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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.
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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

database.

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.

SnapChat’s defense:

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.

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