The release of personal information stored by the text messaging service followed repeated warnings by researchers about vulnerabilities in its database.
On Jan. 2, two days after the hack, officials at Snapchat, a provider of self-destructing communications meant to protect privacy, acknowledged in a blog post that “an attacker released a database of partially redacted phone numbers and usernames.”
Officials claimed that, “no other information, including Snaps, was leaked or accessed in these attacks.”
The hacker dumped the credentials on a site called SnapchatDB.info. In a statement to TechCrunch, the site’s operators said they extracted and posted the credentials to promote cybersecurity.
“Our motivation behind the release was to raise the public awareness around the issue, and also put public pressure on Snapchat to get this exploit fixed. It is understandable that tech startups have limited resources but security and privacy should not be a secondary goal. Security matters as much as user experience does,” they stated.
ZDNet first reported last month that Gibson Security researchers published Snapchat code allowing mass matching of phone numbers with names, after Gibson disclosed the flaw to the company in August and did not see adequate fixes.
“Even long after that disclosure, Snapchat was reluctant to taking the necessary steps to secure user data,” SnapchatDB.info told TechCrunch after the New Year’s hack. “Once we started scraping on a large scale, they decided to implement very minor obstacles, which were still far from enough.”
The hackers said they performed the release in a way that should minimize spam and abuse. They censored the last two digits of the phone numbers but said they might still release the unfiltered data.
Now, Snapchat officials say they will attempt to ensure researchers can reach the company, in the event this happens again.
“We want to make sure that security experts can get ahold of us when they discover new ways to abuse our service so that we can respond quickly to address those concerns. The best way to let us know about security vulnerabilities is by emailing us: email@example.com,” their blog post states.
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