At the beginning of January, Snapchat suffered a public relations disaster. Nearly 4.6 million users had their information compromised and leaked all over the web, which made usernames and partial phone numbers available for download. However, the hackers in question are known as “white hat” hackers, or individuals who use their skill of cracking codes for good – these “white hat” hackers only wanted to alert users of Snapchat of the security issues with Snapchat.
The entire setup was meant to put pressure on Snapchat to tighten its security measures. These good guy hackers, who have remained anonymous, are reported to have used an exploit that was created by recent changes to the app. In a statement to a technology blog on the matter, the hackers report, “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. It is understandable that tech startups have limited resources but security and privacy should not be a secondary goal. Security matters as much as user experience does.” (2014, Gross)
Apparently, the hackers blurred out the last two digits of all of the phone numbers they released to preserve some sense of anonymity but were allegedly still considering whether to post more information with the entire number visible. At the end of the month, a new story broke about a teenager responsible for additional hacks into Snapchat’s database. Graham Smith is a 16-year-old from Texas who hacked the released numbers from earlier in the month to get in contact with Snapchat’s co-founder Bobby Murphy.
Smith had found a flaw in Snapchat’s security system while he had been reading their encryption code and tried to reach out to Snapchat to inform them of this issue. When he received no response, he took matters into his own hands and found Bobby Murphy’s cell phone number. Smith’s real fame has come as a result of the teen pointing out gaping holes in Snapchat’s security system that have stayed insecure since the hack in early January.
According to Smith, “I just want to make sure users are getting the end of the bargain, that their user information is safe.” (Strochlic) This concern for clientele confidentiality seems to be one that Snapchat is severely lacking. Just yesterday on February 12 a story was released detailing that Snapchat has once again been hacked, this time by a smoothie company that is spamming users.
When will Snapchat start to take the privacy concerns of their users seriously? If a sixteen-year-old can find flaws in their security system, they might need to reevaluate their priorities. Perhaps the art of snapping should follow the necessity of keeping sensitive information secure.
Gross, Doug. (2014). Millions of accounts compromised in Snapchat hack. Retrieved from:
Strochlic, Nina. (2014). Meet Graham Smith, Snapchat’s 16-year-old nemesis. Retrieved from:
Whitney, Lance. (2014). Snapchat hack spams users with smoothie photos. Retried from: