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Snapchat’s Box

Snapchat may make your selfies vanish, but your data is not so fleeting, reports Farhad Manjoo in The Wall Street Journal (1/6/14). To register for the Snapchat app, users must provide their telephone number, which Snapchat promises to keep confidential. The problem, apparently, is that it’s not so hard for hackers to "create a database matching Snapchat user names to phone numbers." All that’s required is to "quickly send every phone number in the US to the app" getting "back a user name for each hit." (link)

This isn’t just theoretical; hackers did exactly that over the holidays, collecting "4.6 million Snapchat user names and phone numbers." Some say that this isn’t so terrible because "your phone number, after all, might well have been public in a phone book anyway, and users’ actual messages weren’t made public." However, Farhad says the breach – and Snapchat’s apparently casual attitude toward it – "makes you wonder how well the company protects the rest of its data." He suggests that Snapchat users take a break from using the service for a while, to send the company a message.

"Only if the company sees that its users are serious about security will it adopt a new attitude toward your data," Farhad writes. "If you don’t do this – if you keep using Snapchat despite the company’s obvious shortcomings – you’re part of the problem." Given the recent credit card breach at Target, Farhad notes that breaches on the rise: "According to the research firm Risk Based Security, 2012 was a record year for security breaches, with the number of breaches more than doubling from a year earlier. If recent events are any indication, 2013 will soon be declared another banner year."