Update: This story has been updated with comments from Ithaca City School District officials and to replace comments from the Tompkins County Sheriffs Office.
ITHACA, N.Y.—The New York State Police and the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office are investigating an incident involving a hacked Snapchat account and threats of exposure if inappropriate pictures were not sent to the hacker.
State police said they would not specify the age of the victim, although the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office’s statement seems to strongly indicate that the victim is underage. State police said they are only investigating one case currently, but did not know if other agencies had similar cases; county police said they are not investigating anything similar at this time.
“The New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation at Ithaca is investigating one case where a victim reported that a hacker entered the victim’s ‘for my eyes only’ folder on Snapchat and retrieved a personal photo,” said NYSP Troop C Public Information Officer Agnieszka Dembinska. “The victim reported that the suspect, threatened to take the photos and post them if they did not send more photos.”
While information on the actual hack that took place was scant, both agencies published guidance about how to avoid being scammed when using Snapchat, which is a photo app that is based around sending pictures that are automatically deleted once opened by the receiver. Ithaca City School District told the Ithaca Voice that they are assessing the situation, but would not say how many of their students have been impacted.
“This is something we are concerned about and take seriously,” said ICSD Chief of Information Zachary Lind. “We have reviewed our district email logs and chat records but have not yet identified information that would help solve this problem.”
“Remember, once a photo is sent to another person you have lost control of where that photo goes,” Dembinska wrote. “Do not store them in a folder, even if it’s titled ‘for my eyes only’ or in an app that claims that the photos will be deleted. If you have any personal photos or videos that you don’t want others to see, delete them. Keep information like your passwords private. If someone tries to obtain photos from you, don’t give in.”