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Snapchats Don't Disappear 85

Posted by timothy
from the un-disappearing-ink dept.
Mobile photo-sharing app SnapChat has one claim to fame, compared to other ways people might share photos from their cellphones: the photos, once viewed, disappear from view, after a pre-set length of time. However, it turns out they don't disappear as thoroughly as users might like. New submitter nefus writes with this excerpt from Forbes: "Richard Hickman of Decipher Forensics found that it's possible to pull Snapchat photos from Android phones simply by downloading data from the phone using forensics software and removing a '.NoMedia' file extension that was keeping the photos from being viewed on the device. He published his findings online and local TV station KSL has a video showing how it's done."
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Snapchats Don't Disappear

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    The two douches who made it said it deletes it off the internet forever.

    • They also said people use it to "talk," whereas if people really wanted to see each others faces, they'd use Skype. It's really a pointless app. It's boring to use to talk, and people can take screenshots of sexy pics.
      • It automatically informs the other user if it detects a screenshot. I've tried multiple screenshot apps as well as the screenshot feature native to CM to test this. Of course, it's still completely pointless since someone properly motivated can simply take a photograph of the phone while the photo is being displayed. People need to realize that nothing that you send to another person can ever be guaranteed to "self-destruct".
        • by gl4ss (559668)

          ..run it on a emulator? at the very least use a silent screenshot app.
          or take the screenshots with the screenshot tool that comes with the adt.

        • by BasilBrush (643681) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @08:50AM (#43694573)

          People need to realize that nothing that you send to another person can ever be guaranteed to "self-destruct".

          Sure it can. I've seen it on Mission Impossible.

        • by AvitarX (172628)

          There's a pretty big difference between someone has a small window to archive a pic, and everything automatically archived.

          It's not about protecting oneself from a pre-planned malicious act, but from something accidentally surfacing ten years later, or even intentionally, as the default for everything is a fairly permanent archive. The odds that the type of person that is going to go through the effort to make the screenshots (via emulator) doesn't send off so many creeper vibes as to never get relevant pic

  • Keep it in memory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nzac (1822298) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @12:01AM (#43692695)

    How hard could it be to store it in RAM as it is received and then zero out the memory when finished. Sure it is not remotely hack proof but at least when it is broken you can only get new photos.

    Or if you don't have the RAM to store the pic store an encryption key.

    • They could actually delete the file, at least, even if they have to save one for some reason. I have no idea what the Android camera API is like, maybe they wanted to avoid requiring a certain permission?
    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      whats the difference, its not 1983 anymore, you dont run one app and shut off your machine, when was your phone rebooted last? why cant they just zero out the flash memory, what is your point of RAM, if they are not going to delete it off your phone what makes you think they are going to delete it off their SERVERs

      • by nzac (1822298)

        Without a special API you can't guarantee that you overwrote the right section of storage (wear leveling and copy on write). But as reve_etrange said, just deleting the file would be a very good start.

  • Good? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Down with DRM in all forms.

    Vanishing pictures... thats drm. don't care how you spin it.

  • FUD (Score:3, Informative)

    by az1324 (458137) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @12:08AM (#43692745)

    "However, once the photo is opened, and the timer goes off, Snapchat does in fact delete the photo."

    http://techcrunch.com/2013/05/09/actually-snapchat-photos-are-just-as-deleted-as-any-other-file-you-trash/ [techcrunch.com]

  • What morons thought their claims were even remotely possible. You don't even need to be a techie to save the images forever. Just snap a screenshot while the image is being displayed. Done.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Just snap a screenshot while the image is being displayed. Done.

      Yeah but that notifies the other person, and I think that it can even be disabled.

      • I don't see how notifying the sender does anything to change the fact that I now have a permanent copy of their junk. Or I could get a 3rd party screen capture program that doesn't inform anyone that the images has been saved.

  • Wut. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WedgeTalon (823522) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @12:20AM (#43692791)

    Forensics software? Just open up the folder. I mean, you have to rooted, but that's not really weird. Look, here's someone talking about getting pics and vids [reddit.com] before even viewing them in Snapchat. Back in March. If you have to output something to the user, they're going to have to be able to get at it one way or another.

  • And that, my friends, is what we call a honeypot. Don't trust anyone with your data if you're about to do something stupid/illegal with your computing device.

  • My data doesn't disappear when I run # mkfs.ext3 /dev/sda either. Make ya think eh?
  • Seems that people still do not have a clue how computers work. None at all. Here is a hint: If it can be viewed, it can be copied.

