Cybercrime: A sign of the Times?

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Abusive hacking of social media content comes on the heels of J.P. Morgan’s announcement that approximately 76 million households would be affected by a breach of their customer’s personal data. The world’s largest bank is just the most recent company to admit that they lost control over online customer data that included detailed information, such as account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers or dates of birth. Such breaches of security are becoming quite common and un-amazing since the Target and Home Depot cyber security breaches beginning late last year.  But now hackers are moving their attention to social media sites where millions of users freely share personal images with friends and family over the internet.

Recently more than 100,000 videos and images shared over Sanpchat have been intercepted by a third party website called Snapsave. Snapchat users expected that their images would be deleted within seconds after posting, but many were lured into saving their images on the Snapsave.com app.  An unnamed spokesman for the Snapsave site says that “I would like to inform the public that snapsaved.com was hacked due to a mistake in the setup of its web server. As soon as we discovered the breach in our systems, we immediately deleted the entire website and the database associated with it. As far as we can tell, the breach has affected 500MB of images, and zero personal information from the database.” The third-party Snapsave client app has been collecting every photo and video file sent through the Snapchat message site for years, giving hackers access to a 13GB private library.

Many of the images include nude and pornographic images initialiy posted by Sanpchat users, of which more than half are between the ages of 15 and 17. The posting event has been dubbed “The Snappening.”  The breach comes a few weeks after hundreds of celebrity nude images were captured and leaked online in an event titled “The Fappening.”

Snapchat management has been quick to deny that its service had been hacked and disavowed any responsibility for the confiscation and misdirection of the data saying that use of third-party apps to send and receive Snaps is expressly prohibited by the Terms of Use precisely because they compromise Sanpchat users’ security. Snapchat has a history of poorly managing users’ content. In 2013, 4.6 million usernames and numbers were leaked online and earlier this year; hackers used Snapchat to send photos of fruit smoothies to thousands of people.

It has not been uncommon in the past for organizations to deny or dismiss claims that their customer data has been stolen by hackers, but the grandiose nature of this year’s cyber-thefts and the massive public outcry that followed are leading many organizations to take quick responsibility for their failed security efforts in order to dampen the effects of the breach.

Many organizations are finding that the most significant costs associated with of cybercrime may not be limited to their ability to recover the lost data. The tarnish to company’s brand and image, as well as their customer’s loss of trust in keeping their information secure, can become even more costly over time.

It is unlikely that the volume and frequency of cyber security failures will decrease as the use of technology is eagerly embraced by billions of new consumers. As more and more things become attached to the internet, protecting or failing to protect consumer’s personal information will become a permanent sign of the times in which we live.

Image courtesy of chanpipat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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