It seems as though picture and video texting app Snapchat is proving to be less secure and more troublesome with every passing week.
The app, which is commonly used by teens and young adults, has been plagued by pornographic spam issues, private, compromising photos finding their way to the internet, a common hack for iPhones which removes the photos’ security features and now a new issue with Android phones.
A Utah-based computer forensics firm, Decipher Forensics, last week published a report indicating that Snapchat pictures received on an Android device, whether they are viewed or not, are recoverable at a later date.
The author has concluded that metadata is stored for Snapchat images, as shown by the com.snapchat.android_preferences.xml file, and that it contains metadata about expired “snaps” as well as unexpired “snaps,” and that images that are sent via Snapchat are indeed recoverable, and do not “disappear forever.”
Users of Snapchat are assured by the app company that photos will self destruct 1 – 10 seconds after being viewed, and that the only way a receiver can capture the image permanently is to take a screen shot, in which case the sender is notified. That sounds safe enough, but appears to be anything but foolproof.
A blog post appearing on Snapchat’s website yesterday appears to confirm the findings of Decipher Forensic’s exercise:
While an unopened snap is being stored on the device, it’s not impossible to circumvent the Snapchat app and access the files directly. This isn’t something we support or encourage and in most cases it would involve jailbreaking or “rooting” the phone and voiding its warranty. If you’re trying to save a snap, it would be easier (and safer) to just take a screenshot or take a picture with another camera.
Also, if you’ve ever tried to recover lost data after accidentally deleting a drive or maybe watched an episode of CSI, you might know that with the right forensic tools, it’s sometimes possible to retrieve data after it has been deleted. So… you know… keep that in mind before putting any state secrets in your selfies 🙂
Young people should always be very careful what they send to friends or post on the internet. Snapchat’s claim that pictures are deleted forever probably overstates the case. Parents looking for more information can check out the Snapchat Guide for Parents.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.