Snapchat Hackers Threaten To Release Image Database

Threatening Snapchat’s standing as a secure platform, hackers claim to have intercepted hundreds of thousands of private user messages. Worse, the hackers are promising to release a database of every stolen image, which will be searchable by users’ Snapchat IDs.

While insisting that its own servers remain secure, Snapchat is accusing third-party image-saving sites of failing to protect user data.

“We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached and were not the source of these leaks,” Snapchat said in a statement on Friday. “Snapchatters were victimized by their use of third-party apps to send and receive Snaps, a practice that we expressly prohibit in our Terms of Use precisely because they compromise our users’ security.”

The messages -- some of which already appear to have been shared on the anonymous Web forum 4chan -- reportedly came from SnapSaved, a third-party picture-saving service.

Such security lapses have become increasingly common among big technology companies, which have direct access to the most personal consumer data. Among other high-profile cases, Apple’s iCloud was recently breached by hackers with a particular interest in nude celebrity photos.  

More than most social networks, however, Snapchat’s reputation rests on its ability to protect user privacy. Indeed, the site’s rapid rise in popularity is largely due to users’ expectation that their messages “disappear” soon after sending them.

There is a lot riding on users’ faith in Snapchat as a secure network.

The company has already raised about $100 million from investors, and Yahoo is reportedly close to investing around $20 million in the platform at a valuation of $10 billion. As recently as August, Kleiner Perkins was also rumored to be readying another big bet on Snapchat. The highly visible venture-capital firm has already invested upwards of $20 million in the messaging service.

In an overcrowded messaging marketplace, Snapchat’s growth has been remarkable. The company experienced the highest growth in time spent in July, with total minutes up 114% year-over-year -- from 2.6 billion to 5.5 billion minutes, per a recent note from JPMorgan, citing comScore data. By contrast, Facebook saw its time spent rise from 137 billion to 178 billion minutes during the same period.

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