Ellen DeGeneres’ (@TheEllenShow) #Instagram Account Got Hacked. Whose Fault Is It?; #socialmedia

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Lately there has been a string of popular Instagram accounts, particularly of celebrities, that got hacked. The latest is of daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. It's easy to blame “weak” passwords whenever an account gets hacked, but that's not really it. The knee-jerk reaction is also to buy into enhanced authentication… that's not a guarantee.

Accounts getting hacked is a symptom of a poor platform.

Strong passwords (long words over sixteen characters comprising of a mix of numbers, letters and special symbols) can only deter a brutal automated hacking attempt for a while. Just for comparison, online banking systems use short passwords as short as four characters (I for one only use five-character password to access online banking). Yet it's very rare to read on the news about bank accounts getting hacked.

Accounts getting hacked is a symptom of a poor platform.

So why is hacking so prevalent on Instagram (or on social media for that matter)? There are many clues, one of which is Application Program Interface (API) — a set of exposed functions that allows third-party applications to interact with a system, service or another application. Instagram's API opens the door for software developers (including the bad ones) to gain access to user data, especially public accounts. It's the reason why photos posted on public Instagram accounts are found on the web outside Instagram like search engines and photo aggregation sites — sites that siphon Instagram photos en mass and republish them on their own portal without permission, exploiting them for their own gain — like http://saveig.com, http://publicinsta.com, etc. The internet is riddled with leeching sites like these.

An API makes it easier to automate culling of posts from public accounts. What's more, Instagram's web version can easily be exploited without using an API.

Aside from the programmatic vulnerability, Instagram's user verification is only open to public figures and celebrities, and anyone with an email address (and a phone) can easily sign up. It's the reason why fake accounts are rampant. It's not just Instagram, it's an issue with most social media platforms. The fact that they're limiting user verification to a few people (or business) while allowing anyone to register is the reason why impersonators and social media robots exists in the first place. However, fake accounts artificially bump the number of members making the platform look popular. Faking popularity is also practiced by some users.

The fact that they’re limiting user verification to a few people (or business) while allowing anyone to register is the reason why impersonators and social media robots exists in the first place.

Some people (or business) buy followers to make them appear popular.

One could say deception is a social media culture problem — brought about by the hyper-individualism wave — and platforms are enabling it.

So can anyone do to minimize the chances of their Instagram account getting hacked? Use a strong password, like a sentence instead of just a word. Enhanced authentication is a band-aid solution, it's more of a hassle. It's just the platform trying to sell another service and collect more data from users.

Switching accounts from public to private and screening new followers can become tedious. And it won't prevent vetted users from hacking.

So with Instagram, this problem won't go away unless the platform change internally. Like clamping down on leeching and opening user verification to everyone who registers. If everyone is verified, it gives very little wiggle room for hackers to do their dirty tricks. But that would also mean Instagram will lose a lot of accounts.

The only thing users can do is use longer and more difficult passwords. Or switch to other social media sites that are more secure like Vero.

So if your account gets hacked, whose fault is it? Instagram.

My Instagram account was hacked last night (despite my clever password “password”). We apologize, and we thank everyone who brought it to our attention. I’m going back to sleep now.

Source: TheEllenShow

 

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