A weakness in Snapchat's developer tools apparently has been discovered and published online. Reports New Year's Day indicate that 4.6 million accounts may have been breached.
According to The Washington Post tech blog, The Switch, "the phone numbers and usernames for as many as 4.6 million accounts have been downloaded by a website calling itself SnapchatDB.info." By late Wednesday morning the site was no longer available.
The Post said the hack appears to be real, affecting at least one member of the TechCrunch editorial team and possibly Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel himself.
The vulnerability could allow hackers to find individual Snapchat users' information, despite users efforts to keep their accounts private. The site allows users to send messages that erase themselves after a short time.
Gibson Security, a collective of Australian hackers, published the vulnerability this week, claiming others can use an exploit called "find_friends" to try and match up phone numbers with Snapchat users. If there are any matches, the hacker will get the phone number's corresponding Snapchat username, display name and information about whether that account is public or private.
The Australian hackers said this vulnerability could be used by others to build a database of Snapchat user profiles and sell them, according to ZDNet. The information, of course, could also be used to stalk individuals.
The group of hackers said they contacted Snapchat about this problem four months ago, but the Los Angeles startup has ignored them.
Gibson Security said it decided to publish its findings online since Snapchat didn't seem concerned about the problem, which it says could be fixed with just a few lines of code.
Snapchat could not be reached for comment.
Snapchat reportedly turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook, which is seeking to keep its key youth audience who are being drawn to a host of smaller social media sites.
Facebook has reported that teens are spending less time on its site and that they are signing up at a slower rate. To continue growing and to keep up engagement, Facebook might have to offer more products that compete with these smaller companies, either by buying them or devoting resources in-house to develop them, analysts have said. The company is already testing video advertising on its site.
This story is compiled from reports from Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.