BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The past could come back to haunt hundreds of thousands of people who use popular photo sharing app, Snapchat, on their cell phone. A security breach involving photos sent through Snapchat is raising concerns for parents of teens who use the free app.
Currently, it’s unknown whose photos may have been stolen; victims could potentially include people right here in western New York.
Snapchat is popular with teenaged users. With Snapchat, users send photos to friends but those photos can only be viewed for a specific time limit. When a friend looks at the picture, the timer counts down, and when it hits zero, the “snap”, as it’s called, disappears. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.
“It’s supposed to go away, and you can’t save it or anything like that,” 15-year-old Maeve Kearney, who is familiar with the app.
A recent hack of a related website claims to have stolen around 200,000 images sent through Snapchat.
Snapchat has a notification feature built-in to let users know if a friend saves a screenshot of a “snap.” A third-party website called SnapSaved.com allows users to save snaps to view again beyond the time limit, without notifying the sender.
A hacker allegedly broke into SnapSaved.com and took all those photos and videos Snapchat users used the site to save.
The Snapchat users who sent photos that were saved to SnapSaved.com and potentially stolen have no way to know if their photos were taken.
“I think that’s really sketchy. That’s scary too, because people are sending things they shouldn’t be,” said Kearney.
Authorities are alarmed, because more than half of Snapchat’s users are teens. The app is infamous for some teens using it for “sexting” or sending nude photos, which is child pornography if the person depicted is under 18.
“There’s a lot of heavy encouragement and peer pressure, and they’re sending and they’re not thinking if it’s pornography, but it is pornography,” family counselor Lynne Rifkin Shine said.
“I think it’s got to be a reminder to the parents, too. We have to pay more attention to what our teens are doing,” mother Tricia Mezhir said.
Authorities are worried that the hacker will post the images online, images that likely include nude shots taken by children under the age of 18.
But the hacker claims he’s doing it to teach young people on social networks a lesson. He posted this online:
“People have the illusion that media they send will be temporary and cannot be saved. They have put their faith in a system that is clearly broken and I wish to raise awareness to this fact. I hope if anything this will bring attention and awareness to the fact that you should, if at all possible, never send explicit images of yourself over a medium which you do not directly control.”