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Instagram Account Hackings and Cybersecurity Awareness

  In the growing age of social media, technology can advance almost every day, in expectation for its users to keep up. But sometimes, people with nefarious intentions can get ahead. 

  Last week, some students may have noticed their Instagram accounts locked or signed out of when they have not done anything. This is an obvious warning that something is not right. As it turns out, those accounts had been taken over by a third party and used to advertise cryptocurrency schemes. As a result, students were locked out of their account and unable to sign back in, thus losing access to saved pictures, posts and communication with friends on the app.   

  The third-party gains access to your account by having already taken your friend’s account and they will send you a link pretending to be them, with the attached message of something innocent, like helping them vote for a contest that does not exist. Once you click on the link, you will be signed out of your account and unable to sign in. It is in situations such as this one that we need to be more mindful of our online habits and to practice cybersecurity.  

  Computer science and cybersecurity instructor Courtney Bushyeager explains that modern technology and social media is not completely safe, no matter how secure you think you may be. 

  “I would say some of the dangers [of online environments] are we do not really have true privacy, as there is always a possibility of someone taking over your account, or data being leaked. Any of that information can leak to someone else, possibly taking over your account, or someone getting your information,” said Bushyeager. “With social media, it can be private conversations or personal messages or photos that you have stored up over your lifetime that gets corrupted and if you are dealing with other platforms like shopping, you can have your credit card information taken,  social security, or your personal address. So ultimately none of these things are completely 100% safe.”

  When you go online and use the internet, your every move is being tracked and recorded as data for companies to use. It is the companies’ responsibility to keep that data safe, but in the past, there have already been enormous data leaks from major companies, such as Google and Facebook. In addition, online shopping has surged since the beginning of the pandemic and when you enter information such as your credit card number or your address to purchase something, that too is stored somewhere and could easily be taken.   

  Bushyeager also reminds us to have good practices with things like cybersecurity.  

  “I know there are people that go the route of getting rid of all social media, but that is not always the case, especially if you enjoy communicating with friends or being online,” said Bushyeager. “There are things that we can do, like practice updating your password frequently to something that you are going to remember.” 

   Unfortunately, Junior Shannon Chau, was one of the students affected in the recent events. According to Shannon, she had been asked to change her email for another reason and had gotten locked out of her account. After not being able to access her account for multiple days and then eventually a week, she had to create a separate account. 

  “After I found out I got really frustrated, especially since I was not able to get my account back. But since there is nothing I can do about it now, I do not bother about it anymore,” mentions Chau. 

  Instagram does have an account retrieval system, which if you report the hacked account as “this person is pretending to be someone I know”, they will eventually investigate it. You then may be able to send them a photo of yourself, confirming that you are indeed the person you claim to be. However, if you do not have enough information or identifying photos on your account, Instagram can still refuse to give it back to you. 

  So what happens if you notice one of your friends’ social media accounts is acting strange? 

  Junior Nicole Li, a close friend of Shannon, advises, “Do not engage with the account, block and report them.” 

  Additionally, try paying attention to your friend’s habits or texting style, and be on the lookout for sudden strange behavior from people you know online. 

  In a world where technology only evolves faster and faster, it is up to the users to keep up and figure out how to be just as safe. After all it may not always be who you think on the other side of the screen. 

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