Instagram hacking has more than doubled since last year with large accounts falling victim to intruders, especially accounts connected to the weed industry.
Why? Because weed-related accounts tend to have a lot of followers and happen to be connected to legit companies that are still forced to deal only in cash.
Instagram, currently the fastest growing social media network, also provides marketing tools for weed companies who are still dependent on alternative outlets due to marijuana’s tentative status. This is especially true these days with so many anti-weed crusaders in the White House trying to turn the clock back.
According to the LA Weekly, an employee of TLC Collective in Los Angeles, said an affiliated account—the Jungle Boys grow operation with more than 300,000 followers—was recently disabled for 24 hours.
Another Instagram account belonging to the CaliCropDoc, a consulting firm for growers, knew of an affiliate with 1.6 million Instagram followers who had its account hacked after promoting a giveaway for medical marijuana companies RxCannaCare.com and PathogenZERO.com.
The account was taken down and replaced with smiley face that said, “You’ve been hacked.”
Instagram security consultant Anthony Carbone, whose clients reach 18 million followers with 30 Instagram accounts, says hackers can take over users’ mobile phones by virtually switching their SIM cards.
In these days of hacking paranoia, many would have us believe that most hacks are coming from Russia, but Carbone says they are being done by a community of hackers around the world for all sorts of reasons.
Carbone says hackers have moved on to weed-related accounts after having exhausted the takeover of actors, sports stars and famous people.
“This is happening [to marijuana-related accounts] because the hackers have gone through all the celebrity accounts and exotic car pages in the last year and a half,” Carbone explained.
Hackers demand ransoms of $2,000 to $25,000, depending on the number of followers an account has, Carbone explained.
Ponying up the ransom can be worth it for businesses that rely on Instagram to make money, he says, like weed companies.
While Instagram can and does help users recover accounts, sometimes it doesn’t happen fast enough.
“While an Instagram account takeover is a new twist, ransoming digital accounts is very common and has been going on for some time,” said Eva Velasquez, president of Identity Theft Resource Center, in LA Weekly. “Scammers are always inventing new ways to exploit their targets.”
This writer noticed that there were far more articles on Google about how to hack an Instagram account than there were on how to avoid or recover your account from hackers. So take all precautions, and then some.