Jack’d Leak: Dating App ‘Exposes Millions of Private Photos’
We’ve had mixed feelings about the gay dating & hookup app, Jack’d, for many years on Cypher Avenue. But this latest news of a massive private photo leak, that lasted for up to a year, has surely sealed the deal for us.
According to the BBC News and Ars Technica, a security flaw “has been leaving images posted by users and marked as “private” in chat sessions open to browsing on the Internet, potentially exposing the privacy of thousands of users.”
Those who knew where to look for the leaked images could find them easily online, even if they did not have an account with the dating app.
Personally, I haven’t used Jack’d in a couple years, but i did have a couple face pics in my private photo section. Although I’m not concerned about my face being associated with a gay dating app, I’ve since deleted them nonetheless.
While the security flaw apparently seems to now be fixed, the fact that the error was caused by the developers themselves, not Russian hackers, should give users pause when uploading their private images in the future. It’s doubly disappointing Here’s the full story, from Ars Technica:
Amazon Web Services’ Simple Storage Service powers countless numbers of Web and mobile applications. Unfortunately, many of the developers who build those applications do not adequately secure their S3 data stores, leaving user data exposed—sometimes directly to Web browsers. And while that may not be a privacy concern for some sorts of applications, it’s potentially dangerous when the data in question is “private” photos shared via a dating application.
Jack’d, a “gay dating and chat” application with more than 1 million downloads from the Google Play store, has been leaving images posted by users and marked as “private” in chat sessions open to browsing on the Internet, potentially exposing the privacy of thousands of users. Photos were uploaded to an AWS S3 bucket accessible over an unsecured Web connection, identified by a sequential number. By simply traversing the range of sequential values, it was possible to view all images uploaded by Jack’d users—public or private. Additionally, location data and other metadata about users was accessible via the application’s unsecured interfaces to backend data.
The result was that intimate, private images—including pictures of genitalia and photos that revealed information about users’ identity and location—were exposed to public view. Because the images were retrieved by the application over an insecure Web connection, they could be intercepted by anyone monitoring network traffic, including officials in areas where homosexuality is illegal, homosexuals are persecuted, or by other malicious actors. And since location data and phone identifying data were also available, users of the application could be targeted
There’s reason to be concerned. Jack’d developer Online-Buddies Inc.‘s own marketing claims that Jack’d has over 5 million users worldwide on both iOS and Android and that it “consistently ranks among the top four gay social apps in both the App Store and Google Play.” The company, which launched in 2001 with the Manhunt online dating website—”a category leader in the dating space for over 15 years,” the company claims—markets Jack’d to advertisers as “the world’s largest, most culturally diverse gay dating app.”
The bug was fixed in a February 7 update. But the fix comes a year after the leak was first disclosed to the company by security researcher Oliver Hough and more than three months after Ars Technica contacted the company’s CEO, Mark Girolamo, about the issue. Unfortunately, this sort of delay is hardly uncommon when it comes to security disclosures, even when the fix is relatively straightforward. And it points to an ongoing problem with the widespread neglect of basic security hygiene in mobile applications.
Hough discovered the issues with Jack’d while looking at a collection of dating apps, running them through the Burp Suite Web security testing tool. “The app allows you to upload public and private photos, the private photos they claim are private until you ‘unlock’ them for someone to see,” Hough said. “The problem is that all uploaded photos end up in the same S3 (storage) bucket with a sequential number as the name.” The privacy of the image is apparently determined by a database used for the application—but the image bucket remains public.
Hough set up an account and posted images marked as private. By looking at the Web requests generated by the app, Hough noticed that the image was associated with an HTTP request to an AWS S3 bucket associated with Manhunt. He then checked the image store and found the “private” image with his Web browser. Hough also found that by changing the sequential number associated with his image, he could essentially scroll through images uploaded in the same timeframe as his own.
Hough’s “private” image, along with other images, remained publicly accessible as of February 6, 2018.
There was also data leaked by the application’s API. The location data used by the app’s feature to find people nearby was accessible, as was device identifying data, hashed passwords and metadata about each user’s account. While much of this data wasn’t displayed in the application, it was visible in the API responses sent to the application whenever he viewed profiles.
After searching for a security contact at Online-Buddies, Hough contacted Girolamo last summer, explaining the issue. Girolamo offered to talk over Skype, and then communications stopped after Hough gave him his contact information. After promised follow-ups failed to materialize, Hough contacted Ars in October.
On October 24, 2018, Ars emailed and called Girolamo. He told us he’d look into it. After five days with no word back, we notified Girolamo that we were going to publish an article about the vulnerability—and he responded immediately. “Please don’t I am contacting my technical team right now,” he told Ars. “The key person is in Germany so I’m not sure I will hear back immediately.”
Girolamo promised to share details about the situation by phone, but he then missed the interview call and went silent again—failing to return multiple emails and calls from Ars. Finally, on February 4, Ars sent emails warning that an article would be published—emails Girolamo responded to after being reached on his cell phone by Ars.
Girolamo told Ars in the phone conversation that he had been told the issue was “not a privacy leak.” But when once again given the details, and after he read Ars’ emails, he pledged to address the issue immediately. On February 4, he responded to a follow-up email and said that the fix would be deployed on February 7. “You should [k]now that we did not ignore it—when I talked to engineering they said it would take 3 months and we are right on schedule,” he added.
In the meantime, as we held the story until the issue had been resolved, The Register broke the story—holding back some of the technical details.
Continue reading more technical details and reporting on security flaw disclosure for companies here: Indecent disclosure: Gay dating app left “private” images, data exposed to Web
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