Snapchat is one of the most popular messaging services available today.
As of June 2016, more than 150 million active users interact with one another daily via Snapchat.
Some use the app strictly for its originally advertised purpose: sending images that are deleted shortly thereafter.
Others are drawn by the service's more recent features. Those include Snapcash, a method introduced for users to send mobile payments to their friends.
Given the app's popularity, it's no wonder online criminals have set their sights on hacking users' Snapchat accounts. Some have already met with limited success.
For instance, back in late 2013, a group of hackers published a database containing the usernames and phone numbers of approximately 4.6 million Snapchat users. Nefarious individuals could have used that information to profile targets across multiple web accounts.
We also can't forget about the security incident that occurred back in February 2016. In that attack, someone posed as the company's CEO and convinced a Snapchat employee to send over payroll information. The successful phish ultimately compromised dozens of employees' identities.
But that's not to say criminals aren't trying to find a way into people's accounts. Hackers clearly have Snapchat in their sights, which is why users need to learn how to spot the warning signs of a hack and how they can recover their accounts if someone compromises them.
Let's get started.
Looking for a Warning Sign
When it comes to spotting a hack against their accounts, Snapchat users should look out for three warning signs:
- Unusual activity. A user finds that their account doesn't look the same as when they left it. Their settings or display name might be different. Alternatively, they might have several new friends whom they don't recognize. All those observations point to someone having messed with their account.
- High rate of re-authentication. A user shouldn't have to log into their account every time they try to access Snapchat's app. But they might need to do so if someone's been logging on in their name from another device, thereby logging them out. For that reason, a user should assume hackers are afoot if they need to keep re-authenticating themselves.
- Revealing correspondence from Snapchat. Like most web services, Snapchat has implemented measures designed to protect its users' account security. That's why the app's parent company sends emails and/or texts a user whenever a change is made to their account, such as an updated password or email address, or when Snapchat detects a login session from an unusual location. If a user starts receiving these types of messages from Snapchat out of the blue, they can bet someone has hacked their accounts.
Recovering your Account
The ease with which users can recover their Snapchat accounts depends on to what extent hackers control them. The greater the amount of control, the more difficult the task of recovery. From easiest to hardest, here's how users can recover their accounts:
- Change your passwords. In some situations, hackers obtain a user's login credentials, gain access to their profile, and don't do anything with the account settings once they're there. If that's the case, a user can recover their account by logging in and changing their password.
- Use "Forgot your Password". Attackers aren't always hands-off. Sometimes they'll lock a Snapchat user out of their account by changing their password. Fortunately, that user can recover their account by using "Forgot your Password," an option provided by Snapchat at the login screen that passes a temporary password to them via their email address or mobile phone number.
- Contact Snapchat. The worst-case scenario is when hackers ransack a user's account and change not only their password but also their email address, phone number, and other contact information. When that happens, a user should go to Snapchat's help page, fill out a request for an account recovery, and specify that their account has been hacked.
When it comes to their Snapchat accounts' security, users shouldn't just tune into detection and response. They should also consider how they can prevent a hack in the first place. They can do so by using a strong password that's unique for their Snapchat account, never sharing access to their login credentials with anyone, and setting up two-step verification on their account.