According to reports in the media this morning report this morning (11th October) users who had been accessing the service via a third-party app, and not the official Snapchat app, had their images intercepted. Other reports state that hackers stole up to 200,000 such images and uploaded these. As around half of the users are aged between 13 and 17, there is concern that many of the images may be of children.
“We vigilantly monitor the App Store and Google Play for illegal third-party apps and have succeeded in getting many of these removed.” However, security researchers said Snapchat had to take more responsibility over user data.
Although the download has since gone offline, photos have appeared elsewhere on the internet. Hackers have threatened to post thousands more images. However, some doubted the authenticity of the images, suggesting many of them were duplicates or “fake”.
Snapchat is a messaging app that allows the sharing of videos and images that “disappear” after a short period of time, usually within 1-10 seconds.
According to various reports hackers had boasted of having access to 13 gigabytes’ (GB) worth of pictures that had been intercepted over a number of years.
Speculation as to the source of the leak has pointed towards two third-party, unauthorised services that offered the ability to save Snapchat messages permanently. It suspected that at least one such service was keeping a database of all the pictures and videos that had passed through it.
Snapchat notifies a sender if the recipient screenshots a photo. But if the recipient of a photos uses a third-party app, he or she can save the photo without the sender’s knowledge. As such, Snapchat actively looks for and reports third-party apps that bypass Snapchat’s automatic photo destruction, the spokeswoman said.
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In January, an apparently ethical hacker released 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers in an attempt to prompt a Snapchat security review, and earlier this month Snapchat accounts were effectively hacked by a weight-loss spam service.
It is important to remember once something is on-line it remains on-line, and children in particular need to be aware of the consequences of this fact. Parental advice is the key to educating children over the safe use of social media and the internet.