Instagram is a free and popular photo-sharing social media platform that allows you to share photos and videos with your friends and family members. As with any other popular social media platform, there is an increased interest by cybercriminals to hack Instagram accounts. This article will talk about the five common methods and what you can do to prevent cybercriminals from hacking Instagram accounts.
Instagram Hacks and Vulnerabilities:
- Weak Passwords
- Remote Keyloggers
- Phishing Emails
- Zero Day Vulnerability
- Mobile Operating System Vulnerabilities
1. Weak Passwords
Hackers can easily hack Instagram accounts if the passwords are easy and are commonly used such as a nickname, phone number, partner’s name, pet name, just to name a few. The hacker could perform a brute force attack to obtain your password and once they do, they can do whatever they want with your account.
How to Protect Against Weak Passwords?
Users should make sure that they select a strong password with a combination of numbers, symbols, space bar, and lower and uppercase letters. They should make sure that the password for their Instagram account is unique and not the same password used for other email or social media accounts.
This would reduce the risk of your account being compromised. A usual site to verify that your accounts are safe is HaveIBeenPwned. Here you can see if your credentials have been leaked to the public.
2. Remote Keyloggers
A remote keylogger is a “piece of software that records whatever you type on your mobile device or computer and sends it to the person who installed it” (The Zero Hack). Once a keylogger is installed, anything that is typed (password, login credentials, bank information, etc.) will be recorded and can be viewed by the hacker. This is a secretive method for a hacker to hack Instagram accounts.
How to Protect Against Remote Keyloggers
- Do not use third party keyboard apps
- Do not open any attachments or click on links in the email message as the keylogger may be embedded in the attachment
- Install anti-spyware applications to help detect, disable, quarantine software-based keyboard loggers (Norton)
3. Phishing Emails
An attacker sends an email pretending to be from Instagram and advises you to click on a link to reset your password or to fill out some survey. Regardless of the content of the email, as soon as you click on the link and enter any credentials, the attacker has your personal information and successfully gains control of your Instagram account.
In 2019, a hacking group stole identities of high profiles by sending phishing emails to these accounts stating that they may be eligible to receive the Verified badge on their Instagram profile. The email provides a link asking the user to verify their Instagram account by entering their credentials (see screenshot below).
The attacker successfully gained the credentials of the high-profile accounts and tricked users into thinking they are verified. This is another method to hack Instagram accounts.
How to Protect Against Phishing Attacks?
Users should be educated and informed on the characteristics of phishing emails in order to keep an eye out for them. Here are what you can do:
- Do not click on any links or open any attachments from a suspicious email
- Do not enter personal information from a pop-up screen (note: legit companies would never ask for personal information via a pop-up screen
- Keep an eye out for misspellings in the contents of the email
4. Zero Day Vulnerability
A zero day vulnerability is a “software security flaw that is known to the software vendor but doesn’t have a patch in place to fix the flaw” and may be exploited by hackers (Norton). If a hacker finds a zero day vulnerability on Instagram, there could be some serious security risks for Instagram users and their accounts. Since it is an undiscovered vulnerability that has not been publicly announced yet, this gives the hackers an advantage.
How to Protect against a Zero Day Vulnerability?
There is no way to completely avoid zero day vulnerabilities, but you can take the necessary security precautions to prevent attackers from hacking Instagram. These are just a few:
- Make sure that you are using the latest version of Instagram
- Enable two factor authentication
5. Mobile Operating System Vulnerabilities
If there are vulnerabilities on the mobile operating system then hackers can not only hack into the phones themself, but they can also hack Instagram. Most of the exploited vulnerabilities may come from zero day vulnerabilities.
How to Protect against Operating System Vulnerabilities
- Make sure to upgrade your operating system when an update is available
- Do not install applications from unknown sources and only from trusted sources on the app store.
Final Thoughts on Instagram Hacks and How to Prevent Them
These are the five common methods on how to hack Instagram and how to protect against each method to prevent your Instagram account from being hacked. I am sure that there are many other techniques that hackers can use to hack Instagram accounts.
Hackers are always one step ahead in finding new techniques where prevention might not be possible at first. Therefore, you should make sure that you do everything you can to ensure that your account is secure.