January 2, 2014
Usernames and mobile phone numbers for more than 4 million Snapchat users were apparently stolen from the photo-sharing service this week by hackers.
If you're a Snapchat user, or if your kids are among the many teens who use it, the good news is that the hackers say they only wanted to call attention to flaws in Snapchat's security. They posted the usernames, along with mobile phone numbers, of 4.6 million users, with Xs in place of the last two digits of each phone number.
A security company that had previously warned of vulnerabilities in Snapchat's security has published a tool that lets you check the list to see if your username was exposed.
If your data is on the list, there's nothing you need to do immediately. The biggest danger is that thieves sometimes collect information in small bits and then put it together. For instance, if you or your child use the same username on multiple sites, or if your phone number is available on other sites like LinkedIn or Facebook, someone could potentially match the Snapchat data with what's published elsewhere. You might decide it's safer to use different usernames on different sites, but there's no way to avoid all risks because you almost always have to share at least a little personal information to use any online service.
So the best advice is to remain vigilant about protecting your credit and identity, in case something does happen. If you already have identity protection for yourself, consider also adding it for your kids, to protect their busy online lives.