While COVID-19 continues its spread throughout the world, cybersecurity experts say there’s another virus of sorts infecting our livelihoods at a record pace: social media hackers.
The 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report, conducted online in partnership with The Harris Poll, reported one out of every four Americans detected unauthorized access to an account or device over the past year.
Just one week ago, the Bainbridge Township Fire Department apologized on their Facebook account after a spokesperson said someone briefly took over their account and tried to sell t-shirts on it.
From credit card information to telephone numbers and email addresses, Dr. John Nicholas said the data collected from hacking a page has value.
Nicholas serves as professor of computer information systems and cybersecurity at the University of Akron.
“All of this stuff is sellable on the dark web,” he explained. “[A] password, depending on where they're from, can be sold on the dark web from anywhere from $12-39. So you can see that even if you got a million of the $12 passwords, that's still a pretty good profit.
Mary Peplin, 22, has tried and tried to recover her Instagram account for more than two weeks now.
The Cleveland nanny said someone hacked her account and began posting messages in an attempt to trick her followers into believing she could help them make money with cryptocurrency.
“Now my face and my profile is virtually being used to run a Cash App and Bitcoin scam and ruin other people’s lives,” she said. “It’s happening to so many people.”
Peplin said she received an email notification when her account had been hacked, but by the time she tried to secure it, the link was broken.
“They acted so fast,” she added. “They changed my email, they changed my password and then they turned on two-step verification. There’s absolutely no way in.”
While she was able to recover her Facebook account, Peplin said she still cannot access her Instagram account. Since she started trying to recover her account, she said she had friends reach out to say they had been tricked into providing money to the hacker.
“I’m just a nanny,” she said. “I have to keep a wholesome image and it’s not a very wholesome image if people think I'm running a Cash App scam.”
News 5 made repeated attempts to Facebook, Instagram and its parent company Meta about these hacks. News 5 asked what Meta is doing to help prevent them and how they’re working to better restore accounts to their proper owners. The company has not responded to our questions.
To better protect accounts from this type of hack, Nicholas said everyone should take three steps to protect their accounts:
- Establish a strong password
- Enable two factor authentication, where you use something like your phone to help sign in
- A log-in confirmation sent to your email
“It's going to slow you down and it's going to be frustrating at first,” Nicholas said. “But it's safe and it's the only safe way to do it.”