On Jan. 9 Snapchat apologized for a breach that took place on New Year’s Eve. Usernames and partial phone numbers of Snapchat users were released to the public. The breach compromised the information of 4.6 million people through a flaw in the “Find Friends” feature of the app.
Prior to being hacked, a security firm notified Snapchat that there was a weakness in the feature. It was originally addressed through their blog on Dec. 27, 2013 that they had been notified that the hack was possible and someone could, if they wanted to, create a database of phone numbers and usernames. That was exactly what happened on New Year’s Eve.
Snapchat has become well-known for “sexting,” which involves sending explicit messages or images being sent through mobile devices. The company’s limit time frame for viewing the images that are received makes sexting relatively safe.
“No other information, including Snaps, was leaked or accessed in these attacks,” said Snapchat’s blog on Jan. 2, 2014.
Because of the hack, some users are worried about what other data could be compromised.
Lindsey Holderness, a Conestoga College student, is an avid Snapchat user and uses the app several times a day with her friends and family.
“After hearing about the leak I have thought about cancelling my Snapchat account. It was a wake-up call that it is pretty easy to have your information compromised,” Holderness said. She added that since the app was hacked she has removed a lot of personal information from Facebook and is aware of what she posts on social media.
Katie Holowaty, a Kitchener resident, has never used Snapchat, but learned about the app from the attention it received because of the breach.
“It might not stop me from using the app, but it would stop me from sending anything that I might regret,” Holowaty said.
The OPP said it’s important not to use your real name when creating a username for your online presence. While not online, this tip can apply to Snapchat as it is a file-sharing application.
Snapchat has released an update that allows people to opt-out of the compromised “Find Friends” feature.
The company also released several blog posts to keep users informed and notified them through the app itself, letting them check if their number and usernames were the ones released.
Snapchat has released a statement saying that the problem has been fixed, but they continue to monitor the situation.