SnapChat Data Leak - How to Protect Yourself in the Future
Image leaks and cloud hacks seem to become the new normal, and if September's major iCloud hack was a big deal in the tech world, October SnapChat leak seems to come as something natural and predictable.
Snapchat is a teenagers haven for exchanging instant messages and photos that get destructed after the recipient views them for the first time. It is not protected against screen capture, though, but since when teenagers put safety and privacy as their top priority? Snapchat has been hit by hack attacks before, and the company had been quite reluctant to act on them. This time, however, the hack, and subsequent leak of over 200.000 selfies, is to blame on third-party apps used by Snapchat users themselves. Anyway, Snapchat company denies its relation to the hack.
The Guardian reports the technically naïve teenagers were 'lured' to use a third-party app SnapSaved or SnapSave to save their Snapchat images.
The site was taken down several months ago, but security specialists believe that it was one of the third-party servers that has been hacked for images, which were apparently aggregated and stored with user consent. Question - why would anybody use a chat system where messages get automatically deleted to protect user privacy, and use a third-party tool to save their own shame at the same time? Answer - human nature has its own mysterious, if not silly, ways.
The worst part is the predominant majority of Snapchat's user base consists of teenagers aged 13 to 17, a group technically skilled to play games, but poorly educated on repercussions of recklessness with tech. As a result, hackers obtained gigabytes of material that will be gobbled up by sexual predators, perverts and convicted criminals. Whatever surveillance agencies are doing, they are doing it wrong directing their multibillion efforts at spying on citizens instead of spying on hackers and abusers.
If you are a concerned parent, or a Snappening victim, here are some tips that will help you protect yourself or your kids from snooping hackers:
- Use secure messaging apps for private or intimate chatting. Snapchat is by far not the world's Mecca where teens can hang out sending their selfies to each other. Check out Avocado [Android, iOS], which is a great messaging tool for couples, or Frankly Chat [Android, iOS, website], Ansa [Android, iOS, website]. LINE: Free Calls & Messages [Android, iOS] recently introduced encrypted chat rooms.
- Encrypt your devices [a guide for Windows].
- Encrypt, or hide your private images stored on your phone - Check out Safe Camera Photo Encryption for Android.
- Do not sync your private images to the cloud service you are using. Even though Apple enhanced its security practices, it is still not enough to counterfeit hackers' arsenal. Check out our recent coverage of how hackers attack iCloud now. Likewise, no cloud company is 100% hack proof - check out our coverage of Dropbox data breach and Gmail user accounts hack, or this Yahoo servers breach and webcam images scandal. Remember - even if you are not a celebrity, your intimate videos and images can be used against you by vengeful exes, or simply go viral after a leak.
- Use strong passwords.
- Do not use third-party apps that tap into a secure messaging app's channel like SnapSaved did. You basically gave SnapSaved your password and username without giving a second thought to what may happen to the data you provide it. In fact, the recent Snapchat and Dropbox hacks are believed to be third-party apps hacks, not the fault of Snapchat or Dropbox, but of users themselves.
- Stop relying on tech companies to protect your privacy for you. At least, take the trouble to read Privacy Policies and EULA before subscribing. Take a look at what data antivirus companies collect about you and you may re-consider you unconditional trust to tech industry.
Finally, Stay with D3k for more privacy and security tech tips to help you browse and communicate safely.