High-Profile Instagram Accounts Targeted by Hackers

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on January 22, 2019 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

To many Gen X'ers, social media influencer seems like a preposterous career. But to Millennials and beyond, it's a dream come true. Social media influencers are online personas that have established a certain level of credibility and reach among followers within a specific industry, to the point that they are able to persuade consumers to buy, or not buy, a product or service. This is big business, both to marketing firms and the influencers themselves.

According to Traackr, an influencer management platform, 72 percent of major brands say they dedicate a sizable portion of their marketing budgets to influencers. High demand influencers, such as PewDiePie and other YouTube personalities, especially those in the gaming industry, can command up to $250,000 per post. This is big money!

Influencers Hijacked by Hackers, Left High and Dry by Instagram

Where there's big money, there's usually big crime. High profile Instagram influencers are now being targeted by hackers, and without much recourse. Hackers are taking control of some Instagram influencers' accounts and holding them for ransom.

Of course, hacked influencers immediately contact Instagram, since the account, the associated followers, and the ability to post regularly to the account, are vital to their business. But surprisingly, Instagram is of little help. It can take hours, or even days, to get in touch with the appropriate party at Instagram. Influencers are asked to send them a variety of oddly-requested photos to confirm their identity. And after all the hoops have been jumped through, the best Instagram can do is shut down the account. The company cannot hack the hacker.

White-Hat Hackers to the Rescue!

Because Instagram has been so unhelpful, many victims turn to so-called white-hat hackers to retrieve their hijacked accounts. There's one Robin Hood type white-hat hacker that is particularly famous among Instagram influencers, Juan Diego J Palaez, a Colombian social media expert. Palaez claims to have a variety of ways to get the hackers to return the hijacked account. Clients don't know how Palaez does it, and frankly they don't care. Instagram account hackers are rarely caught, and arrested less often, since the crime can be hard to prove and suspects have been known to reside outside of the country.

If you are an Instagram influencer, or plan to be one, make sure to take as many steps as possible to protect your account. One victim recommends using Instagram's two-factor authentication to help make accounts more secure. Instagram suggests changing your password often, and revoking access to questionable third-party apps. To cover your bases, keep frequently updated backup files of postings and followers. In case you are locked out of your account, never to return again, at least you can have your data along with your memories.

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