Snap Hacked

Snap Hacked

Michelle Narain, Reporter

Snapchat is an exciting app that came out in September of 2011 that allows users to send pictures and videos to friends. These ‘snaps’ can be sent with text that ‘self-destruct’ after 1-10 seconds. Snapchat was developed by Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy as a project for one of Spiegel’s classes at Stanford University. The app became a huge sensation and over 30 million people created accounts. Although the app is free to download, they have made millions of dollars and even turned down offers of three billion from Facebook and nearly four billion from Google to buy their company. The young entrepreneurs were on top of the world.

On New Year’s Eve, however, an unknown hacker (or group of hackers) published a database with 4.6 million Snapchat user’s information on it. The information for each user consisted of their usernames and phone numbers with the last half of each username and last two digits of the phone numbers blurred out. The hackers made the database available for anyone to download and would offer the entire database to interested parties ‘under certain circumstances’.  After the site was up and the downloading had begun, the hackers behind the site responded to The Verge’s requests for comment , “Our motivation behind the release was to raise the public awareness around the issue, and also put public pressure on Snapchat to get this exploit fixed.” They say, “Security matters as much as user experience does.” The leak of information came after Gibson Security had brought the potential threat to Snapchat’s attention. Snapchat had claimed they would make the necessary changes to ensure security and have all the holes in their database fixed. The hacker’s site (SnapchatDB) has been taken down since, but not before the information was viewed and downloaded millions of times.

Many of Woodland Park High School’s students had their account information leaked and have taken different courses of action on the matter. Kelsey Hart’s (a junior at WPHS) account was one of the millions leaked. Kelsey’s immediate action was to delete her account because she was worried “some strange man might have it (her information)”. The information that was leaked made a user’s area code, phone number, and Snapchat name available to people all over the world and most users immediately started receiving Snapchat requests from strangers. Snaphat has since apologized but Kelsey says she will not make a new account, “until Snapchat is ensure to be safe.”

The public pressure on the matter has convinced Snapchat to introduce new updates so that users can remove their phone numbers from their account, block certain users, and change their settings on who can and cannot send them snaps.  Snapchat is also currently working on keeping up with their security and is taking extra precautions to keep user information safe in the future.