Snapchat Scare: What to learn from the latest leak


Kayla Everett

Junior Claire Webster sends a snap to one of her friends between classes. "I snap chat 24/7, 365 days a year," Webster said.

Snapchat users were sharing more than confetti-filled pictures as they rang in 2014; they were unwittingly sharing their phone numbers and usernames as well. On Jan. 1, 4.6 million Snapchat users had parts of their usernames and phone numbers published on an anonymous hacker website titled, which has since been suspended.

The breach was a result of the anonymous hacker group wanting to push Snapchat to take action to protect its users. Gibson security, a group of Internet security researchers based in Australia, warned Snapchat on Aug. 27 about security exploits that went ignored by the company. While Gibson is not affiliated with SnapchatDB, the hacker group behind the website stated that the hack was motivated by Snapchat’s failure to act on the Gibson report.

While not everyone’s data was published, the Snapchat leak serves as an important lesson to social media users in a digital age where repercussions are not always thought about.

“I don’t really care about the leak because I sent the pictures out, so I’m not surprised when people keep them. Someone else taking my information that can lead back to my snaps is no big deal because my pictures are more funny than embarrassing,” senior Lorenzo Knox said.

Holes that are left in Snapchat’s security puts all users at risk, regardless of how they feel about the content of their pictures.

While Snapchat now includes some weak security patches, there has been no public apology made and this signals an alarming trend in social media, a field that keeps growing and students become more involved in. There is no such thing as true privacy and true security in this realm, and buying into false securities can only harm us in the future. Snapchat markets itself as being one of the few social media tools that can make embarrassing things disappear, even though this is a blatant lie. The leak of 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers was only possible because everything shared on Snapchat – yes, including pictures – is stored in a database. All data is saved, which can all be traced back to your personal identity, which can harm you in the future.

“You can never fully trust Snapchat, senior Megan Senol said. “I’ve always been sort of conscious of the privacy of my snaps because my silly faces have been screen-shotted by my friends multiple times, even though pictures aren’t supposed to be saved. Now I realize that strangers can take my personal pictures too.”

The lack of initiative in addressing the security problems, the underreporting of the problem to users, and the infuriating lack of seriousness in fixing the problems after the initial leak occurred should alarm users even further. Relying on a company that’s sitting on your personal data to defend it from malicious intent is clearly not working. Previous leaks have proven how accessible personal information really is, from the NSA extracting information from your cellphone to hackers retrieving data from Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis. The real lesson here is that responsibility for our own safety and privacy falls in our own hands, not in the hands of false corporate promises.

“My advice would be to not send any inappropriate pictures in the first place,” junior Claire Webster said. “Don’t send anything to your friends you wouldn’t want your grandma to see.”