The beauty of Snapchat, a popular photo-sharing app, is that photos disappear moments after picture messages are sent. They can never be resurfaced by the sender, and the recipient can’t view the image for more than a few seconds before it self-destructs.
But apparently Snapchat doesn’t actually delete the photos. It just buries them deep inside a device.* A digital forensics examiner named Richard Hickman has found a way to resurface the private pictures on Androids. The finding is similar to a flaw Buzzfeed uncovered in December.
Hickman, 24, took a mobile forensics course at Utah Valley University. During his research there, he discovered that Snapchat stores every photo in a folder called “RECEIVED_IMAGES_SNAPS.” An extension, “.NOMEDIA” is added to each photo file which makes them hard – but not impossible – to find.
“The actual app is even saving the picture,” Hickman tells KSL.com. “They claim that it’s deleted, and it’s not even deleted. It’s actually saved on the phone.”
When Hickman changed the .NOMEDIA extension, the photos were viewable again.
“It’s not that [a photo is] deleted — it just isn’t mapped anymore,” Hickman says. “It says, OK, that spot where that picture was stored is now available to be overwritten. That’s what would happen with a regular camera.”
On average, it takes Hickman six hours to resurface the photos on Androids, depending on how much data is stored on the device. He’s still cracking the Snapchat code on iPhones.
In response to his findings, Snapchat in an email says,
“There are many ways to save snaps that you receive – the easiest way is to take a screenshot or take a photo with another camera. Snaps are deleted from our servers after they have been viewed by the recipient.”
Note that while it says photos are deleted from Snapchat’s servers, it doesn’t say photos are deleted from the devices.
Credit: Business Insider