One of the biggest hacks in recent times has just taken place on the popular photo-sharing social media platform Instagram.
For any average user, what immediately comes to mind after hearing the word “Instagram” are the glossy celebrity photos, profile pictures and images of models contained within the social network.
As expected, the hackers involved notoriously made use of their coding skills to exploit a bug found in the app, and they quickly went after the celebrity profiles first.
A similar situation occurred in the past when a great number of Apple iCloud accounts belonging to popular celebrities were hacked, causing obscene photographs to be leaked all over the web.
People who were eager to see what was in those leaked photos flocked to see celebrities naked, but this time there’s a huge twist in the tale.
After all, no one is going to give the hack much attention unless it affects them personally, right?
In this case, an unidentified group of attackers has gained access to an estimated six million Instagram accounts.
With a cyber attack of this massive scale, it’s easy to deduce that the accounts affected by the hack include your average everyday users—It could be any random person, from your neighbor to a coworker to a member of your family, or even your own account.
The hack has reached a whole new level because it’s not about naked photographs anymore, as many professionals and brands use the platform to maintain a strong engaged audience for their products or services.
Where The Hack Began
The story kicked off when the Instagram account belonging to popular singer Selena Gomez was hacked near the end of August.
The attackers responsible quickly posted obscene photos of her ex-boyfriend Justin Bieber on her page.
Much to the dismay of the two celebrities involved, Gomez has the second most-followed account on the app, following the brand handle of the platform itself.
In a press statement, the app’s developers claimed that a couple of A-list celebrity accounts had been subjected to a hack.
The attackers have managed to get hold of private photographs, email addresses as well as the personal phone numbers of these celebrities by exploiting a particular bug found within the software program.
The team was quick to react and didn’t waste much time fixing the bug that led to the hack within hours.
However, by that time, the hackers had managed to download millions of accounts that included the photos and phone numbers of random users.
The attackers setup an online sale over the dark web where others could pay in cryptocurrency like Bitcoin to purchase these accounts.
The value of the information provided varied based on how popular or how noteworthy the particular profile was.
Doxagram: A Marketplace for Hacked Accounts
While the original developers behind the app were quick enough to react, the hackers set up their own database named Doxagram.
Based on a surface web advertisement, the dark web content seems to provide a complete profile search for anyone who wants to browse through the six million profiles available for sale.
The lowest of the lot was sold for about $10 each, for which people could purchase contact information, including e-mail IDs and phone numbers.
Allegedly, some companies purchased the accounts so that they could use it for their marketing purposes.
The 50 most-followed accounts that had a huge audience base were sold for a much higher price.
Using cryptocurrencies for making transactions ensured that law enforcement authorities and cyber security agencies were unable to trace the hackers back to their original location.
Accounts of Top Celebs Affected
Instagram didn’t specify the total number of accounts affected by this hack, likely because the huge breach was caused by a bug that existed in their code.
The app has over 700 million users and, according to the hackers’ advertisement, at least six million have been exposed out into the open.
Instagram released a statement that said while personal information was leaked, the passwords remained safe as they were encrypted and never fell in the hands of the hacker.
Top high-profile celebrities including Emilia Clarke, Emma Watson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Channing Tatum, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, David Beckham and many others were part of the list.
Are you at risk? Sadly, Yes for Now
The celebrities include actors, singers and sports personalities, among other known figures.
At the moment, the most alarming fact is that the company says the risk of losing your account is much higher on the app right now, and the company doesn’t know which accounts were hacked and which were safe.
They are working with cyber security experts to find a permanent fix and apologized to their users for this fiasco.
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