Feeds

App designed for safe sending of naughty selfies is rife with risks

Teenager subtitles: App makes selfies safe BLAH BLAH BLAH

The essential guide to IT transformation

A smartphone app touted as a safe way to exchange naked pictures and saucy texts poses a huge privacy risk.

Snapchat is available for both iPhone and Android devices, and is marketed towards teenagers and young adults. The app lets senders control how long a message or picture can be viewed, before it expires after a maximum of 10 seconds.

The idea is that a picture is only visible for 10 seconds - limiting the opportunity for others to forward it around the school campus, or (worse) upload it to Facebook or an image sharing site.

The problem is that this doesn't stop anyone receiving a message taking a screenshot of their device and creating their own copy of the image, providing they are nimble fingered enough. The Snapchat app offers a warning if someone takes a screenshot, but not a way to stop this happening. Even this limited safeguard can be circumvented, warns net security firm Sophos.

"There are 'how-to' guidelines online explaining how jailbroken iPhones can subvert Snapchat, and take snapshots without informing the image's sender," explains Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

"A less high-tech method to grab the image is to simply take a photograph of the phone that has just received the nude photo. And then there's no way the Snapchat app can tell you if that's happened," he added.

Snapchat's privacy policy admits that it can't offer guarantees that any naked photos you send through the app will be only available for ten seconds.

"Although we attempt to delete image data as soon as possible after the message is transmitted, we cannot guarantee that the message contents will be deleted in every case. For example, users may take a picture of the message contents with another imaging device or capture a screenshot of the message contents on the device screen. Consequently, we are not able to guarantee that your messaging data will be deleted in all instances. Messages, therefore, are sent at the risk of the user."

Snapchat, which received a 12+ rating from Apple for "Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content or Nudity", is ahead of Instagram and only behind YouTube in the list of top free photography apps in Apple's online store. The firm claims its iOS version alone has been used to shared over 1 billion photos ("snaps").

US child safety online Mary Kay Hoal has also expressed concerns that youngsters might be fooled into thinking that Snapchat is a safe way to share nude and inappropriate photographs of themselves.

Despite these well intentioned warnings it's unlikely that young people will stop sharing intimate photos of themselves over the internet anytime soon. Parasite porn sites are stealing and spreading such images and videos, according to recent research by the Internet Watch Foundation. In one very sad case, Amanda Todd was bullied so badly about images of her that were shared online that she eventually took her own life.

"Sharing a naked photo of yourself with someone via the internet is putting yourself at dangerous risk of embarrassment, humiliation or serious bullying," Cluley concludes.

"Young people who adopt Snapchat shouldn't fall into a false sense of security that it's somehow a safe way to share naked pictures with their friends," he added. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?