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Instagram accounts are being hijacked with help of Russian email addresses

Back in the day there was Live Journal, which was followed by MySpace. Facebook soon took over as the go-to social media platform, and it is still popular to this day.

The last decade or so has seen a handful of other social media sites rise to the top, with Instagram being one of the most notable. Originally just a place to post pictures edited with filters and then captioned, it has millions of users and in 2012 was even bought by Facebook.

That led to some changes and improvements, with the platform still being about photos but also adding messaging and other neat features. But like any site or platform, the larger its audience the more attractive it is for hackers.

Sure enough, it is happening

According to Mashable, hundreds of users are reporting that their accounts have been broken into. Essentially when they try to open the app they are informed that they have been logged out of the account.

When trying to log back in, the people are greeted with a message that says their username does not exist. Furthermore, upon finding their account on the site, it is revealed that their username and photo had both been changed — the photo often to a Disney or Pixar character — as were the email address and phone number associated with the account.

Requesting a password does not help, as the email to do that gets sent to a .ru address. If you’re not sure what that means, it’s that the email belongs to a Russian account.

The attacks seemed to start about the beginning of August, and as of now it is unclear as to how the attackers are accessing the accounts. Also, the hackers do not seem to be posting new photos or removing old posts, but instead are just changing the account information to lock the actual owners out.

Can it be prevented?

Like most hacks, there are steps you can take to if not eliminate the possibility, at least decrease your chances of being victimized. One common theme found in most of the accounts that were hijacked is a lack of two-factor authentication.

Instagram offers the feature, which provides and extra layer of security when someone other than you may be attempting to log in. To turn it on, just go into your Instagram’s settings and scroll/slide down until you see the spot for Two-Factor Authentication.

Turn it on and you will be prompted to enter in a code, which after doing so will lead to you receiving your numbers. While this should help protect your account, some have said they had that feature active when their accounts were taken.

Of course, that information would not help anyone whose account has already been taken. If yours has, your best hope is to report what happened to Instagram and hope they can get everything sorted out.

It probably won’t be easy, nor get fixed quickly.

Unfortunately, Instagram’s policies do not make it easy for people to regain control of their accounts. The platform is set up so that if an email address is no longer associated with an account, it cannot access it via the automated recovery process.

Victims have reached out to Instagram for help, and some have reported that they have gotten things restored. Others have found the response to be lacking, and for many — especially those who are Instagram influencers or have brand pages on the platform — even a brief time without the account can be quite devastating.

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