Snapchat Hacked For its Own Good?

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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.

 

References

Gross, Doug. (2014). Millions of accounts compromised in Snapchat hack. Retrieved from:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/01/tech/social-media/snapchat-hack/

 

Strochlic, Nina. (2014). Meet Graham Smith, Snapchat’s 16-year-old nemesis. Retrieved from:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/29/meet-graham-smith-snapchat-s-16-year-old-nemesis.html

 

Whitney, Lance. (2014). Snapchat hack spams users with smoothie photos. Retried from:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-57618782-83/snapchat-hack-spams-users-with-smoothie-photos/

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Snapchat Gives Brands Their 10 Seconds of Fame

            Lately, it seems like brands will cross into just about any form of social media in order to present their product in the newest, most innovative manner possible. Marketing directors have rapidly adjusted to the latest social media interests of the targeted audience, well-connected college students. Moving past the commonly used and parent-laden Facebook, marketing directors have taken a step in the direction of a fresher form of social media with a risqué reputation, Snapchat.  

           Snapchat, released in September of 2011, gained a huge following in the fall of 2012 and has kept a consistent level of followers since that time. Setting Snapchat apart from other social media forms is its allowance of users to send pictures to other users that will disappear after one to ten seconds, depending on what the sender chooses. It is because of this capability that Snapchat has gained a reputation of facilitating the sending of suggestive photographs between users. With this status, it is easy to see why marketing directors have chosen to connect with Snapchat to endorse their own brands. Snapchat can provide an edgy, young vehicle to present users with announcements, releases, coupon and discount codes, and behind the scenes looks, all at low cost.

            Included in the Snapchat marketing movement are brands Taco Bell, Acura, MTV UK, and clothing e-tailer, Karmaloop. Taco Bell, the first to share Snapchats with fans, used their following on Twitter to generate “friends” on Snapchat. The brand, popular among young adults, created buzz by releasing “VIP” Snapchats to announce the return of a product. ImageImage

Using Snapchat to advertise in a different manner is the clothing e-tailer, Karmaloop. This brand has utilized Snapchat in a revealing manner, much like a sizeable amount of college-aged users. Karmaloop, hoping to catch some attention, has used Snapchat to distribute not only provocative pictures displaying their clothing, but also images of the new product lines.

            Though it may seem as if Snapchat would not be an ideal method of advertising (given its ten second limit) for some brands, this social media method could actually be a successful technique for other brands with target audiences of collegiate students. Snapchat compliments the impulsive, racy lifestyles of a good number of college students and offers a level of exclusivity that draws in many young people. It will be interesting to see how many brands jump on this form of marketing in comparison to the vast amount of companies that have utilized Facebook and other forms of social media to advertise.