Snapchat is the latest big company to fall prey to a data breach with 4.6 million of its users having their names and phone numbers posted online. While the revealed information isn’t of high security (like a Social Security or credit card number), experts says the breach should still be taken seriously.
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“This is a big deal,” says Adam Levin, co-founder of Identity Theft 911. “Anytime you have a hack, it impacts what people do. It's important to remember that any technology can be defeated,and you should always look at things skeptically.”
The recent string of security breaches shows that these issues can happen to anyone using any online service, product, app or tool.
SnapChat is an app that allows users to send photos that, once open, self-destruct within a pre-determined amount of time ranging from 1-10 seconds. On Tuesday, SnapchatDB.info announced it has stored and made available to download the usernames and phone numbers 4.6 million Snapchat accounts. SnapchatDB.info told FOXBusiness.com in an e-mail statement that the motivation of the hack was to raise public awareness about Snapchat’s lack of security. “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.”
Snapchat had not respond for a comment request from FOXBusiness.com as of press time and has not posted any statements on its blog or Twitter. The site has also not confirmed its total amount of users, but Nielsen estimated in May 2013 that the app had about eight million U.S. users, FOX News reports.
Many people have the same username for multiple platforms, including email and banking accounts, Levin says. Once a hacker or fraudster gets a hold of your user name, you can be fished or spear fished by being targeted via email, or even text-fished, by phone.
“If you click on a link or a text message that has malware, it can be passed onto your smart phone,” Levin says. “These are like mini computers, data storage devices, meaning it opens people up to be exposed for identity theft. At first blush, this appears to not be as big a deal as it actually is.”
However, some SnapChat users took to Twitter to say they weren’t worried about the hack.
Twitter user @Hunterwalk posted Thursday afternoon: “You know what lack of user reaction to Snapchat hack tells me? Phone
#s are least sacred part of phones compared to photos, txts, etc”. Similarly, @connorsen tweeted “So my Snapchat info got hacked, but I stopped caring once I realized everyone used to be in the phone book too.”
Levin says this event should be a wakeup call for users’ whose information may have been leaked. He recommends everyone be wary of the links they click on via email and text message. If people or companies are calling or texting on a smartphone, he suggests consumers calling their mobile provider to have them blocked.
“You can add your phone number to the federal “do not call” registry, and if they are really aggressive, you may report them to the FCC,” Levin says.
Just like Target’s (NYSE: TGT) data breach of nearly 40 million shoppers’ debit and credit card information in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Levin says the Snapchat hack is a reminder that no matter what precautions a consumer may take, things happen all the time that compromise their security.
“At the very least, people should change their user names and passwords,” Levin says.