Talking to your Teen about the Snapchat Hack

snapchat ghostAlthough you may have lost sleep over the Target breach, chances are it barely registered with your teen. The breach that should concern them is Snapchat. One of the reasons teens flock to Snapchat is privacy. Here, they can send funny photos and silly messages to their friends that disappear. Teens can have fun without leaving a digital trail. But, one cannot have privacy without security.

Snapchat became less private this New Years Eve. A website posted 4.6 million Snapchat usernames and their corresponding phone numbers. They attained this information by exploiting Snapchat’s “Find My Friends” feature. This feature allows users to look up their friends by uploading the phone numbers in their device’s contact list and searching for accounts that match those numbers. What the hackers did was upload a phone book. Snapchat searched through all these numbers and sent the corresponding usernames.

Fortunately, the published information was limited. It did not contain photos or messages. Also, the published phone numbers had the last two numbers redacted. Although some security sites mentioned the ability for people to request the original list with the entire number.

Gibson Security, who identified this potential security flaw four months before the attack, has set up a website where teens can look up their username. The site will tell them if their information appeared in this breach. If so, there is not a lot they can do. Snapchat does not allow you to change your username and it is a pain to change your phone number. Concerned teens can delete their account and start over. They may want to go this route especially if their username is their real name.

Even if your teens information is not on public display, there are still a few lessons here.

  • Mobile Spam

Data has value. Adaptive Technology has an excellent piece on how hackers could use this information. Active mobile phone numbers are worth money within the spam industry. Couple a phone number with a name and hackers can send a personal phishing message. Teens should know how to identify potential security scams.

  • Unique Usernames

Many teens use the same username for their Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts. Yes, this makes it easier to connect with friends but it also ties together a lot of personal information. If your friends can easily find you so can others. Keep information separate by creating unique usernames for each account and different passwords.

  • Update apps

Snapchat is working to eliminate this security hole and improve find of friend. To receive these security updates, teens need to download the latest version. They should always keep their apps updated.

Privacy does not exist without security. Sit down with your teen and look up their username. While looking up their name talk to them about security. They are growing up in world where breaches are becoming more common. The best security you can give them is teaching them how to spot potential trouble.

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