Forensics Firm Discovers that Snapchat Photos Don’t Disappear After All


Snapchat has been a huge success since it was first introduced in September 2011. Competing with the likes of Instagram, Facebook and other photo sharing platforms, Snapchat set itself apart by offering the fleeting experience of disappearing photos. When you send a photo, you set a time-limit of up to 10 seconds. After that, the photo allegedly disappears.

But unfortunately for the app’s user base, which is currently sharing a whopping 150 million photos daily, it turns out those photos aren’t quite so fleeting. A Utah-based forensics firm has discovered that the photos are still stored on the receiving phone.


According to Utah’s KSL News, a firm by the name of Decipher Forensics made the discovery, perfecting a way to image the phone’s data and dig out the files. They’re able to do this because Snapchat doesn’t actually delete photos, it just assigns them a new extension (.NOMEDIA) after they’ve been viewed.

KSL had a chance to talk to Decipher Forensics and 24-year-old Richard Hickman who uncovered the capability during a mobile forensics course at Utah Valley University:

The photos take about six hours to extract (mostly time spent imaging the data) from a folder that the .NOMEDIA images are stored in called RECEIVED_IMAGES_SNAPS. Once the images are extracted, the file extension can be changed and the images made viewable once more. We wonder if Facebook’s Snapchat competitor “Poke” works the same way…

At this point, Decipher can only do this on Android phones (still working on iOS), and they haven’t yet been able to trace the source of the image, but Hickman is confident he will eventually succeed on both counts. The firm is currently charging between $300 and $500 to forensically dig up hidden photos for interested parties, in addition to working with law enforcement and lawyers.

(via Ars Technica)

  • matt g

    In related news, millions of tweens now in serious trouble for sending sexts to their pre-pubescent boyfriends.

  • Alan Dove

    Anyone who is the least bit surprised by this probably shouldn’t be allowed to own a smartphone.

  • Rob S

    Boom. That was the sound of the SnapChat business model.

  • Nikki Comma

    I feel like I should be sharing this in warning, but at the same time I don’t want anyone bullied to death again once the word gets out.

  • Chris Harris

    that’s funny actually. “should we delete the photos?” “nah, just assigned a different extension to it, that’s the same thing.”

  • 9inchnail

    Maybe it’s a rights problem? Are apps allowed to delete data without user confirmation? They could at least encrypt the pictures instead of basically just renaming them.

  • Tim O’Bryan

    So you mean to tell me I have potentially hundreds of images of people making ridiculous faces and videos of walking around on my phone?! Call the forensics experts.

  • RMJ

    can’t wait to see the good stuff :)

  • Nick

    Couldn’t you just browse to that directory or a similar one through ssh on a jail broken iPhone? Then just transfer them over?

  • Nick

    Update: in 10 ,minutes of browsing with ifile, I was able to find the directory where the videos are stored and played one right from the file browser.

  • Davidurface

    Hilarious these “scientist” take 6 hours to do something we can do in minutes straight from our phone hahahaha