Although it’s common to believe that A-list celebrities like Emma Watson are particularly targeted by individuals, influencers do not escape their grasp either. Individual cases are far less often reported, as the stories usually revolve around major events like widespread security breaches to social media sites.
Because influencers can be just as vulnerable to hackers as people involved in the Hollywood industry, it’s more important than ever to take steps to ensure security across all accounts, especially since they depend on their online presence for a living more than other individuals.
To highlight this, it wouldn’t hurt to have a look at the stories of some influencers that became victims of targeted hacking.
Thomas, 27, was going about her day when she got an email from hackers threatening to wipe her Instagram account with nearly 15,000 followers if she did not comply to a set of demands within three hours.
Half an hour after opening it, she got another email, saying, “Don’t you care about your account?”
After contacting Facebook for help with the threat, she received a generic response. Soon after that, her account email was changed under her nose.
“I ran my entire business through that page and I know that 15,000 followers is nothing and I am a small fish in the Instagram world, but now I don’t know what is going to happen to my business and that is the scariest part. It makes you realize how vulnerable social media is,” she told news.com.au.
She eventually just rebuilt her audience by moving to another account, but the damage to the previous one had already been done.
A Canadian resident, Meagan Baldini had over 42,000 followers on her Instagram account, which previewed ‘lip art’ featuring some of the largest cosmetics companies in the world.
The hackers this time were more swift. They took control of her personal email account, got access to her Instagram, taking it off of her hands, and then demanded she wire money to them to prevent her account from being completely removed.
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I’m going too be posting full face looks at least once a week again guys! ?? Been missing y’all, playing with makeup and trying new products??? Video of this look will be up tomorrow which will include a full list of products used ✨? #girlswithfreckles #freckles #makeupaddict #selftaughtmua #wavyhair #makeuptutorial #makeup #yvrmua #balayageombre
“I was so devastated, because I lost the history of my art, which is a big thing for me,” Baldini said.
It didn’t take much time until a reply from Instagram support came back saying that her account was unrecoverable because it had been deleted. However, after contacting a Facebook employee through LinkedIn, she luckily was able to restore her account with all its followers.
At this moment her account continues to operate and she has over 43,300 followers.
24-year-old California resident Lindsie Comerford is an Instagram promo model who shares photographs of her travels to over 40,000 followers. This year, she was greeted with the unpleasant news of having her email, banking account, and Instagram held hostage by a group of hackers.
Rather than contact support, which proved to be futile for the cases above, she asked an ethical hacker to help her retrieve her account, according to BBC.
“Well, apparently to get a hacked account back I have got to email support and help 10 times, leave 3 voicemails, and report my account before I could reach a magical help screen that actually guides you towards getting your account back. Getting the help is no easy feat though and honestly it requires sheer digital magic,” she wrote in her blog.
The BBC report also stated that Facebook introduced a delay before usernames can be claimed, making it more difficult to use exploits that could compromise the security of existing accounts.
Bram and Manon
Bram and Manon are a couple known as “The Flip Flop Wanderers,” who often post pictures of their travels around Instagram to 57,000 followers. On Christmas Eve in 2018, the couple found an email in their inbox very similar to the one Georgie Thomas received.
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Dance like nobody is watching ?? Well, nobody was watching because everyone on Sziget Festival was sleeping in, of course! ? Can you see all the different flags? Sziget embraces the power of diversity and that’s one of the reasons people from more than 100 nationalities come here to dance together, or just with the two of us in our case ? ✧ ✧ ✧ #sziget2019 #szigetfestival #festivaltravel #europe #europetrip #visiteurope #exploringeurope #hungary #hellohungary #travelhungary #travelblogger #instapassport #letsgosomewhere #youmustsee #wandermore #coupleswhotravel #travelwithus #passionpassport #bestvacations #backpackersintheworld
Just like in the Thomas case, the hackers threatened to delete their Instagram account should they not respond within three hours. At first, Bram and Manon thought that it was a joke email.
A few hours later, panic ensued as they couldn’t access their account.
“We just hit 50k followers on Instagram and were celebrating it just a few days ago with a lot of support from our community… Our Instagram account is a reflection of 2 years of super hard work, day and night, and it surely can’t all be gone now? Just in a split second?” the couple wrote in their blog.
They were eventually able to get their account back the same way that Lindsie Comerford did, by seeking the help of someone outside of the support network that Instagram has. Like Comerford, the traveling couple could not get adequate help through Instagram’s support lines.
This is unfortunately not a path everyone can take. Many times, Instagrammers won’t know anyone “in the loop” and would have to rebuilding their audiences from scratch.
To stop this from happening, as Bram and Manon said in their blog, it’s important to use two-factor authentication and use passwords that are more difficult to guess. The minor inconvenience of taking extra steps for security could prevent catastrophes like this from happening to other influencers.
In all of the incidents above, influencers were on the verge of losing their accounts and followers and were at the mercy of hackers. While contacting Instagram or Facebook support is the advisable course of action, steps should be taken to prevent account hacking in the first place. In our guide on social media account protection, we discuss simple security measures to help influencers safeguard their accounts.
Meanwhile, if you have any other stories, feedback or suggestions, please feel free to comment below or contact us.