  • by Warhawke (1312723) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @01:03AM (#43692909)
    Wooh, another completely incorrect Slashdot title for the win. Because the pics DO disappear when you open them. Both from your phone and their servers. There's just an exploit where rooted phones can view/copy the pictures before they are opened/deleted. "Don't disappear" =/ discretely copyable.
    • > Because the pics DO disappear when you open them. Both from your phone and their servers
      > There's just an exploit where rooted phones can view/copy the pictures before they are opened/deleted.

      No. This is explicitly about recovering the images AFTER they have been viewed. Grabbing them before they have been viewed is old news.

      This guy has proved that "deleted" just means renamed and pending actual delete. Even then it sounds like an undelete file tool could get some back. Snapchat should be overw

      • by Gaygirlie (1657131) <gaygirlie.hotmail@com> on Saturday May 11, 2013 @04:32AM (#43693565) Homepage

        Snapchat should be overwriting the files instead of just renaming them and queuing for delete in the future...

        No. Due to wear-leveling and the likes that is not good enough for data that is supposed to be gone forever. The correct way would be for the app to generate a random encryption key in RAM, encrypt the file with that, save the file to the filesystem but keep the key in RAM, and when the app is done with the file it should overwrite the encryption key -- with proper encryption there is no way of reversing the encryption in any sort of a reasonable amount of time (1000 years) without the key.

        • by hankwang (413283)

          Due to wear-leveling and the likes that is not good enough for data that is supposed to be gone forever.

          You're presenting it as an all-or-nothing issue. There are a couple of shades of gray in between. The internal storage of Android devices is typically formatted as ext4, wtih the wear-leveling (I think) done by the flash memory controller. Accessing the "overwritten" data would require quite a bit more work than just analyzing a block-device image. I suspect that you might have to desolder the NAND memory

          • by swillden (191260)
            Still, the encryption approach is the right one. It's fast, easy and much harder to circumvent.
            • by hankwang (413283)

              the encryption approach is the right one. It's fast, easy and much harder to circumvent.

              If you are paranoid enough to encrypt the data locally after receipt at the phone, then you had better also examine the how the sender and the snapchat server deal with the data. Better setup a public-key system and figure out how to do the key management without discouraging Joe and Jane User.

        • . Due to wear-leveling and the likes that is not good enough for data that is supposed to be gone forever. The correct way would be for the app to generate a random encryption key in RAM, encrypt the file with that, save the file to the filesystem but keep the key in RAM,

          If you are at the level where you have to worry about an attacker who is able to pull data off of a drive's internally managed wear-leveling management buffers then you also have to worry about all kinds of other less complex attack vectors like a daemon process that silently takes a screenshot every time snapchat displays a photo.

    • Because the pics DO disappear when you open them. Both from your phone and their servers

      How do you know the pictures "disappear" from their servers? We've already ascertained they are not actually removed from the phone. How do we know the server admins don't keep some of the more "interesting" photos for their private collection? Of course, they wouldn't disclose that publicly.

      Furthermore, in the United States, the Stored Communications Act mandates that providers must preserve stored data for up to 180 days upon government request. For an application whose target demographic seems to be horn

  • I'm probably going to show my age and/or a great deal of naiveté here, but can someone please explain why this service is even a thing? I just can't think of a situation in which I would send a photo to someone and subsequently care whether they saved it or not. I mean, if I want them to see it I send it, if I don't want them to see it then I don't send it. How is it more complicated than that?
    • by hankwang (413283)

      "I just can't think of a situation in which I would send a photo to someone and subsequently care whether they saved it or not. "

      Sending nude pictures to your (teen) lover while reducing the risk that they get to be seen by the rest of the school if the relation goes sour. Or to prevent being charged for spreading child porn, like these kids: http://www.connectsafely.org/Commentaries-Staff/teens-convictions-for-child-porn-upheld.html [connectsafely.org]

      Maybe cheating husbands and wives who don't want to leave too many trails.

    • by Si (9816)

      Snap. Chat. Supposedly a method of instant messaging, but with photos. Yeah, I don't get it either. My (still a teen, but just barely) niece uses it to send me pics of her goofing around with her younger siblings. Beyond that I think whatever appeal there is exists in how simple it is to use. Heard a story on NPR where the kids aren't even using SnapChat for sexting.

  • Easy fix! (Score:5, Funny)

    by closer2it (926190) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @06:13AM (#43693841) Homepage
    All they need to do is create the ".NoMediaNoMedia" file. This will keep the photos and the file ".NoMedia" from being viewed on the device.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Another fix would be changing the file extension to ".NothingToSeeHereMoveAlong".
      • by DrYak (748999)

        Another fix would be changing the file extension to ".NothingToSeeHereMoveAlong".

        Or Maybe :
        ".TheseArentTheBoobiesYoureLookingFor.HandWaving"

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