Snapchat hack has users thinking twice

A recent hack into Snapchat, the social media platform for photo sharing, has users thinking twice about giving personal information to these services.

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A recent hack into Snapchat, the social media platform for photo sharing, has users thinking twice about giving personal information to these services.

Lauren HorwitzLauren Horwitz

Some 4.6 million Snapchat Inc. users' phone numbers and usernames were leaked online from hackers on Dec. 31. The hack, according to the unidentified perpetrators, was intended to get social-sharing apps to tighten their security measures.

Despite Snapchat's acknowledgement several days ago that a security group had alerted it about a potential vulnerability in its Find Friends feature by which "one could compile a database of Snapchat usernames and phone numbers," usernames and phone numbers were posted as a downloadable database by hackers. The site, at www.snapchatdb.info, has since been taken down.

The Snapchat and Skype exploits are new reminders to users to check social media platforms' privacy policies before using them.

Snapchat is an app that allows users to share photos that then quickly disappear.

While the Snapchat hackers have remained anonymous, the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) claimed credit for the recent hacking of social networking accounts in Skype, Microsoft's Web calling service. In a post published Wednesday on the official Skype blog, SEA took responsibility, saying, "Hacked by Syrian Electronic Army … Stop Spying!"

Will users revolt?

With social media platforms gathering an increasing amount of information about users, the Snapchat and Skype exploits are new reminders to users to check social media platforms' privacy policies before downloading or using them.

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The high-profile Snapchat hack comes on the heels of another major data breach at Target Corp. in mid-December, where hackers gained access to the credit accounts of some 40 million of its customers. Users were forced to close Target accounts or deal with risks to other credit card accounts because of the breach.

For users concerned about whether their information was compromised in the hack, two developers have created a tool to help users check their accounts status.

Will Smidlein and Robbie Trencheny built GS Lookup –Snapchat to "help the public quickly understand if they were affected so they could take the appropriate actions," Smidlein said in an email to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Over the past two years, Snapchat has grown at a fast clip. In a recent round of Series C funding, it raised $50 million, bringing the total to more than $120 million in venture-capital funding and attracting a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook in November 2013.

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