Hackers target celebrities Instagram pages
When famous vlogger Amayra (26) received a 'direct message' on Instagram to have her account verified, she didn't see anything suspicious. She was, in fact, happy that a more secure and authentic account would help add to her 1.2 million followers.
"I remember the message that came in March. It asked me to click on a link. After I did that, I could not access my account again," she said. She registered a complaint with Instagram and also reported the matter to Delhi Police's Cyber Cell. "But I'm yet to get my account back," she said.
Rinku Aggarwal (34) had a flourishing online business of supplying niche products. He would get lots of orders because of his 2.3 million Instagram followers. Early this month, he couldn't log into his page. "I approached the police. About 70% of my clients are unable to see what I'm doing or contact me because my Instagram page doesn't exist," he said.
Yashmita Grover (25) is a lifestyle blogger in South Delhi. She had 80,000 followers on the photo and video-sharing social networking app, not too long ago. "In May, I received a personal message on Instagram that asked me to click on a link to verify my account in one simple step. I did and lost access to my account. I approached the police and also wrote e-mails to the Police Commissioner, after which the Cyber Cell contacted me and helped me block that account," she said.
About 50 cases of Instagram account hacking are being reported in Delhi every day. Hackers are targeting those who have a substantial following. These accounts are then being sold to those looking to exploit the followers and push their products on Instagram that has about 1 billion users.
Cyber security expert Gautam Kumawat, who works with the police, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and security agencies, said, "Hackers send links that ask users to enter their e-mail addresses and passwords. These, profile photos and mobile numbers are immediately changed and accounts are sold. Hackers are also redesigning profiles based on clientage."
He said over 50 Instagram accounts are being hacked every day in the city. "Most victims approach Delhi Police's Cyber Cell, but having their accounts blocked with help from Instagram is all they are able to do," he said.
In Delhi, 50 accounts with big following are being hacked & sold for a price every day. Is yours safe? Kislay Chaudhary, chairman of Indian Cyber Army, an association of ethical hackers, said several software are used for hacking. "These accounts are sold to people who want immediate followers. From Rs 50,000 to several lakhs of rupees, buyers are ready to pay anything," he said.
Kusha Kapila, a popular social media influencer with 484,000 Instagram followers, said, "I get many e-mails offering verification if I share my email address and password. But I have never fallen for the trap, as I could sense that something is fishy."
Delhi Police Spokesperson Madhur Verma said cops take action when victims approach them. "But the safety is first in the hands of the user. One should be very cautious of cyber attacks and should not click on random URLs," he said.
In the last few months, many southern actresses have fallen prey to these attacks. Recently, Hansika Motwani's Instagram account was hacked by some miscreants. Hackers also leaked her private photos that went viral on social media.
Megha Akash's 690,000 Instagram followers were taken over by hackers in February. Profile details and display picture of her account were also modified by hackers. Her profile name was changed as Russian DJ Damla Ekmekçioglu. Her photos were deleted and Damla's were uploaded.
In a first case of its kind in Gujarat in November, a 20-yearold youth was arrested for hacking a Rajkot woman's Instagram account with an intention to sell it.
During interrogation, he said that he had put up her account for sale for Rs 25,000. He said he targeted her as she had 1.17 lakh followers. After downloading Zshadow. info, he had learnt the technique on YouTube to use it.