Are you one of those who send private images to your loved ones over Snapchat? It’s supposed to be safe, right? The messages and images destroy themselves within 10 seconds or less, making it safe for you to share your personal moments.
Wrong. A new research report from Decipher Forensics has discovered that the images you share over Snapchat don’t really disappear completely from your phone. The Forensics company has devised a method using which these images that aren’t supposed to be viewable anymore can be extracted and viewed.
According to Richard Hickman, Digital Forensics Examiner from Decipher, photos are renamed with a “.jpg.nomedia” extension in order to prevent images stored within this directory from being placed in the gallery or from being scanned by the media store. Hickman says that Decipher can retrieve these images even after they’ve expired from within the app for about $300.
Here's where your images are stored
“We wanted to know if 'snaps' really do 'disappear forever,'” Hickman explains how Decipher got about trying to retrieve expired Snapchat messages. “If there is metadata associated with 'snaps,' if 'snaps' can be recovered after becoming expired, and if they can be recovered, if there is metadata associated with the expired 'snap.'”
Most of these “snaps” were discovered in the data/data/com.snapchat.android folder. The folder even contains a listing of all contacts stored on the device. This of course is done only after the user permits the app to save it. Right below that is a list of Snapchat messages.
“The actual app is even saving the picture,” Hickman told KSL. “They claim that it's deleted, and it's not even deleted. It's actually saved on the phone.” The “.nomedia” extension has a crucial part to play in the invisibility of these images.
Snapchat’s Vice President for Communications told U.S. News that they were “not really paying much attention” to Hickman’s report. There has not been an official statement from the company though.
Snapchat is no stranger to privacy related issues. Late last year Buzzfeed revealed that you could save images and videos received through the app without the sender ever knowing about it. The report claimed that Snapchat and its rival – Facebook’s Poke locally stored copies of videos sent to users which are accessible with a free iPhone browser.
Back then, Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel told Buzzfeed, “The people who most enjoy using Snapchat are those who embrace the spirit and intent of the service. There will always be ways to reverse engineer technology products — but that spoils the fun!”
This time round, it looks like Snapchat itself is “reversing” its own product to keep a copy of images within a smartphone.