Why Was My Instagram Account Hacked?
The web is an entanglement of pricey deceit
I randomly woke up in the middle of the night and checked my phone. It was almost 3 am and as always, instead of rolling over to make the most of the remaining hours, I decided to check in with two of my active accounts.
Twitter looked the same. Tweets referencing our Toddler-In-Chief’s pathetic display during his European tour, Azealia Banks still getting hate from haters, and another notable Black woman who is now getting hate from new haters.
I switched over to Instagram. It didn’t look the same.
I was logged out, and that wasn’t by my own design because my almost unhealthy reliance on Instagram for the quick fixes of escaping into unreality, wouldn’t permit me to make it harder to pull up the page.
I proceeded to enter my password and was rejected. But, then I got an eerie message that indicated that my new password had been mailed to an email address that wasn’t mine.
By this time, my eyes were wide open and I was starting to feel the sweat on my skin ganging up against the cool vibes of the air conditioner as panic quickly set in.
Something was very wrong.
It didn’t take long for me to reach my hotmail account and find two suspicious emails from Instagram situated in my inbox like poisoned cargo. Apparently, hours earlier, I had changed my email address to something I had never seen before, and if this information was false, I had the option to click on the link that would revert the process.
I clicked on it and a new page opened, but contained the words “link broken.”
I closed the page and went back to my inbox and opened the other email from Instagram. This time I was informed that my phone number had been removed from my account. I didn’t bother with the “revert” link.
Instead, I headed to my Twitter account to change my password. It was clear that I had been hacked, and I couldn’t risk another account getting infected while the attack was ongoing.
But, why me?
Not only am I not a notable user, but my number of followers combined don’t add up to anything that can be considered mildly impressive. I always assumed that victims of hackers were targeted based on their heavy online presence. And then, I wondered if maybe someone was trying to fuck up my Medium account. The links to my daily articles are the only items of value on a page that I have basically turned into a roving DJ booth — with frequent deposits of hits that keep me on the elliptical.
As I stormed the dark with the night light of the web, I ended up voraciously searching for how to rectify my literal nightmare. It wasn’t that I deeply cared about saving my Instagram account — it was really the violation of a space that I stupidly believed belonged exclusively to me.
The invasiveness of someone deviously manipulating the tools that you personalized — with the mandate to temporarily or permanently lock you out — is a breathtaking reality that I hoped would never happen.
I ended up at the “Hacked Accounts” section of Instagram’s “Help Center” and after scrolling though directions, I was able to decipher the strategy that would return my tampered account back to my control. First I checked to make sure that my “Revoke Access” feature was active, and it was. This essentially protects you from the threats of third-party apps. I clicked on the link to “Change my password”and I was immediately taken to my injured Instagram account where I was able to make the changes. Then, I took advantage of the opportunity to implement additional security by turning on the “two-factor authentication,” which essentially allows extra steps of being assigned codes via your phone number — that will add more of a challenge to anyone who tries to log onto your account from an unknown device.
By now it was a little past 4 am, and once my Instagram account was restored, I noticed that my bio and the link to my website were both missing. I felt like I was in foreign territory and for a minute — I considered deleting the account. Once you’ve been violated, you can’t go back to the way things were. And there was also the intense fear that perhaps my Medium page was at risk — especially since the link to my last article had been removed.
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The only thing that allowed me to at least take a breather, was the fact that I had revised the email address attached to my Medium account some months ago, and so there was nothing linking it to Instagram. Still, I can’t shake the scene that plays out in my head. It’s the one that involves me staring at a blank slate that used to host the evidence of almost five years of devoted labor.
From the moment the worldwide web became the mothership of communication and engagement, I was determined to tread lightly. I’ve always been skeptical about diving into virally new ventures — due to the simple tendencies of a background that included basic amenities.
My childhood and young adulthood were spent reading books that weren’t converted into the framework of the latest device. You couldn’t regulate serious shit that needed to be performed in a face-to-face meeting to text messages filled with emojis. You couldn’t decide to cancel plans for the next day — minutes before midnight with a quick text that barely explains your stark inconsideration.
Life was harder in a sense, but it was also refreshingly easier and safer, in the way that you had some control over your movements through the resources at your disposal.
Cyber attacks or warfare won’t be vanquished anytime soon, and of course it was an inevitable consequence of being granted unlimited access to a chaotic landscape, that actually doesn’t have any rules in place to counteract the threats against sensitive information that keep you active.
