INSTAGRAM users have been warned that hackers may have already accessed their accounts without them realizing it.
It means that personal data – including your email address and phone number – as well as your photos could be at risk.
Instagram’s parent company Meta, which also owns Facebook, claims the image-sharing site has a billion active users.
While some may think users with thousands of followers are more likely to get hit with an attack, all users of the social media platform are vulnerable.
An account could be compromised, even if the hacker doesn’t get in contact with the user to let them know or demand a payment, according to Tom Gaffney, a security expert at F-Secure.
The most obvious sign is if there has been a change to the user’s registered phone number or email, Gaffney told the Daily Record.
Gaffney said hackers will alter those elements first to stop the user from getting any notifications about further changes.
In the settings of the social media app, the user can check if those have been changed.
Also in settings, the user can see what devices are logged into the account.
Unusual activity can also be a red flag.
Examples include a sudden surplus of messages sent to people from the account, if the account was blocked for spamming or if the user was subscribed to dozens of other accounts without knowing.
A notification that the account was logged in from a suspicious location is also a red flag.
Email addresses, phone numbers and other personal information are attached to Instagram accounts, so if a cybercriminal hacks in, they can access all of that information and use it elsewhere.
Users who notice any suspicious activity and still have access to their account should log in and change their password immediately.
A strong password should be used, made up of upper and lower cases letters and special characters.
Gaffney believes that fake brand accounts that are usually pushing counterfeit goods may be responsible for the hacks.
“Instagram scams are rampant right now, a result of its growing popularity and influence,” Gaffney told the Daily Record. “The power of Instagram is in how many followers you have – the more followers these brands can build, the more they can push other nefarious activity.”
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