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Hackers have posted the contact details of over 4.6 million Snapchat users online in a high-profile security incident that underlines the threats facing firms of all sizes for the year ahead.
The hackers posted the information on a website called SnapchatDB.info on Wednesday. At the time of publishing the website had been taken offline and Snapchat had not replied to V3's request for comment on whether a breach had occurred.
TechCrunch reported the owners of SnapchatDB confirmed the hack was done to force Snapchat to fix an ongoing flaw in its security.
"Our motivation behind the release was to raise the public awareness around the issue, and also put public pressure on Snapchat to get this exploit fixed. It is understandable that tech startups have limited resources but security and privacy should not be a secondary goal. Security matters as much as user experience does," read the statement.
The flaw was reported in late December by Gibson Security. Gibson Security later published the exploit online, claiming Snapchat was not adequately addressing the flaw. The hackers mirrored Gibson Security's sentiment confirming they used the exploit in the attack.
"We used a modified version of Gibson Sec's exploit/method. Snapchat could have easily avoided that disclosure by replying to Gibson Sec's private communications, yet they didn't. Even long after that disclosure, Snapchat was reluctant to taking the necessary steps to secure user data," they noted.
"Once we started scraping on a large scale, they decided to implement very minor obstacles, which were still far from enough. Even now the exploit persists. It is still possible to scrape this data on a large scale. Their latest changes are still not too hard to circumvent."
The hackers moved to stop other malicious users using the leaked information by removing the last two digits of the compromised phone numbers.
Snapchat is a popular photo and video sharing service. It lets users send photos and videos that automatically delete themselves after being viewed. Snapchat is listed as raising $123m in funding since launching two years ago.
Snapchat is one of many communication services hit by hackers in recent days. The Syrian Electronic Army hacked Skype's Twitter and blog, forcing it to post anti-Microsoft messages earlier this week. The breaches are a sign that the number of cyber attacks targeting businesses will continue to grow in 2014.