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January 03, 2014

After the Attack: What's Next for Snapchat?

In the wake of the disastrous data breach that leaked the user names and phone numbers for more than 4.6 million of its users in the U.S and Canada, Snapchat will soon issue an updated version of its app. Going forward, the hugely popular photo-messaging app will allow users to opt out of the "Find Friends" feature, one that enables users to connect to people they know by entering their phone number — and the very feature that was anonymously hacked on New Year's Eve. By opting out, users can keep their phone numbers hidden not just from fellow users, but from possible future attacks.

In a blog on its site, Snapchat explained the motivation behind creating the "Find Friends" function (to find friends, more or less), and even mentioned its blog post last Friday, which acknowledged that "it was possible for an attacker to use the functionality of Find Friends to upload a large number of random phone numbers and match them with Snapchat usernames." The company assured that no snaps or any other information aside from name and phone numbers were leaked in the cyber heist, and asked that tips pertaining to the app's security be sent to

Speculation as to whether Snapchat can survive the breach is mounting. The startup, founded by former Stanford students Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy, was only conceived a few years ago, and though it has experienced rapid growth in the past year, it's yet to be seen whether the little company-that-could can handle such an attack, which, frankly, even a behemoth like Google would have trouble shaking off. Snapchat's blog informing users of the scheduled app update didn't exactly help the company's image. One commenter on the post, with the alias "carpetonion," write: "You had a glaring weakness in your code that could be hacked but you didn't do anything about it." Another user called "gregcohn" remarked, "This is an apology? WTF" Other users were less discriminatory in their language.

Fact of the matter is, updates or not, a major robbery of user data occurred and Snapchat needs to work on restoring faith. It may want to start with a decent apology. Locking a window that's already been busted through is not a remedy.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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