Instagram is a highly popular social network, making phishing on the platform equally prevalent. According to the "Digital Report 2021" by Hootsuite and We Are Social, Instagram ranks fifth among the most downloaded apps with 1.221 billion active users. Notably, the platform has seen a 63.6% surge in users aged between 55 and 64, proving its growing popularity across diverse demographics.
Centered around visual content—photos and videos—as well as instant messaging, Instagram, like any social platform, is vulnerable to hackers. These hackers can exploit in-app communication systems and launch conventional phishing attacks like credential harvesting.
In this article, we discuss the implications of such attacks, potential scenarios in which they can occur, and protective measures.
1. Impact of Instagram Account Hacking
Both individuals and businesses face multiple repercussions from a compromised Instagram account, ranging from data breaches to brand image damage.
- Data Leaks: One immediate consequence is the exposure of private messages. Access to one's Instagram account can lead to theft of personal data, especially through chats. Sharing sensitive information via Instagram DMs, for instance, with influencers or in customer support, can risk these details getting exploited.
- Identity Theft and Escalation: With access to messages, hackers can impersonate the account owner, affecting not only their image but also the safety of their contacts. Impersonating messages, intermingled with genuine ones, are harder to spot.
- Unauthorized Posts: Hackers can make unauthorized posts, directly impacting the account's audience. Worse, if you've allocated advertising funds on the platform, they can promote these posts, amplifying their reach. For instance, in 2013, Burger King's Twitter was hacked, falsely declaring the company's purchase by McDonald's. Similarly, in 2015, "CyberCaliphate" hacked the U.S. Central Command's Twitter, warning soldiers of an imminent ISIS attack.
- Financial Implications: If advertising funds are linked to the platform, there's also a financial hit. Hackers can misuse the advertising account and access billing information, easing further identity theft attempts.
2. Instagram Phishing Scenarios
Various phishing techniques can compromise Instagram accounts:
- Security Alert: A popular tactic is the security alert, where the victim receives a misleading email about a suspicious login, guiding them to a counterfeit Instagram login page to steal credentials.
- Copyright Violation Alert: Victims get notifications from a fake Instagram Help Center about potential account deletions due to copyright infringement. Playing on urgency and fear, the objective is to redirect victims to a fraudulent contact form, aiming to extract login details and personal data.
- Verified Status Solicitation: Some hackers lure victims with the promise of a verified badge for their account, leading them to phishing sites.
- Instant Messaging Exploits: Another method involves exploiting Instagram's messaging feature, where the attacker might entice the victim with irresistible offers or contests, guiding them to malicious links.
3. Anti-phishing Measures for Instagram
Primary defenses against identity theft attacks include:
- Password Strategy: Passwords should be unique, randomly generated, and complex to fend off potential hacks.
- Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Activating 2FA or MFA is a deterrent for many hackers.
- Secure Procedures: Limit the sharing of confidential information on platforms like Instagram. Use dedicated support platforms for customer service.
- Education: Familiarize yourself with phishing tactics, understand the techniques, and develop strong, long-lasting defense reflexes.
With Instagram often serving as a showcase for businesses, the aftermath of phishing attacks can be severe. By understanding hackers' strategies, adopting a complex password, enabling two-factor authentication, and regularly educating yourself and your team, you can better protect against these threats.