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Hacking feat spots ghosts in Snapchat’s new verification tool

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Posted January 24, 2014
Hacking feat spots ghosts in Snapchat’s new verification tool
Chat service company Snapchat this week announced it was further nailing down its security with a new identification verification system, beyond fancy font-annoying CAPTCHAS, that could seal the deal in telling humans apart from information harvesters and malicious bots. With the new tool, site visitors are shown nine picture tiles, some with Snapchat’s ghost mascot and some without. Users need to differentiate among the pictures, to choose the ones showing the ghost, to prove the users are human. Interestingly, Lance Whitney of CNET, reporting the new tool, praised it as ” a step in the right direction” but also asked, “But how long will it take an enterprising hacker to find a way past this latest security measure?”

The answer is not long. Steven Hickson, a graduate research assistant at Georgia Institute of Technology, with research interests that include computer vision and security, promptly put the strength of the tool to his test. He noted that “it is such an easy problem for a computer to solve.”

Taking to his computer vision blog on Wednesday, he said, “The problem with this is that the Snapchat ghost is very particular. You could even call it a template. For those of you familiar with template matching (what they are asking you to do to verify your humanity), it is one of the easier tasks in computer vision.”

Read more at: Phys.org

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