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Slurped self-destruct selfie slinger Snapchat so sore, suddenly says sorry

Finally touts update for security hole that didn't hang around for just 10 seconds

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The brains behind self-destructing selfies app Snapchat have apologized, and claimed to have now tackled security vulnerabilities that exposed millions of people's phone numbers.

The startup has released an update for its iOS and Android applications that allows users to opt out of appearing in the find-a-friend search feature, which lets people add pals to their Snapchat contacts book using their cellphone numbers.

This service was abused by whistleblowers who used software to harvest the usernames and numbers of 4.6 million people; a partially redacted copy of the data was dumped online as proof that the system was flawed by design. The apps are primarily used by flirty youngsters to send compromising photos of each other, the pics appearing for just a few seconds on the recipient's screen (unless they've learned how to take a screenshot or use a camera).

As well as providing an opt-out switch today, Snapchat has a new mechanism for thwarting automated mass-slurping of account information: you must be logged in, and your cell number verified (presumably by text message), before you can use the "Find Friends" search. Access to this feature is also rate limited – which forces attackers to create a large batch of accounts all tied to real phone numbers in order to reap Snapchat's database again.

"Our team continues to make improvements to the Snapchat service to prevent future attempts to abuse our API," the outfit said in a blog post announcing the update.

"We are sorry for any problems this issue may have caused you and we really appreciate your patience and support."

That apology is the first from Team Snapchat on the matter. It was earlier criticized for being unapologetic and dismissive after researchers privately and then publicly warned of the security flaws. Only after the 4.6 million-row database was partially published online did the selfie-sharing crew confirm that a fix was in the works. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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