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Were nude pictures of your child just leaked online?

Snapchat, the image sharing network used by thousands of teens worldwide found itself in a sticky situation this morning, when it was revealed that over 200,000 images were hacked and posted online.

The images – which are meant to be erased after 10 seconds of a person viewing – are actually being stored in the app. The rumoured event (“the snappening”) saw many images of 13 to 17 year olds being leaked on SnapSaved.com.

Snapchat denies its servers have been breached but says users who also utilise third party apps may well have had their images leaked online. While adults may laugh and think “of course the images were saved somewhere”, there will be a lot of shocked, surprised and embarrassed teenagers around this morning.

Publisher of Cybershack and Today Show IT expert, Charlie Brown sat down with Mamamia to explain where your snapchats go after they vanish and how to keep your and your kids’ photos safe online.

MM Team: What just happened? I read that millions of private pictures, many of teens, have just flooded the web.

CB: 13GB of photos and video were leaked – apparently this includes over 200,000 unique files. Allegedly, most of these files are completely innocent – photos of cats, shoes, etc, but there are reports that there is also material that could be considered child pornography – naked selfies taken by underage boys and girls.

MM Team: Where have the images gone? Who can access them, and how do they know where they are?

CB: The images have apparently been shared using file sharing websites, but due to the highly illegal nature of the material (child pornography), many websites are removing “Snappening” content as it is being uploaded.

There is much less proliferation of these images than with the Celebrity Nude Leak from August. While merely searching Jennifer Lawrence on Twitter would bring up the images, this isn’t the case with the Snappening

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MM Team: Is there any way to retrieve the leaked images?

CB: Short of downloading the file, there is no way to retrieve the leaked images. Considering the number of potentially illegal images, searching for and downloading these is not recommended.

MM Team: Is Snapchat no longer safe – should I delete the app?

CB: The issue wasn’t with Snapchat itself, but with a malicious third-party service called SnapSaved, explicitly forbidden by Snapchat’s terms and conditions. Users were using the service to surreptitiously save photos sent to them, without the original sender’s knowledge.

On top of this, SnapSaved stored the user’s login credentials. It was compromised and as such, hackers were able to use these to intercept pictures sent and received by the user. After accumulating the mass of photos, the hacker decided to share these online.

Charlie Brown.

MM TEAM: Is there any such thing as safe photo-sharing?

CB: Yes and No.

Technically, any service can be compromised and even a phone can be stolen, but there are ways to keep yourself protected.

If a service allows it, you should always use 2-factor-authentication. 2-factor authentication means that whenever you sign in for a new device, you’ll be ask for a second code, typically generated by your mobile phone

In general, the risk of sharing a photo is quite low – and the chance of it being stolen in a hack is actually quite low – especially if you’re not a celebrity.

If you’re smart and safe about what you do online, you should be fine. Though if you’re worried, I think a good motto to follow is don’t share anything you wouldn’t want to become public.

Unfamiliar with Snapchat? Then take a look at what the Rich Kids of Snapchat send to each other:

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