Snapchat. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
San Francisco - A huge trove of evidently intercepted Snapchat images and videos were exposed online on Friday, raising fears about what may be revealed in messages intended to vanish seconds after being viewed.
In what was being referred to as "The Snappening", people who used a third-party application instead of the official Snapchat application had copies of supposedly transient missives squirreled away by hackers who began putting them online late on Thursday.
About half of Snapchat users are reported to be 17 years old or younger, raising worries that sexy self-shot images they thought would disappear will be shared on the internet in what would amount to child pornography.
Snapchat released a statement on Friday saying the start-up's servers were not breached, nor were they the source of the leaked images.
The San Francisco-based company maintained that "Snapchatters were victimised" due to the use of outside applications to send or receive "Snaps" in a practice prohibited under the start-up's terms of service.
An unsanctioned mobile application used to post photos or videos to Snapchat has been gathering copies for years, with hackers boasting of a 13GB library of imagery, according to a report at news website Business Insider.
Users of anonymity focused online forum 4chan have been downloading the swiped Snapchat messages and are constructing a searchable online archive, Business Insider reported.
Snapchat rocketed to popularity, especially among teens, after the initial app was released in September 2011. Created by then Stanford University students, the app allows the sending of messages that disappear shortly after being viewed.