Twitter became an arena for public outcry for Instagram users unable to access their accounts – hackers seemed to have gained unauthorized access to hundreds of Instagram accounts. The attack seemed coordinated as more than 200 users reported receiving notifications that the email addresses associated with their accounts have been changed.
Cybercriminals have been able to gain access to IG users accounts, change the account emails and usernames, and effectively take over the profiles, preventing the real owners from the ability to reset their passwords. Accounts with two-step verification processes have been compromised too.
A few hundred hacked accounts may not sound like big news for a network that has more than a billion active users – people who do not protect themselves get hacked all the time. However, the story made the headlines because the incidents haven’t stopped yet. On the contrary, few days after the first public outcry, more and more people came forward reporting that they’ve lost access to their Instagram accounts in a similar way over the last months. What makes the security breach even more interesting is the fact that even though the hackers had access to multiple profiles, they did not cause the usual damage.
Most of the times when hackers gain unauthorized access to social media accounts, they delete the images, post unattractive comments, or just deface the profile. In this case, none of the affected accounts was drastically defaced. There were not political slogans either. The hackers might just be showing off a new way to hack Instagram profiles.
What to do if you’ve been hacked?
First and foremost, you have to report the issue to Instagram’s help center so they can investigate further. When Instagram accounts are taken over, usernames and email addresses are changed which makes the recovery of the accounts almost impossible unless you get in touch with Instagram. Users have been reporting that Instagram customer help has not been very active. However, after the public outcry and the negative publicity, Instagram issued a post assuring the victims that the Facebook-owned company has dedicated teams helping victims gain access back to their accounts. Here’s what to do if you’ve been hacked:
Change your Instagram password as soon as you get access to your profile
As soon as you manage to gain access to your account change your password, and do not use any passwords that you’ve used anywhere else. Having a secure password is one of the best ways to deter cyber criminals.
Change your email address password
It is still unknown how the hackers managed to get access to the accounts; hackers might have compromised your email address first. Whatever their way in is, changing your email password won’t harm you.
Turn on two-factor authentication
It is better to have it on rather than not having it at all. It is good to know that whenever an unknown device tries to access your IG account, the photo and video sharing platform will require a verification code as well as the usual password and username.
Having antivirus software installed on all your smart devices will make the life of cybercriminals much harder if they try to tackle you or your loved ones. Protecting yourself from malicious software will stop cybercriminals from stealing the information they need to access your social media profiles and cause harm.
Terminate account access to any third-party apps you don’t use often
This is a painful reminder that over the last few years, users have been giving access to their online accounts to multiple third-party apps. Giving so much power to random app developers could be dangerous – Facebook is still recovering from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Review your app list and revoke access to any suspicious apps connected to your account.
Some users are still unable to regain access to their profiles. If you are one of the affected, go ahead and approach Instagram if you haven’t done so already. Due to the severity of the hack, there is no way to get back access to your account without help from Instagram. And for the rest, take this as a lesson and be prepared as next time it may be your or someone you know! Stay on the safe side by backing up all your images, being protected, and changing your passwords at least once every three months.