There seems to be an upturn in hacked Instagram accounts recently, according to anecdotal evidence on Twitter. It also seems that Instagram was doing little to rectify the situation prior to August, according to those who have had their accounts hacked and were trying to get in touch with the social media giant.
For many who use Instagram, the first clue something is wrong with their account is when they discover a changed profile picture, a Russian bio, or new photos they didn’t post to their account. What is happening in such cases is that a hacker has managed to access their account, change their email address and password, and take over their account.
In theory, Instagram users should receive an email notifying them of any change of email address. But, in many cases, this isn’t happening. And, as users are discovering, once your email is changed, it is very hard to get in contact with Instagram to have the issue resolved thanks to the platform depending on an automated help center.
Since the Inquisitr recently reported on how easy it was for Sofia Vergara to get help from Instagram after her account was hacked, and how Instagram wasn’t actually responding to non-verified accounts who had the same problem, other media outlets are now reporting the same issue.
According to Mashable, hundreds of people have had their Instagram accounts hacked since the beginning of the month. However, this issue seems to have been going on since August of last year when there was a major security breach.
As Time explained at the time, the initial breach exploited a bug in “Instagram’s application programming interface [which] allowed hackers to steal personal information from high-profile user accounts.” Since this issue, all links in Instagram’s help center in relation to reporting hacked accounts have been removed.
Users have the option of contacting Instagram via their help center if they have an issue with their account. Instagram offers solutions on how to reclaim hacked accounts. Unfortunately, that avenue involves the user still having their email address registered with the account. Since these hackers are changing the user’s email address to ones usually associated with an email address ending in.ru, this help center advice no longer works.
The social media platform also offers a phone number, but when it is dialed, the number directs users back to the help center and there appears to be no way to speak to an actual person associated with Instagram.
Mashable has noticed an uptrend in reports of hacked Instagram accounts in the last few days. Using the tracking platform for Twitter, Talkwalker, Mashable found “there have been more than 5,000 tweets from 899 accounts mentioning Instagram hacks just in the last seven days.”
On Reddit, there also seems to be a spike in people looking for help to reclaim their Instagram accounts after being hacked. In addition, Mashable also points out that “Google Trends search shows a spike in searches for ‘Instagram hacked’ on August 8, and again on August 11.”
However, according to Digital Trends, Instagram says that “it hasn’t seen a jump in the number of hacked accounts.”
“We work hard to provide the Instagram community with a safe and secure experience,” an Instagram spokesperson said in a statement. “When we become aware of an account that has been compromised, we shut off access to the account and the people who’ve been affected are put through a remediation process so they can reset their password and take other necessary steps to secure their accounts.”
Mashable has since reported that Instagram has finally acknowledged the issue and are working to rectify the situation as soon as possible.
“We have dedicated teams helping people to secure their accounts. If you have reached out to us about your account, you will hear back from our team soon,” Instagram says.
According to Instagram, they are working on fixing their 2FA settings.
So, what can you do right now to secure your Instagram account?
Until Instagram fixes its help center issues, the best way to secure your Instagram account is to enable the two-step verification system that triggers Instagram to send the user a code every time there is activity on their account (beyond posting images). This way, no changes can be made until you have verified the code to Instagram. However, as Mashable points out, there is at least one reported incident of the two-step verification failing, and a user having their account compromised by the hackers.
While many users are reporting their accounts being hacked, once they have had access revoked to their own account, the new user doesn’t seem to be doing anything nefarious with the account beyond changing the profile picture, changing the bio and occasionally posting new pictures to the compromised account.