Feeds

Snapchat vows to shut its hole in wake of 4.6 million user data breach

Words like 'apologize' and 'sorry' notably absent

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

Mobile image-sharer Snapchat has promised an update to its service to seal off a security hole that allowed hackers to harvest the account details of some 4.6 million users.

The company said that its update will allow users to opt out of the Find Friends system and prevent others from looking up their account information through address books. In doing so, users will no longer appear in results when others seek to match their address book numbers with potential Snapchat friends.

"When we first built Snapchat, we had a difficult time finding other friends that were using the service," Snapchat told users. "We wanted a way to find friends in our address book that were also using Snapchat – so we created Find Friends."

The move looks to close a security hole in the Snapchat service which left users subject to a "brute force" hacking process in which an attacker could build a database of contact information by uploading an archive of phone numbers to the service and saving those which returned links for Snapchat users.

Such methods were described by researchers at security firm Gibson Security, who claim to have notified Snapchat of the flaw several months ago. The company said that by exploiting flaws in the Snapchat API, the process of searching and collecting account information for mobile spam and other services could be largely automated.

Though initially dismissed by Snapchat as a "theoretical" flaw, the vulnerability was soon seized upon to build a partially secured archive of 4.6 million user names and phone numbers.

Snapchat said that in addition to implementing an opt-out for Find Friends, the company is updating its systems to help prevent automated brute force attacks or exploits.

According to security vendor AdaptiveMobile, the leaked numbers are largely concentrated to California and New York, with the two states accounting for some 2.3 million accounts. Other regions impacted include Illinois, Colorado, and Florida.

Snapchat accounts by state

Leaked accounts are largely confined to the coasts (source: AdaptiveMobile – click to enlarge)

Snapchat noted that no other personal data or user photos were collected in the attack, and CEO Evan Spiegel stopped short of issuing a mea culpa for the incident when speaking with The Today Show.

"I believe at the time we thought we had done enough," he said, "but in a business like this that is moving so quickly, if you spend your time looking backwards, you're just going to kill yourself." ®

The next step in data security

More from The Register

next story
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
THREE QUARTERS of Android mobes open to web page spy bug
Metasploit module gobbles KitKat SOP slop
'Speargun' program is fantasy, says cable operator
We just might notice if you cut our cables
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.