Why your snaps aren’t the least bit safe

By Kennedy Werner

It’s quick, light, and not permanent like Instagram; it’s Snapchat. Started by two fraternity brothers at Stanford University (Evan Spiegel, CEO and Bobby Murphy, CTO) in July of 2011, the app handles about 350 million messages per day and turned down a $3 billion dollar offer from Facebook and a $4 billion dollar offer from Google. Known as one of the most popular apps in the world, Snapchat allows users to capture and send a photo or video to their friend(s), adding doodles or a caption. The friend will receive the graphic, which disappears from their screen in a minimum of 1 second and maximum of 10 seconds (time chosen by sender).

But is it really gone after the chosen amount of seconds is up? The app description states, “Even though Snaps are deleted from our servers after they are viewed, we cannot prevent the recipient(s) from capturing and saving the message by taking a screenshot or using an image capture device.”

Even with this, however, Snapchat’s statement is missing one possibility. Removing any data from mobile devices, eternally, is difficult to do due to the way data is stored on the device. Using forensic software, Snapchats can be retrieved at any moment and passed on to unknown third parties, including hackers; all it takes is a few bucks. All Snapchat files are said to have been deleted from the app’s software; though, this does not include the mobile device the photo was captured on. It is clear that Snapchats are simply never “gone for good”, but actually just hidden and tucked into a corner.

Yet, some still say this is not an issue.

“It’s sometimes possible to retrieve data after it has been deleted. So… you know… keep that in mind before putting any state secrets in your selfies :)” said Larry Magid, consumer technology writer for Forbes magazine.

Though, some, not realizing the dangers of the app, still use it as the ultimate platform for compromising communications like sexting. Those who use the app for this are making a poor choice, as these photos can sneak back into their world and be held against the sender.

Spiegel claims he doesn’t believe the app is used for sexting — “I just don’t know people who do that. It doesn’t seem that fun when you can have real sex,” he told TechCrunch, a popular technology blog.

Not only this, but also the hot Snapchat Company is currently dealing with the consumers who are victims of Snapchat hacks. An estimated 4.6 million users have had their account information, including usernames and partial phone numbers, available for download on SnapchatDB.info. Fortunately, the website was suspended January 1.

The hackers had an interesting plan. They told TechCrunch, “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.”

Snapchat’s comment on the issue was that they would improve safeguards to make it more difficult to access this information. They also informed the victims of the hack.

So, do these two fraternity boys really care about your online safety or are they merely enjoying their “billion dollar idea” lifestyle? Think about this next time you send a Snapchat, your reputation may be on the line.

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