Benevolent Hackers Seek To Exploit The Flickr 1TB Offer

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Github users show how to take advantage of Yahoo’s big offer and store non-photo files on Flickr

Yahoo isn’t just exciting the photography community with its offer of 1TB of free Flickr storage as hackers are hurriedly figuring out how to chuck non-photo files into the company’s data centres.

Flickr new

The resurgent Yahoo today relaunched Flickr, which had been left looking dated for years until the shiny new look was given to it by CEO Marissa Mayer and her company. Yahoo bought Flickr in 2005.

Mayer said the extra storage was “enough for a lifetime of photos – more than 500,000 original, full-resolution, pixel-perfect, brilliant photos”.

“Flickr users will never have to worry about running out of space,” she added.

‘Hacking’ Flickr

Hackers might have something to say about that, as they’ve sought ways to trick the Flickr system into accepting non-JPG or PNG files.

One Github user has claimed to have created a tool that “turns Flickr into a storage engine”. “Files are encoded as hex strings and saved as a tEXt chunk inside the PNG, so the actual image could be anything. Flickr preserves the original data intact in the ‘Original’ size,” the user wrote.

“Unfortunately this method is very wasteful, resulting in file sizes 2-4x the original.” A video of how the Github user “hacked” Flickr is shown below:

Another user also went down the PNG encoding route, in a post entitled “flickr-store”. “This is mostly a proof of concept right now. Don’t do anything beyond tinkering with it yet,” they added.

Yahoo has put a 200MB limit on the size of each photo. Previously it was 50MB for paid users and 30MB for free accounts.

If people can use Yahoo’s 1TB of free storage for non-photo files, it would prove massively popular. Indeed, it would beg the question whether this is really sustainable, especially from a monetisation perspective. Google only offers 15GB of free storage across its cloud services and until recently, it was 5GB.

Yahoo had not responded to a request for comment on hackers’ plans to play with the storage and the sustainability of the free space.

Outside of the additional storage, Flickr now has a revamped interface, an endlessly scrolling gallery, an  Activity Feed, a slideshow to view photos in full screen, and a fresh Android app.

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