Company Can Recover Deleted Snapchat Media
May 10, 2013

Tech Company Says It Can Recover ‘Deleted’ Snapchat Pics

Enid Burns for — Your Universe Online

It turns out those messages that delete themselves can actually be recovered — for a fee. The popular app Snapchat, which allows mobile users to send photo and video messages to friends and know they will automatically delete themselves after viewing, is under scrutiny again.

The Utah-based tech firm Decipher Forensics now claims it can recover those messages even after they´ve ostensibly disappeared from the phone. The company uses special forensics software to retrieve Shapchats from a phone, even ones sent a long time ago, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

"This type of information can be very valuable in any investigation, especially one involving exploitation of a minor," said Richard Hickman, lead examiner at Decipher Forensics, in a statement. "This research will help law enforcement officials retrieve what has been believed to be unrecoverable."

The news stems from the company releasing preliminary results of research it did on the Snapchat app. This changes the Snapchat promise that videos and photos are "shared, enjoyed, but not saved." According to recent reports from the app maker, their users send about 150 million images per day. That means of all of those ephemeral watch-it-and-its-gone images, some small percentage might actually be recovered through Decipher Forensics´ service.

The key to Decipher Forensics´ recovery strategy was the discovery that Snapchat doesn't actually delete pictures. Instead, it simply adds a .NOMEDIA file extension to the picture or video, which makes the file user unable to view the media from a phone. However, the file is still on the phone and can be extracted and moved to a computer where the file would become accessible.

"Android developers created a way for media files such as graphics to be stored on the phone for application use and function without being put into the Gallery application as an image to be viewed. The way that they did this was with .nomedia files. If a directory has a file named .nomedia, then the media stored will not scan and record the metadata of files in that directory, " the Decipher Forensics report states.

While the files are stored on the phone, Decipher Forensics claims the average person cannot find these files, and that experts are required.

Recovery though Decipher Forensics is costly, however. Businessweek reports it costs between $300 and $500 per phone, and it is not clear whether that is for a single file or all files on the device. With such a hefty price tag, most people will have to think long and hard about whether the images or videos are really worth recovering. The cost may be justified in legal proceedings, but it is unlikely that many individuals will dish out that kind of cash for the casual recovery of images.

Decipher Forensics is a company that handles password recovery and decryption for businesses and consumers. The company sells monitoring software under the name SniperSpy, AceSpy, Net Spy Pro, Mobile Spy, Phone Sheriff and Peek Tab. The company also offers add-ons, including Stealth Email and Sniper Spy Screenshot Upgrade.

Snapchat isn't too concerned about the news that images can be recovered, with some cost and effort, US News reports. "We´re really not paying much attention to it," said Snapchat Vice President of Communications Mary Ritty.