It’s a fairly well-known fact that often when deleting a file from a computer or mobile device, you are not actually deleting the file. A file is simply marked by your particular OS and often overwritten. To the regular every day user, this is good enough. Most don’t have the tools to retrieve data marked and covered like this, so to them it is actually deleted. We talked about this before when considering selling your device to someone else.
It seems that one of the most popular apps on the market, Snapchat, doesn’t actually delete those Snaps when the timer runs out. Much like the standard deletion protocols in an OS, Snapchat does not remove the photos taken with their app. But instead of marking them to be overwritten, it seems the way that Snapchat works is to simply rename the file type to something that no other app on the OS, including the OS itself, will recognize or use. No galleries, no thumbnails, nothing. The standard app doesn’t see the picture and only Snapchat can access it.
Or so we thought.
Much like the iCloud photo scandal that’s been floating around for the last several months, it seems that Snapchat has recently been hacked and a potential 200,000 users, or more, have had their personal picture compromised. It seems, though, there may be potential for something more than just a security violation.
Let’s face it, some of the appeal of Snapchat is the personal potential behind it. Photos that wouldn’t be best saved for a length of time on your phone are seemingly gone in seconds on the app. But with this hacking, it seems that an uncomfortable light has been shined on Snapchat, its methods, and even how we use our smartphones. Because if it’s not personal photos, then the app could easily be used in a security breach. No visible evidence will exist on the phone without digging deep with a toolkit that allows a hacker to see parts of your device that normally isn’t visible.
Snapchat doesn’t seem to have a problem with this. Their response is basically summed by the idea that if you don’t want someone to see a personal photo, be it of you, your family, or sensitive information, then its best if you don’t take a picture of it.
However, there are several options that Snapchat could take to get around what many will likely see as a bit of a dupe when news of reality of their app starts spreading. A simple encryption tool, used to shred and encode deleted files, would solve many of the apps problems. It would ensure that only those with the encryption key, which is highly difficult to obtain, could get to any deleted information.
It’s yet to be seen how Snapchat plans on reacting to the breach and hacking in the long run. Most aren’t concerned, though the stealing of this information is indicative of a greater problem that seems to be showing up all over the mobile world. If a group such as 4chan, while skilled at what they do, can so easily access iCloud and Snapchat accounts, what is next for the average user?