Snapchat: In 'theory' you could hack... Oh CRAP is that 4.6 MILLION users' details?

Hey Mr Bull, meet my friend Red Rag


Hackers claim to have lifted millions of Snapchat usernames and phone numbers, apparently taking advantage of a vulnerability that the messaging service last week dismissed as mostly theoretical.

A partially redacted database of 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers (minus two digits) - purportedly of Snapchat users - have been released by the miscreants through a site called SnapchatDB.

The Snapchat app is designed to allow users to send photos that are only supposed to be viewable for a few seconds before they are automatically deleted. A flaw in a feature of the photosharing app, originally designed to allow users to locate their friends on Snapchat through their name and phone number, emerged last week.

As previously reported, Australian security outfit Gibson Security explained how to access any phone number and username from the smartphone photo-sharing service to underline its concerns.

There was no limit on how many lookups someone could carry out each minute, a shortcoming that made it possible to do a brute force attack. In response, Snapchat put out an advisory dismissing the lack of rate-limiting as no great concern:

Theoretically, if someone were able to upload a huge set of phone numbers, like every number in an area code, or every possible number in the U.S., they could create a database of the results and match usernames to phone numbers that way. Over the past year we’ve implemented various safeguards to make it more difficult to do. We recently added additional counter-measures and continue to make improvements to combat spam and abuse.

Describing a vulnerability as “theoretical” is the net security equivalent of waving a red flag at a bull. Sure enough, hackers picked up the implied challenge to prove Snapchat wrong. The "additional counter-measures" and "safeguards" came too late to prevent third-party hackers from lifting the usernames and number of millions of users of the smartphone app. Snapchat has yet to confirm the leak, but the contents of the database look authentic, so caution is advised.

Gibson Security only went public with its discovery last week months after it discovered the problem in August 2013 after growing increasingly frustrated by Snapchat's perceived lack of action on the security hole. The third-party hackers behind the breach are offering to share full details of the leak under unspecified conditions:

This database contains username and phone number pairs of a vast majority of the Snapchat users. This information was acquired through the recently patched Snapchat exploit and is being shared with the public to raise awareness on the issue. The company was too reluctant at patching the exploit until they knew it was too late and companies that we trust with our information should be more careful when dealing with it. For now, we have censored the last two digits of the phone numbers in order to minimize spam and abuse. Feel free to contact us to ask for the uncensored database. Under certain circumstances, we may agree to release it.

Commentary on the security implications of the incident can be found in blog posts by Graham Cluley (here) and Paul Ducklin on the Sophos Naked Security blog here. ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • AMD claims its GPUs beat Nvidia on performance per dollar
    * Terms, conditions, hardware specs and software may vary – a lot

    As a slowdown in PC sales brings down prices for graphics cards, AMD is hoping to win over the market's remaining buyers with a bold, new claim that its latest Radeon cards provide better performance for the dollar than Nvidia's most recent GeForce cards.

    In an image tweeted Monday by AMD's top gaming executive, the chip designer claims its lineup of Radeon RX 6000 cards provide better performance per dollar than competing ones from Nvidia, with all but two of the ten cards listed offering advantages in the double-digit percentages. AMD also claims to provide better performance for the power required by each card in all but two of the cards.

    Continue reading
  • Google opens the pod doors on Bay View campus
    A futuristic design won't make people want to come back – just ask Apple

    After nearly a decade of planning and five years of construction, Google is cutting the ribbon on its Bay View campus, the first that Google itself designed.

    The Bay View campus in Mountain View – slated to open this week – consists of two office buildings (one of which, Charleston East, is still under construction), 20 acres of open space, a 1,000-person event center and 240 short-term accommodations for Google employees. The search giant said the buildings at Bay View total 1.1 million square feet. For reference, that's less than half the size of Apple's spaceship. 

    The roofs on the two main buildings, which look like pavilions roofed in sails, were designed that way for a purpose: They're a network of 90,000 scale-like solar panels nicknamed "dragonscales" for their layout and shimmer. By scaling the tiles, Google said the design minimises damage from wind, rain and snow, and the sloped pavilion-like roof improves solar capture by adding additional curves in the roof. 

    Continue reading
  • Pentester pops open Tesla Model 3 using low-cost Bluetooth module
    Anything that uses proximity-based BLE is vulnerable, claim researchers

    Tesla Model 3 and Y owners, beware: the passive entry feature on your vehicle could potentially be hoodwinked by a relay attack, leading to the theft of the flash motor.

    Discovered and demonstrated by researchers at NCC Group, the technique involves relaying the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals from a smartphone that has been paired with a Tesla back to the vehicle. Far from simply unlocking the door, this hack lets a miscreant start the car and drive away, too.

    Essentially, what happens is this: the paired smartphone should be physically close by the Tesla to unlock it. NCC's technique involves one gadget near the paired phone, and another gadget near the car. The phone-side gadget relays signals from the phone to the car-side gadget, which forwards them to the vehicle to unlock and start it. This shouldn't normally happen because the phone and car are so far apart. The car has a defense mechanism – based on measuring transmission latency to detect that a paired device is too far away – that ideally prevents relayed signals from working, though this can be defeated by simply cutting the latency of the relay process.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022