Leaked SnapChat photos create controversy:
Snapchat has been the latest victim of hacking with private account information of about
4.6million users getting leaked. Reportedly a person claiming to be behind this cyber crimes
claims that the aim was only to increase the awareness of the users about the online security
loopholes of one of the most popular photo sharing app.
What is Snapchat?
Snapchat is a photo messaging application developed two years back by Spiegel and
Bobby Murphy, two former Stanford University fraternity brothers, that allows users to
take photographs, record videos, add text and drawings and send them to a controlled list of
recipients. Users can then set a time limit between 1 to 10 seconds to view the SnapChat
pictures, after which they get automatically hidden from the recipient’s device and deleted from
Snapchat’s servers, which makes it a huge hit among teens.
Move Hand very nice, snapchat r
What went wrong?
On New Year’s Eve a website called SnapchatDB.info went online. This site offered a
database containing the usernames and phone numbers of 4.6 million Snapchat accounts to be
downloaded, with the last two digits of the numbers blacked out. The information had been
acquired through, as the site said, the recently patched Snapchat exploit. The company was
unenthusiastic about patching up the exploit until they had learnt that it was too late. Though the
site was taken down as soon as possible, many visitors had actually managed to download the
In a follow up statement to a number of tech media sites like The Verge and TechCrunch on
the day the site was taken down, SnapchatDB said that their main purpose behind the leak was
to raise general awareness about the issue. The other motive had been to pressurize Snapchat
“to get the exploit fixed”. They also added that though they understand that tech startups have
limited resources, yet security and privacy should be given more priority; “security matters as
much as user experience does.”
Even though Snapchat had been forewarned about its security concerns (that the app can be
hacked and SnapChat Pictures can be exposed), they have decided to take necessary measures
only after the hazard it seems.
In a blog post SnapChat had voiced its defense against the allegations. It has been explained
that adding a phone number onto the Snapchat account is optional. It only helps “your friends
to find you.” The phone numbers were not displayed to other users and that they do not support
the ability to look up phone numbers based on someone’s username. According to the post, “if
someone were able to upload a huge set of phone numbers, like every number in an area code,
or every possible number in the U.S., they could create a database of the results and match
usernames to phone numbers that way.” They also said that they have taken safeguards and had
added additional counter-measures to prevent spam and abuse. For example, taking steps like
deleting all the third party apps which steal the user information and use them to save the deleted
images, making those photos vulnerable for hackers’ use.