We are careful to ensure that no such details are published on this website; please get in touch if you think we missed something.
Our motivation is simple: Catfish is a fun prank, and we find the conversations incredibly entertaining to read.
Catfish was born as something slightly different, but we quickly pivoted. The original idea was to use Tinder man-in-the-middle to exploit other guys into chatting up girls for us. Replace the second bot in the diagram above with one of our own profiles, and the victim on the right with a woman. What we have then is another guy from our city chatting up a girl in the same city. The technology behind Catfish puts us in a position to observe this conversation. The idea was that, if we noticed a conversation going well, we could cut contact with the original guy and meet up with the girl ourselves. We quickly realised, however, that most men on Tinder are even worse with girls than us. The idea for Catfish – relaying conversations between two men who are talking to "women" – quickly became our primary focus.
We haven't been going for long and already feel like we've seen it all. We've seen guys falling out with each other, with each accusing the other of being an imposter. After all, each guy is certain that he's not the one pretending to be a girl, right? Some victims have sent sexy photos over WhatsApp and Snapchat, only for them to be ill-received by the other party. A handful of guys have worked out that something is amiss, with some finding it amusing themselves and bonding over their shared confusion. Two guys met up! We were pretty blind on what was happening after they met in person, but it seemed to be well-received. Special credit to Tinder user Les from London for being the first ever victim to realise that a 3rd party (i.e. Catfish) was involved in the weird behaviour that he witnessed.
Our favourite conversation took place before our systems recorded messages, but we were able to take screenshots whilst logged in to the Tinder app as one of the bot accounts. This delightful exchange took place between two fine gentlemen from London. As with all Catfish conversations, each of them believes he is talking to a woman:
If you're the kind of person who finds stuff like this amusing, go ahead and check out our other published conversations!