Photographer and tech enthusiast Nick Keck tells me that he read the story about Decipher Forensics Snapchat recovery system – which at this point has been tested for Android phones – and decided to dig into the app himself using an iPhone. “I understood that they extracted everything from the phone onto the computer through a long process and then were able to look through the filesystem and find the photos,” he tells me. “I thought to myself: If the photos are stored in folders on Android, they have to be stored similarly on iOS.”
Using iFile, a program that is more or less an iPhone file and folder browser, he looked into the applications folder and discovered some “oddly named folders.” Lo and behold, he found one serving as home to old Snapchats.
“From there, I looked through the directories until I found some .MOV files and played one,” Keck says. “I was stunned to see that it was a video that was sent through Snapchat and had since expired.”
“I also noticed that there are a few files named ‘filtered’ and ‘output.’ These photos were videos recorded on the local iPhone to be sent on Snapchat. These files seem to only be the most recent video recorded and will stay ‘sent’ or ‘not sent’ and will be overwritten as soon as another video is recorded.”
While he was unable to find photos, he believes those files are somewhere inside the iPhone’s Snapchat filesytem.
He takes great measures to explain he didn’t do any of this to “defame” Snapchat and was only motivated by user security and privacy concerns.
We contacted Snapchat when the original story concerning Decipher Forensic’s research surfaced, and the team declined to comment. However a recent blog post further addressing the alleged longer lifespan of “Snaps” was published by the team. We’d imagine that Krell’s iOS-related discovery means the company will be pushed to respond to security allegations yet again.
Unfortunately, as users become more savvy (Keck says he isn’t a programmer; he just likes to toy around), ephemeral technologies like Snapchat will have to take more measures to make sure that curious consumers with a little know-how can recover this type of content. It inarguably invalidates the product to a certain degree: If the entire concept is to send photos and videos with a short shelf-life, the idea that recipients can find, save, and even republish them is downright terrifying.