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Engineer bypasses Snapchat’s CAPTCHAs with fewer than 100 lines of code

A computer engineer said it only took 30 minutes to write up 100 lines of code that consistently allowed him to bypass Snapchat's most recently implemented security feature – a CAPTCHA that requires users to locate ghosts in a series of images – via computer.

The CAPTCHAs were introduced on Tuesday as a way to ensure that those who create accounts are actually human, but it is not likely to scare off any bot-creating attackers because the Snapchat ghost image is too particular, according to Steven Hickson, the computer engineer who wrote up the code and posted it online.

Hickson said the ghost image is akin to a template and explained that template matching is an easy task in 'computer vision.'

“I ended up using OpenCV and going with simple thresholding, SURF keypoints and FLANN matching with a uniqueness test to determine that multiple keypoints in the training image weren't being singularly matched in the testing image,” Hickson wrote in a blog post, explaining OpenCV – a free-to-use programming library used for real-time image processing – is not the only way he could have tackled the problem.

Roughly 30 minutes and fewer than 100 written lines of code later, Hickson said that his program was able to find the ghost with 100 percent accuracy – even though he explained that his coding is not perfect.

The introduction of CAPTCHA's is just the latest in a line of newly implemented features meant to boost Snapchat security after individuals took advantage of a vulnerability in the popular messaging app's application programming interface (API) and stole a database of 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers.

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