Snapchat Covert Screen Capture for Android Revealed

Capture of a SnapChat image.

At a family gathering today, a relative introduced me to SnapChat, and showed me how it only temporarilly stores images, then deletes them when you're finished looking at them.

For those who don't know SnapChat is a "temporary" image service.  The concept is simple - images are sent, viewed, and destroyed within 10 seconds.  If a user attempts to take a screenshot of the image, the sender is sent a notification.  I tested the "screenshot detection" and sure enough...if you take a screenshot with your Android phone it really does send a notification!

It was recently revealed that there is a method of capturing SnapChat images for iOS without the sender knowing by accessing the files directly on the device's storage drive.  But this only works on iPhone or iPod Touch.

Always up for a challenge, I decided to see if I could bypass SnapChat's "temporary" storage and save a permanent copy of photos I receive.

After performing some analysis of how SnapChat works, today I'm going to reveal how to permanently save incoming SnapChat photos on any Android phone.

Android phones have a feature called "USB Debugging" which is commonly only used by tech savvy users or developers.  This feature allows you to connect your Android phone to your computer and monitor its activities using the Android SDK.

One of the features of the Android SDK is, you guessed it, a screen capture utility.

By simply following these instructions from you can capture the current screen without alerting the SnapChat app.  Simply time clicking the "Refresh" button just right and you'll be able to capture that "secret" photo.

Note that this is not a flaw in the SnapChat app - this is the intentional design of the Android operating system.

This is a "high tech" method of defeating SnapChat.  A "low tech" undetectable method would be to simply take a picture of you phone's screen using a camera from another device.

So what should users take away from this? A simple security lesson - if you don't want someone to be able to save something you send them, and don't want to risk that knowledge or picture from being posted publicly, then don't send it to anyone in the first place.