The dark side of emojis on World Emoji Day

17 Jul 2023 10:41pm
Illustrative purposes (123rf)
Illustrative purposes (123rf)

Today (July 17) is World Emoji Day — a day when we put the spotlight on the now-familiar and arguably essential Lingua Franca of modern digital communication.

But as we celebrate and reminisce over our favorites – from laugh-crying faces to adorable animal emojis invoking an abundance of love — we also need to pay attention to the dark side of emojis.

Beneath its cheerful appearance, emojis can conceal a more austere and lesser-known reality.

Here are a few ways that emojis can be more dangerous than they seem.

Pig butchering scams and other romance scams start with developing trust

A coy-winking emoji, a heart emoji and a hug emoji: romance scams center around developing trust with potential victims, often under the false pretenses of a future relationship. Scams like pig butchering often involve lengthy conversations that last from weeks to months.

These conversations utilize familiar emojis, as the language of the modern internet to express feelings of playfulness, love and romance.

However, what lies behind those emojis are users that aren’t who they say they are. These scammers have one goal in mind and that is to convince users through the promise of fake investments or pleas for financial assistance in order to steal money from victims.

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Pig butchering scammers and romance scammers thrive on interaction through social media and dating apps.

Users of both types of platforms should be weary of investment offers or requests for financial aid.

Emojis can deliver malware to your device

When we think of malicious software (or malware), we often envision the stereotypical cybercriminal wearing a hoodie and typing on a terminal with computer code visualized in bright green text. In reality, that’s not how malware is delivered.

Typically, malware is delivered through phishing emails or malicious downloads on the web.

However, in 2022, researchers found a way to deliver exploits to victims through a series of innocent-looking emojis.

Thankfully, the circumstances in which this exploit can take place is extremely specific and unlikely to happen in real life.

Nevertheless, it’s still a fascinating case study of delivering malware through innocent-looking emojis.

Staying alert while using emojis

While emojis imbue text with emotional richness and foster better expressivity in our virtual interactions, they are not devoid of pitfalls.

The most immediate concern is the use of emojis as part of romance scams, which can have the most impact on everyday users online.

World Emoji Day is a good time to appreciate the beauty and simplicity in communicating through emojis, while also being mindful of our online interactions that could result in significant financial loss.

Satnam Narang, senior staff research engineer at Tenable.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.