Why Consumers Should be Concerned About the SnapChat Hack

The publicly announced acquisition of Mandiant by FireEye appeared to me to be perfectly timed. The press release about this acquisition was published on January 2, 2014, merely one day after Doug Gross, of CNN, posted the details of the malicious attack on SnapChat on the CNN website.

In a recent post to this blog I called the SnapChat hack THE malicious exploit capable of bringing the whole discussion about whether cloud, Software as a Service (SaaS) offers are secure for consumers, or not, to a “critical mass”. Bottom line, I think this event, once the public is informed about its most important details, is scary enough to prod consumers to finally reduce their otherwise voracious appetite for SaaS offers.

I’m sorry to say the mainstream press has not done a very good job of presenting the “most important details” of this exploit. The Wall Street Journal published a video, Why Hackers Want Your CellPhone Number, which presents a few of the reasons why consumers should be concerned by the SnapChat exploit.

The Journal picked Quentin Fottrell of Marketwatch to convey the bad news to consumers. But he neglected to mention a very important danger resulting from the compromise: Many of the cellphone numbers captured by hackers may be connected to smart phones enabled with GPS devices. A quick read of an article titled Find Your Phone With These Helpful Tracking Tips, which was written by Drew Prindle, and published on August 8, 2013 on the Digital Trends site, should prompt consumers to be more concerned. Depending on how cellphones are used, malicious individuals may actually be able to determine home addresses, businesses addresses, and more simply from the POTS dialing numbers connected to them. It’s not likely consumers will welcome this exposure.

When the other dangers Mr. Fottrell mentions are also considered, the SnapChat hack should start to prod consumers to rethink their use of this service and others in the same category, like facebook. The unnamed lady who interviews Mr. Fottrell does mention how telephone numbers can be used in a facebook search to find people, which is absolutely true.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

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