When I began to expand my portfolio of accounts, there was the excruciating phase of having to come up with the perfect passwords, and I assumed that relying on the uniqueness of my native language as an extra boost would prevent what just happened from happening.
But, as the years accumulate, you start juggling a ton of passwords, and inevitably drop the ball from the weariness of trying to remember what the hell you labeled the account — that’s abruptly asking you for the information you entered almost a year ago.
As it turns out, the old password for my Instagram account was fucking easy and dangerously weak. And as I spent the early hours of the morning, searching for testimonies from others who experienced my short-lived fate, I stumbled upon two articles that tackled my current disposition — head on.
The first one was published on Medium, earlier this year, and it’s a jarring and very detailed account of what one user went through when she discovered her Instagram was hacked, and she was suddenly entangled in a web of deceit that she couldn’t get out of, because of the lack of support from the very platform she was trying in vain to save from extinction.
The second one, is an enlightening offering from Vice’s tech magazine — Motherboard — and this is where my lifeline was sprung from, as I recovered pertinent information through the words that started off like a remake of the Sandra Bullock starrer, The Net — the 1995 “cyber mystery film” that centers on the futuristic terror of having your life deleted by corrupt hackers.
And then the essay progresses into the woeful state of affairs in the direly fragile climate of the web, as we learn how scammers are investing time and effort in the latest craze called “port out scam.”
This devious operation prompted T-Mobile to issue a mass warning to customers about the “industry-wide” threat that arms criminals with stolen phone numbers that they’re using to barter.
The other stunner is the thriving underground market that requires stacks of “stolen social media and gaming handles.”
The success of this particular scam is dependent on the availability of phone numbers that are required by most platforms for the initial setup. Instagram is one of those networking services that demand a phone number, which made me susceptible to hackers, that, and the fact that my username is short and sweet.
Apparently, when you possess “a short, unique username,” you’re prime meat to be minced for the value of up to $5,000 by marketers who are able to receive up to at least $40K worth of Bitcoin for stolen Instagram accounts.
Your phone number makes you highly desirable.
Just when I was getting used to the security of the two-factor authentication that I rapidly added to my Instagram account — I tragically found out that my damn phone number makes it unbelievably easy for hackers to hijack my account without my permission.
This means all that additional security is useless, and will definitely not thwart future efforts to seize my Instagram account, and this can be done without even knowing my password.
One of the victims in the article, didn’t just have Instagram to contend with, but also Hulu, Netflix, Paypal, Amazon, etc.
Basically, the infection spread to other platforms that contained her phone number. Luckily for me, I’ve never been comfortable with supplying my number, and only did so with Instagram because that was the only way I could set up the account. Paypal is the only other account that has a phone number attached.
I’m in the process of reviewing everything on deck, so that I can figure shit out and make the necessary revisions based on the shit storm that caught me off guard.
But, I’m still pissed as fuck.
I hate that there’s no way out of this frightfully entangled web, except to fully disengage. If not, you have to be willing to accept, that you could wake up in the middle of the night, and find yourself staring at credentials that don’t belong to you, on a page that used to be yours.
I hate that thieves are allowed to run amok, by turning innocent lives upside down because of the answers to silly security questions like, “Who was your first crush?” or “Where did you lose your virginity?”
I hate that everyone is in on it, and people like me who have always been cautious are now easy prey, simply because of the pressure to compete with “influencers” for the jobs that we never end up getting anyway.
I hate that assholes like Facebook, bait you into connecting any and everything to their interface, with the falsehood of convenience — when they’re really fucking you hard in the ass and reaping the rewards that leave us vulnerable to a world of pain that we naively asked for.
I hate that I can’t survive without the tentacles of the web, even though I fantasize about being able to do so, and now that I’ve been messed with, I feel even more helpless and bitter about my lack of power.
The pricey entanglement of the web is getting higher by the second, and soon none of us will be able to afford the clicks that still come so easily.
Minutes ago — I received a call from GoDaddy, where my former primary blog is being hosted. I have to fork over $300 to protect it from being listed as a “security risk” by Google due to its questionable web address.
The craziness never ends and looking back, I knew exactly what I was signing up for — and I also accepted that there would be no turning back.
So, further into the black hole I go!