Multiple Million-Plus-Follower Instagram Influencers Report Hacking; Emir of Qatar Possibly Affected
“Six of my Instagram influencer friends just had their accounts breached. These are five-million-follower pages or more,” developer and instagrammer Albert Renshaw told me tonight. “And tons of other influencers are reporting this too … it seems someone cracked Instagram’s system or somehow got everyone’s passwords.”
Renshaw runs @Beautifulplannett, which has almost 300,000 followers, plus multiple other large accounts. He also runs secure email services for Instagram influencers.
One developer I spoke to said the system issues were the result of an exploit by a group called the Saudi Electronic Army, a mysterious group that has hacked multiple Middle Eastern websites. As proof, they uploaded an image to a blackhat hacker site with information supposed belonging to Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the billionaire Emir of Qatar.
According to my source, this data proves unauthorized access to Instagram services. Potentially harmful fields have been blacked out, but I have seen the original with email and password-related details.
In an emailed comment, however, Instagram told me the problems are a result of a system bug.
“Due to a bug, accounts mistakenly received notifications about failed login attempts on their accounts,” an Instagram representative emailed me. “We quickly fixed the issue for everyone affected. Neither the accounts nor our systems were compromised as a result of this bug.”
Some of the developers and Instagrammers I spoke to are not so sure.
“The fact that multiple locations were being indicated and this only affected high-profile target accounts, not just random users all over, is suspect to me,” one who prefered not to be mentioned told me. “Also, there is a ton of talk about it in the blackhat community.”
Other influencers who have seen attempted attacks include Garland McAlexander, who runs @QualityCooking, and Moe Meyers, the owner of @cannabis. One of the biggest, @lmao, has 10.5 million followers. Another, @Kingbach, has 15 million followers, and just reported the hacking attempt on his Instagram account. (Update April 17: that post has since been deleted.)
At least one influencer that I’ve heard of cannot get back into his account.
The hack attempts, if they’re real, appear to be from overseas, with possible links to Iran, Ireland, Russia, and Greece, although the attackers are likely to have concealed or obfuscated their locations. The influencers learned about the issues when they received notifications in Instagram about unusual login attempts.
“There are two ways for you to get this security alert,” McAlexander told me via Messenger. “Either someone has signed in with your password, or has signed in via a “Login Link” that was requested … I think in my sphere of friends we’re up to about 30 accounts affected.”
Both of those two ways are concerning.