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The mobile photo-sharing app Snapchat was hacked Wednesday, with millions of users' personal information being posted publicly.
The sensitive information was hosted on a site called SnapchatDB.info and contained the usernames and phone numbers of at least 4.6 million Snapchat accounts, reports TechCrunch.
What is Snapchat doing to remedy the problem, and what can Snapchat users do?
SnapchatDB: Just Testing Snapchat Security?
For the uninitiated, Snapchat allows users to send photos and videos to each other via mobile device; the messages vanish or are unviewable after a maximum of 10 seconds. The strength of Snapchat is arguably in its ability to leave no records, a feature which teens have adopted to avoid leaving incriminating photos on their phones.
Much to their surprise, these privacy-loving users had their personal information blasted on the Internet by a group of hackers -- who supposedly just wanted "to convince the messaging app to beef up its security," reports TechCrunch.
Social media apps are easy targets for hackers, well-meaning or not. Even big news outlets like The Associated Press fell victim to hacker attacks last year.
Although the sophisticated Snapchat hack was allegedly intended as a "white hat" security demonstration, the hackers themselves could still face criminal charges for accessing and using Snapchat's data systems without permission.
What Can Snapchat Users Do?
In the short term, users worried about the Snapchat hack can go to this website hosted by Gibson Security to see if their usernames were affected. As the site suggests, affected users may want to consider deleting their Snapchat accounts, whether or not their accounts were part of the data breach.
In the long term, Snapchat may be facing a host of lawsuits, accusing the company of negligence in its security practices in allowing personal information to be leaked. Although Snapchat's records don't contain credit card information (unlike the recent Target data breach), users may not need to prove financial losses to pursue a case against the app company.
Snapchat users who had their phone numbers exposed to the Internet might sue under an invasion of privacy theory -- essentially arguing that Snapchat's negligence allowed Internet hackers to access and post their private info.
No pictures or videos were leaked in connection with the usernames and phone numbers, but SnapchatDB warned on its site that the same info is often associated with Facebook and Twitter accounts.