Don’t get caught in Snapchat breach; update your personal devices

Are you part of the recent 4.6 million Snapchat user leak?
By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

Protecting your personal information including pictures is a top priority for anyone using a smartphone messaging apps. Constant vigilance in the software product allows companies to catch flaws where hackers can get in, but it doesn’t always guarantee total protection.

According to an article in the New York Times, the phone numbers and usernames of over 4.6 million Snapchat users was leaked on the Internet to raise awareness about security flaws in the messaging app. A Dec. 27 blog post on detailed how to capture a database of phone information. Snapchat is a photo messaging application developed by Stanford University students. Using the app, users can take photos – known as “Snaps” – record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled recipient list.

Hackers leaked Snapchat usernames  – locations, and phone numbers – that had been partly redacted in the database posted online, according to the Times article. They eliminated the last two digits of each number for the owner’s protection.

According to hackers, SnapchatDB, the anonymous group claiming responsibility for the hack, a person could download the data to try to find numbers associated with Facebook and Twitter accounts. Strong public reactions compelled Snapchat to issue an immediate app update that company officials claim improved security measures.

Take these steps to protect your personal smartphone, and other devices, now:

  • Update your operating system. Those alerts on your smart phone that tell you to update your apps and operating system are more than just a minor annoyance. These updates close security loopholes and other back doors hackers can use to get access to your phone without your knowledge.
  • Check your permissions. Check all of your apps to see what data they are accessing and revoke permissions for information those apps don’t need to properly run. Check your phone’s owner’s manual or contact your wireless provider for directions on how to do so.
  • Back up your data. Make sure you have a backup of all the apps and information — especially important photos or other irreplaceable items — stored on your phone for when it’s lost, stolen, hacked or damaged.
  • Pay close attention to your phone bills. Unanticipated, sudden increases in data usage can show a problem. In addition, third-party content providers sometimes add erroneous charges to bills for apps or services the consumer never authorized. In addition, keep an eye out for strange texts and disrupted service. They can be red flags that show your phone has been hacked.
  • Consider mobile security. Many sources offer antivirus or other security apps for your phone. Research them thoroughly before choosing which is right for you.

Remember, any time you give out information about yourself, whether by physically typing it into a site or automatically – caller ID – you’ve given your trust to that person, business or corporation.


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