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Snapchat Security Breach Affects Millions Of Users

Aired 1/2/14 on KPBS News.

The private messaging app Snapchat just got much less private for millions of users after the app got hacked through a known security flaw.

The private messaging app Snapchat just got much less private for millions of users. Security researchers were able to expose basic identifying information on 4.6 million users, connecting their usernames with phone numbers.

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel.

Snapchat was alerted first to this security flaw in August. Then last week, the Los Angeles company received an anonymous warning about a major impending security breach if they didn't fix flaws in their code.

But in a blog post, Snapchat initially downplayed the idea of hackers building a massive database linking usernames and phone numbers. On Tuesday, that database was published online by anonymous hackers calling themselves Gibson Security.

Beth Givens directs the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego. She says this leak is embarrassing especially for Snapchat because the app's whole reputation is based on privacy. It's supposed to be the anti-Facebook, a secure and closed-off way to communicate with friends.

"There is an irony here given the fact that Snapchat promotes itself as offering a privacy-friendly service," Givens said. "Yet they haven't put security as their top priority."

Givens advises changing up your usernames for different services so that leaks like this can't link you to accounts on other platforms.

Snapchat users can find out if they're affected by using this form put together by Gibson Security.

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