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

snapchat ghost

Snapchat’s only privacy setting is a good friend

snapchat ghost

When I watch my kids online, I often wish the internet was a bit more forgiving. I am not talking about the freedom to do whatever they want without consequences. I am talking about sharing a silly moment without it stalking them for they rest of their lives. The Snapchat app appears to promise kids this freedom by allowing them to send a disappearing photo.

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Snapchat lets kids take and send photos to their friends that cannot be saved. It does this by including a self-destruct button. Kids decide how long their friend can view the photo, with a maximum viewing time of 10 seconds. When time is up, the photo disappears. Snapchat photos cannot be saved by the recipient.

Snapchat is intended for kids over 13. It is one of the top 5 apps for teens. Over 60 million photos or messages are sent each day on Snapchat. The latest version will let teens send videos that self-destruct within 10 seconds.

When Snapchat first launched, many people wrote about the potential for teens to use it for sexting. A self-destructing photo seemed the perfect way for teens to send naughty pictures without worrying about the photo ending up splashed all over the internet. Some teens probably have used Snapchat for this purpose and parents should definitely talk to their teen about the dangers of sexting.

silly snapchat photoAn online search for #Snapchat reveals a lot of teens are using it to take funny pictures of themselves. They are making an ugly face or drawing a mustache. These pictures share a silly moment then disappear. They can have fun without having their crazy duck face follow them into adulthood. Unfortunately, these faces may not always disappear.

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Kids bored during break – Organize Friends

When a kid announces “I’m bored”, rather than running through the usually list of chores suggest a little digital spring cleaning. Instead of organizing their closet, kids can organize their online friends or followers.

During the initial excitement of joining a social network, kids may accept all friend requests. This can quickly lead to a list of hundreds of online friends. Taking the time go through and remove friends and place the remaining in lists or circles is an essential step in protecting personal information.

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