NEW YORK — Snapchat says it plans to put out a more secure version of its application following a breach that allowed hackers to collect the usernames and phone numbers of some 4.6 million of its users.
The disappearing-message service popular with young people said in a blog post late Thursday that the updated version of its app would allow users to opt out of its "Find Friends" feature, which was apparently at the heart of the breach, and would stem future attempts to abuse its service.
The breach occurred after security experts warned the company at least twice about a vulnerability in its system.
Before announcing its plans to update the app, Snapchat had been quiet. Its seemingly detached response caused some security specialists to wonder whether the young company can handle the spotlight that it's been thrust into over the last year as its service has become enormously popular.
In response to a warning by Gibson Security on Dec. 25 —which followed an earlier alert in August — Snapchat said in a blog post last Friday that it had implemented "various safeguards" over the past year that would make it more difficult to steal large sets of phone numbers. Snapchat hasn't detailed the changes it made.
As Americans rang in the New Year, hackers reportedly published 4.6 million Snapchat usernames and phone numbers on a website called snapchatdb.info, which has since been suspended. The breach came less than a week after the most recent warning from security experts that an attack could take place.
The incident bruises the company's image and may threaten its rapid growth. Los Angeles-based Snapchat has no source of revenue, but its rapid rise to an estimated 20 million U.S. adult users prompted Facebook to extend a reported $3 billion buyout last year. Snapchat's 23-year-old CEO Evan Spiegel turned down the overture. The user number estimate is based on census data and data from the Pew Research Center.