Snapchat, the popular social network that features disappearing messages, has been hacked in a security breach affecting 4.6 million users. On New Years Day hackers released the usernames and phone numbers of 4.6 million of their users less than a week after the company was warned by security experts that there was an exploitable vulnerability in their software.
Snapchat responded to that warning via a blog post that claimed they had implemented “various safeguards” to protect against a security breach, but those measures appear to have fallen short. Gibson Security, the firm that warned Snapchat of the security risk, has launched a website — http://lookup.gibsonsec.org/ — that will tell you if your account is among those compromised. Little can be done, however, to pull your number out of the hands of the hackers.
This was Gibson’s second warning to Snapchat, following one in August that the security firm said was ignored: “Given that it’s been around four months since our last Snapchat release, we figured we’d do a refresher on the latest version, and see which of the released exploits had been fixed (full disclosure: none of them).”
Snapchat’s is just the latest in a string of security breaches, coming weeks after Target admitted 40 million of their customers had their credit and debit cards compromised.
While your phone number being exposed is not as damaging as a credit card or social security number, it can be used by criminals to piece together your identity.
More alarming in this case, though, is Snapchat’s response — or lack of — to the incident. Their non-response to the breach is seen by some as them taking a less than serious approach to their software’s security.
This could prove to be a serious threat to Snapchat’s legitimacy as a social network. While they have never reported user statistics, it is believed that they have about 26 million users, and they are still growing with some momentum. They seem to think their future is bright, having reportedly turned down a $3 billion buyout offer from Facebook last year.
Incidents like this, and more importantly their cavalier response to them, could doom Snapchat to nothing more than a once-promising social media also-ran.