Social Media

InstaHack? Russians Target Facebook Again

Picture this: Your personal photos are floating around the social media sphere – your family, friends, experiences – and you have absolutely no control over it. Scary thought, right? It’s exactly what happens when your Instagram account gets hacked, and it’s exactly what happened to me.

Let me rewind.

My Instagram profile AbbieNowak was a public profile showcasing photos primarily of my family. I woke up on Thursday, Aug. 9 and began my normal routine of clicking through to my social media profiles. When I got to Instagram, I was hit with a pop-up: “This account no longer exists.” It’s a shock, but your mind doesn’t immediately go to the worst-case scenario. It’s probably just a glitch, right?

Then, the hard truth: While my account no longer exists under AbbieNowak, it is currently active under MarielNathalie. Mariel has taken ownership of my 219 posts. Posts chronicling my daughter’s first birthday, her first time meeting Santa, her first Fourth of July.

As soon as I found that my handle had been changed, I attempted to reset the password on the account. This attempt failed, as the hacker changed the email address associated with the account – the email address now ends with .ru, Russia’s largest internet domain.

Since I couldn’t reset the password, I found Instagram’s “Need more help?” link and filled out the form that my account was hacked. I provided my original handle, along with the new handle. I also had my friends “Report” my account. However, reporting an account only blocks the profile from being seen by the person reporting it. Reporting the hacked account to Instagram doesn’t trigger the company to investigate, freeze or suspend the account as one would logically presume.

Here’s how my interactions with Instagram support have gone thus far:

Aug. 9, A.M. – Reported hacked account to Instagram.

Aug. 9, P.M. – Instagram 2Fac Support emails a code requesting I hold it up on a piece of paper along with my name and username. I have the picture taken and send it in.

Aug. 10, A.M. – Report hacked account to Instagram.

Aug. 11 – Report hacked account to Instagram.

Aug. 12 – Report hacked account to Instagram.

Aug. 13, A.M. – Instagram 2Fac Support asks for a description of the issue I’m experiencing, email/phone number associated with account and any previous usernames. I reply immediately.

Aug. 13, P.M. – Instagram 2Fac Support emails another code, and I send back the requested photo immediately.

Still no help from the source, despite the fact that I work as a social media manager at a leading ad agency that spends literally millions of dollars on Facebook and Instagram advertising. I decided to take my grievances to Twitter in an attempt to reach Instagram support. To my surprise, I was one of hundreds tweeting about their hacked Instagram account.

A reporter from Mashable reached out to me within minutes of tweeting and asked for me to share details about what happened. She told me most people hacked also had their account changed to a .ru email address. Everyone being hacked over the past two weeks has been hacked by Russians. Read the Mashable story here, and the Daily Mail’s follow-up here.

Five days since my account was compromised and Mariel was still in complete control. I didn’t get the sense that Instagram was moving toward a resolution of recovering my account or even deleting it, so that my content is not being compromised by Mariel. Instagram hadn’t even acknowledged that any of this is happening.

For those of you not in the social media world, Facebook owns Instagram. We certainly don’t need to recap the Russian/Facebook debacle, nor the promises made by Mark Zuckerberg to make the social media platforms secure and protected.

On the sixth day, Instagram sent me an email with steps to recover my account. While cheering for joy, I’m thinking about all of ridiculous steps it took to get here:

  • Approximately 15 submissions to “Need me to help?”
  • 3 code/identification confirmation emails to Instagram 2Fac Support
  • 5 emails to Instagram 2Fac Support explaining the issue

The recovery email (received at 11:36 p.m. ET) was also hysterically sandwiched between two other emails from Instagram 2Fac Support asking me to briefly describe the situation, for the fifth time, and another claiming that they can only assist with one account at a time. You’re right Instagram, let me not give you the full story and provide the handle of the original and hacked account because your system is too confused to read the description and why I’m providing two handles.

While I’m happy to be able to post Instagram stories and updates again, I naturally made a post immediately. However, I’m still thinking about the hundreds of people that are waiting for Instagram 2Fac Support to get back to them and the patience needed to follow down their rabbit hole.

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