How to retrieve deleted Snapchat photos on Android

SnapCapture, Snapchat Save Pics, and SnapSave are apps that save self-destructing Snapchat photos. While some of these apps have slowly started being removed from Google Play, there are other ways to get your Snapchat photos back.

Snapchat is now one of the most popular social media apps, thanks to its simple concept and lack of permanence: you take a picture or video with the app, add text, and send it to your friends. When they open it, they have a maximum of ten seconds to view it before the image is gone forever. Or is it?

The only way you can save Snapchat photos is if you’re quick enough to take a screenshot (which notifies users), or by using a third-party app to open images, although as mentioned, these apps are quickly disappearing from Google Play due to a violation of the Google Play Store’s policies.

Screenshot notification on Snapchat

Snapchat notifies users if a screenshot has been taken of the image

But what about getting back images that have already been opened– and destroyed– before you had the chance to save them? There are a few options for Android which could help you retrieve those files.

Accessing deleted files on your Android

When you open a photo or video in Snapchat for Android, and your 10 seconds are up, the file is kept in a folder on your phone, where it’s stored with a special extension. All received files end in .nomedia, an extension that makes them ‘invisible’.

'Deleted' files are kept in a secret folder

The folders where Snapchat stores received photos and videos (source)

Snapchat tells Android to make these files invisible, saving them to delete later. Deleting files is a time consuming and resource heavy process, so it will actually delete the files when it cleans the cache of temporary files.

How to recover photos and videos from Snapchat

It used to be simple to recover files using apps like SnapGrab, which made it as easy as copying the files to another folder with the help of a file manager, deleting the .nomedia extension, and opening the file. Unfortunately, most of these apps have been removed from Google Play.

SnapGrab could help you remove files

Even if a photo or video has really been deleted, it’s still possible to recover the data using apps such as Dumpster, which recover mistakenly deleted files.

Dumpster helps you recover mistakenly deleted files

But with the update to version 4.0, Snapchat encryption has been added to photos and videos; now, removing the .nomedia extension isn’t enough to recover Snapchat files. You also have to decrypt the data.

“Deleted” messages can be decrypted

Fortunately, if you’re really looking to get those snaps back, the encryption technique used by Snapchat to encrypt its files is weak. It was revealed by specialists GibSec in 2013, who alerted Snapchat of the vulnerability. After Snapchat ignored the notice, however, GibSec published the information on its website.

The code to decrypt Snapchat files

With this code, you can open photos and videos retrieved from SnapChat (source)

As noted in the XDA forums, the key to decrypt “deleted” images and videos is out there. With web tools like AES Encryption, it becomes possible to decrypt JPEG images and videos in seconds, and there are apps that take advantage of this Snapchat weakness to recover files.

Why isn’t Snapchat more secure?

It’s apparent that Snapchat puts the app’s performance and user enjoyment ahead of security. In fact, statements made by Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel have stated that its goal is not security, but for users to “have fun using the app.”

This type of safety-over-performance hierarchy isn’t new. WhatsApp has also suffered numerous security problems because of the sheer cost of strengthening the security of an app used by hundreds of millions of people. For now, if you want maximum security, you have to use more secure messaging apps.

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