Snapchat has had a truly torrid start to 2014. After hackers accessed and published 4.6 million users’ phone numbers, it thought its woes were over when it apparently fixed an exploit in the Find Friends function and beefed up lacklustre security.
Now though, a new workaround has been discovered, circumventing its new picture-identification process for new users.
Steven Hickson said he saw the new system, which asks users to work out which of nine on-screen images stars Snapchat’s well-known ghost logo, and realised it was ‘incredibly bad’.
The aim of the new method is to stop bots creating multiple accounts and harvesting users’ phone numbers.
However, Hickson said he was able to develop a way of cracking the system in just 30 minutes and with 100 lines of code.
His system simply matches the clearly defined outline of the Snapchat ghost in the app’s verification pictures with a template of the same logo.
That Hickson was able to do this so quickly should surely give Snapchat and its users pause for thought.
If people still keen on the messaging service weren’t worried before, they should be now.
Clearly, the hacking community has found that Snapchat is riddled with weaknesses which can be easily exploited.
Some might say that they are picking on what was one of 2013’s biggest app successes.
But really, they are doing users a favour by showing what can happen when you’re so trusting with your data.
Hickson’s breach once again raises wider questions about what Snapchat does with its users’ personal gen.
If these breaches can be made relatively easily, why should anyone trust the service with its images?
Don’t forget that just because the images you send using Snapchat self-destruct, they don’t actually disappear.
They’re still sitting on Snapchat’s servers. What chances of these being accessed by unscrupulous types looking to get hold of personal information?
Yes, it’s unlikely. But anyone who uses or has used Snapchat should be concerned.
There is no getting around the fact that the service is clearly either lacking the resources or the willingness to protect those who have signed up to it.
Not only does everyone need to be more vigilant, they could really do with killing their Snapchat accounts altogether.
This all represents a major slip up for Evan Spiegel, the 23-year-old behind Snapchat. Just four months ago he turned down billions from Facebook for his growing app.
Now he’s facing the very real possibility of his platform failing due to weak security measures.