Snapchat rival hopes to pounce on security breach
Mobile photo-sharing service Snapchat touts the fact that it doesn't save your messages, but a recent massive breach revealed weaknesses in its security—which one new app is now looking to exploit.
After Snapchat revealed last month that 4.6 million users had their information stolen, rival messaging app Wickr has seen a 50 percent spike in growth, said Nico Sell, Wickr's CEO.
Wickr places a much higher focus on security than other messaging apps, Sell said. Users can send text messages, audio messages, videos or photos, all of which are secured with military-grade encryption, meaning no one—not even Wickr—has access to messages you send or receive.
The app—which has been available on iOS for a little over a year—has had over a million downloads in 189 countries and is gaining momentum because people are looking for a secure way to communicate, Sell said.
"For Snapchat, it's really about having a minimal-viable-product attitude. It's the way companies have always been built, where security is an afterthought," Sell said. "But we believe that the companies that will thrive over the next 10 years are the ones who build security into the product from the ground up."
Unlike Snapchat, the Wickr app—which was built by a team of security experts—encrypts each message with a unique key that can only be used once, and only the sender and Wickr users have those keys. The company also disguises users' personal information, so that it doesn't know the identity of its users or how they are using the app.
"Wickr is light-years ahead of Snapchat and they have an entirely different philosophy," said Chris Weber, a co-founder of Casaba Security, a firm that specializes in helping companies keep their networks secure from hackers. "They are all about secure and private messaging with this extra feature of self-destruction," he said.
Even metadata, which is data that include how or when a message was collected, is completely erased with Wickr's shredding feature. In other words, Wickr forensically scrubs or "shreds" the details about a message from your device so that there is no evidence the message ever existed.
Hackers and security experts have also repeatedly said that pictures and videos shared via Snapchat are not completely erased from a user's phone after viewing.
"With Snapchat, the idea and concept is exactly right-on. But making data self-destruct is very difficult and takes constant diligence. So people think their data is disappearing on that app, but it's not in a lot of ways," Sell said.
Messages sent via Snapchat are vulnerable because they are unencrypted and saved on a server until the recipients view the message, Weber said. In fact, unviewed messages are saved on Snapchat's servers for up to 30 days, according to the company's website.
CNBC reached out to Snapchat for comment about its security procedures, but the company declined to comment stating that it is "currently not participating in any media opportunities."
One reason Snapchat likely hasn't taken more measures to secure its messages is because the company wants to keep—and make money off—a small selected portion of your data, Sell said. (Companies like Google and Facebook, of course, use customers' information to sell targeted ads.)
Wickr doesn't plan to make money this way, but instead plans to sell premium services, like encrypted phone services—to make money, Sell said.
"Private correspondence is a basic human right and it's something we want to bring to the entire world," Sell said. "The idea is that we want millions and billions of people to use our free service, but the top 3 percent will pay for specialty features like international calling and conference calling."
"What we always say is we need to offer a secure service with cool features that are better than our competitors' (features)," she said. "We treat users well and don't trick them. It's the loyalty factor."
—By CNBC's Cadie Thompson. Follow her on Twitter @CadieThompson.