SnapHack: Hacking for the Greater Good?

Most hacks and attacks introduced on this blog are blatantly malicious, looking to nab your valuable information. However, this may not be the case with app designer Darren Jones. Jones claims to have created his hack in order to prove that change is needed when it comes to photo messaging apps such as Snapchat. The creator of a new iOS app called “SnapHack” has made it possible for iPhone and iPad users to save Snapchat images.

For those unfamiliar with Snapchat, it is a photo and video messaging app that deletes all sent items immediately after they’re viewed. With Jones’ creation (available for $0.99 in the Apple app store), individuals on the receiving end of Snapchats can now save these photos and videos without the sender’s knowledge. Jones has stated that he “wanted to prove that nothing was 100% secure once uploaded to the Internet”─sounds like a man after my own heart.

Jones has expressed hope that his little hack will move Snapchat to put stronger precautions in place to prevent people from saving images. Previously, we’ve talked about apps that enable users to save their Snapchats, but this might be the first time we’re seeing an app created with the intent to shed light on the growing issue of mobile security.

“SnapHack” works like this: After downloading the app from the Apple app store, you login to SnapHack using your Snapchat username and password. All unopened Snapchats will then be downloaded to SnapHack and available for saving to your device’s photo roll. Any messages that are first opened in Snapchat will be deleted as usual. Because of this, many users may find themselves replacing the original Snapchat app with SnapHack to ensure the ability to save messages each time they come through.

Part of Snapchat’s allure lies in its temporary nature. Many young adults have been taking advantage of Snapchat’s timed viewing features (which range from 1 to 10 seconds in length, chosen by the sender) to send inappropriate photos back and forth, with the assumption that they’ll vanish forever once viewed. Jones says he hopes his app will help people realize the “dangers in sending images that [they] don’t want people to see.” Jones recently submitted an updated version of his app to Apple for review. This version, which he expects to be released later this month, will allow users to send saved Snapchats directly to other users or via email─even further exploiting a hole in the security of an app that many believe to guard their privacy. Remember, images sent as simple flirtations can end up permanently damaging your reputation.

If you or your children are using Snapchat, it’s important to stay informed of the dangers of photo sharing and echo Jones’ message of the permanence of sharing online.

  • Nothing is 100% private online. That is the nature of the Internet. In order for a photo or video to be transmitted, its data must live somewhere. Though Snapchat claims that opened photos are not stored on it’s servers, a forensic software company has been able to retrieve deleted photos from Android devices. Apps and hacks will continue to arise to access these photos as long as people are continuing to send them.
  • Avoid sharing risqué photos (and if you do, be ready for them to go public). If you’re going to use Snapchat to share memories, don’t send anything you wouldn’t want your mother, brother, or great aunt Sue to see. Multiple websites and Tumblr accounts have been devoted to showcasing “leaked” Snapchat photos that were obviously intended to stay private. The only way to make sure you don’t end up on one of them is to avoid clicking “send.”
  • Keep mobile and social media accounts private. Risqué or not─maintain control over your shared images by carefully selecting who can see them. This may not apply directly to Snapchat, but social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook have privacy settings that allow you to choose who views your images. Make sure you’re utilizing these features to prevent unsavory photos from falling into the wrong hands.
  • Always lock your device. Regardless if you’re taking personal pictures (or receiving them) on your mobile device, it’s important to use a PIN or passcode that is set to automatically lock after a certain period of being unused. In the unfortunate event that your phone gets lost or stolen, you don’t want ill-intending parties to view your photos, or worse, publish them online.
  • Say it, don’t snap it. This is especially true for young people who are just beginning to form adult relationships. The emergence of technology has made it easier for people to take to the keyboard instead of using their words. Teach your children that face-to-face communication is one of the most important skills to have and in order to develop these skills fully, they must be practiced.

Gary Davis


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