Feeds

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

Teenager subtitles: App makes selfies safe BLAH BLAH BLAH

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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
Microsoft: We plan to CLEAN UP this here Windows Store town
Paid-for apps that provide free downloads? Really
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
Who needs hackers? 'Password1' opens a third of all biz doors
GPU-powered pen test yields more bad news about defences and passwords
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Hear ye, young cyber warriors of the realm: GCHQ wants you
Get involved, get a job and then never discuss work ever again
Chinese hackers spied on investigators of Flight MH370 - report
Classified data on flight's disappearance pinched
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.