Where massive amounts of videos and images lurk in digital space, attempted data breaches are certain to follow. Such is what happened to thousands of photos and videos that were stolen from the Snapchat servers and then uploaded to 4chan. Eager to learn more about this incident, and what it means for popular social media platform Snapchat, as well as the infamous online forum, Snapchat? Read on!
Let’s face a fairly well-regarded fact: 4Chan does not have a particularly grand reputation. While it certainly exists as a repository for thousands of voices, it also attracts a huge amount of unwanted and elicit attention. For Snapchat users, one of the first thing that comes to mind is a Snapchat security breach that occurred back in October of 2014. Hackers are everywhere, and far more numerous than the security services that are meant to protect against them. While data breaches aren’t uncommon anymore, this particular hack put illegal photos of underage persons all over the popular discussion forums.
Considering the young user base that Snapchat is known for, this was an alarming occurrence. It raised the hackles of anyone paying attention, but none more so than parents.
4chan bills itself as a wide-open arena for the discussion of an endless range of topics, but due to that very nature, it has attracted endless allegations, criticisms, and bad press because of the media and discussions that take place there. Open threats of violence, child pornography, and other such themes have long since trumped the positive influences that 4chan has contributed to web culture.
In spite of how often negative activities and data breaches are tied to 4chan, it hasn’t stopped many Snapchatters from posting images to it. The image-based site is still rife with photos and video from users both random and named, and based on the forum’s continued popularity, the trend isn’t likely to cease anytime soon.
However, it’s worth paying attention to the information that was gleaned from the 2014 event, which both the public and new agencies have dubbed, “The Snappening.”
What was ‘the Snappening?’
This is a simple question that deserves a thorough answer. First, it’s important to understand that Snapchat’s very foundation is built upon the idea of “self-destructing” photos and video that users are able to view for a short few seconds, and then never see again. Tied to this was the assumption (and reassurance, on the part of Snapchat), that the app’s servers did not hold onto any of this shared media once each Snap had been reviewed by its intended recipients. After all, if every Snap is meant to “self-destruct” after a short amount of time, what would be the purpose of saving this data on the Snapchat servers?
When “the Snappening” occurred, it was primarily a very illegal violation of privacy, but it also helped to illuminate the behavior of Snapchat’s users. Rather than hacking the Snapchat servers directly, hackers took advantage of third-party applications that the popular app’s users were taking advantage of in order to augment their Snapchat experience. These apps–once even more widely available on app stores than they are now–stored the Snaps that users viewed so that they wouldn’t be lost forever.
For most, it was a clever way to circumvent one of the major features of Snapchat. For hackers, it was a way to access treasure troves of personal data, images, and videos from thousands of users without any need to hack Snapchat itself. It was quite a mess, and it still hasn’t been entirely resolved. Much of this lack of resolution comes from users that still use third-party applications to save Snaps that would otherwise be lost. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…well. You know how it goes.
The consequences of “the Snappening” were threefold and caught the ears of Snapchatters and 4chan users, both.
- Snapchat, like every other social media platform, will never be 100% secure
- Even though we cannot see Snaps after they “vanish,” the Snapchat server retains them for some significant amount of time
- The use of third-party apps can very easily lead to a compromised account
For many Snapchat users, these two nuggets of information are inconsequential. Most of us know that online platforms will never be entirely hacker-proof, and also that it would be rather odd if the Snapchat servers simply deleted Snaps after the very last recipient that was able to view them, did. However, for others, this was something of a wake-up call.
It was a wake-up call that came in the shape of an immense, illegal violation of privacy. The fact that many who were targeted were also minors was plentiful cause for alarm, and for some while after, the 4chan community and the Snapchat app itself were embroiled in controversy. For 4chan, this was nothing new under the sun. For Snapchat, it became imperative to reassure users that their experience in the app was as secure as it could possibly be and that their information was safe.
What Does It Mean for Snapchat, Now?
Like most newsworthy stories that were at once groundbreaking, the public has largely moved on. While plentiful stories still exist that make reference to “the Snappening,” most Snapchatters have either forgotten the impact of this massive data breach, or they joined Snapchat after it occurred and have remained blissfully naive.
It was a good opportunity for users to learn, but the fact hasn’t changed that many still want to find ways to save Snaps that they might otherwise lose. Those same users are still turning to third-party apps to do it, and those third-party apps are still lacking in the layers of security that the Snapchat app itself possesses.
Needless to say, 4chan is also up and running strong. It has been and it will be for as long as thousands of users are taking to it every single day.
Are Snapchat and 4chan Still Peas in a Pod?
In a way, this relationship hasn’t changed at all. Plenty of 4chan users are also Snapchatters, and vice versa also applies. The two platforms share a penchant for media-based communications, and so it’s only natural that trendy people who prefer image and video for their communication will frequent both.
It also means that 4chan will is very likely to remain a dumping ground for illicitly obtained information. It’s wide open, loosely moderated, and has always had a reputation for playing host to the most infamous personalities on the internet, be that for better or worse. A cursory glance at 4chan’s topic lists will reveal that little has changed. Those areas of interest that have been the keystones of nerd culture are still prominently featured, and it largely caters to male users (search for 4chan and “GamerGate” if you ever need proof of this fact.)
Still, loose moderation aside, it is a place where people go to participate in trendy, topical discussion and also to share things both hilarious and (less commonly) informative.
Keeping Your Snapchatting Safe
The more important question for the majority of Snapchatters is, “how can I keep myself and my Snaps safe?”
This was complicated during “the Snappening” due to the fact that many whose photos and videos were leaked weren’t actually doing anything wrong, per se. Regardless of the content of their snaps, it was other users that were saving those Snaps, rather than the people who created them. It was a tangled mess of media retrieved through wrongful means, and harvested for distribution without any need to touch the Snapchat servers.
Since these types of third-party apps are still widely available, here are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe on Snapchat:
- Be mindful of what you Snap. Much of the fervor over “the Snappening” was whipped up othe nature of the stolen Snaps. Illegal images and video of underage Snapchatters were not a laughing matter, and though it would be immensely wrong to lay the lion’s share of the blame at the victims’ feet, current users should definitely take a hint from what happened. Don’t post Snaps that might place you in a compromising position.ver
- Keep track of your contact list. For many, this goes without saying. Since you can always choose who you’re sending Snaps to, make sure that you’re not sending any compromising or personal Snaps to people that you don’t know well. While some may not give too much thought to who they’re Snapping, consider how you might feel if your images or videos was leaked on a place like 4chan. It’s worth keeping in mind.
- Don’t buy into third-party apps. While it might be worthwhile to learn how these apps function, you don’t have the reassurance of security when you’re using them. On top of that, if your app is ever hacked, it might be others’ information that’s at stake, rather than your own.
4chan is a tricky thing, and the behavior of hackers and Snapchatters alike has only muddied that persistent relationship. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t perks to knowing your way around the 4chan network. Rather than a cautionary tale, look at the above as a guide for conduct! You can examine Snapchat’s complicated history with 4chan–and the many videos and images that are shared there every day–and learn for yourself if it has anything to offer to you!