CLEVELAND — Like a viral disease quickly spreading throughout the community, hackers continue to take over local business social media accounts.
As News 5 has previously reported, one out of every four Americans detected unauthorized access to an account or device over the past year, according to the 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report.
Recently, Valerie Mayen and her business, Yellowcake Shop Clothing Company, had a hacker posing as her client take over their Instagram account and its more than 13,000 followers.
“We really felt like our hands were tied,” Mayen explained. “We got this message from the hackers: pay $500 to get the [account] back. We’ve worked really hard to cultivate it, and to lose it all overnight, it sounds so silly and so petty, but our business depends on it.”
Mayen told News 5 she had removed the recommended two-factor authentication behind her account since it became cumbersome for her handful of employees to keep posting on the account.
“After this incident, we’re not taking any more chances,” she explained.
Kate Randle, a public policy manager at Meta, told News 5 two-factor authentication, on top of limiting those who have access to your account, is critical for long-term protection.
Meta is the parent company of the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram.
“Just like the same way you would lock up your shop at the end of the day, you should employ the same type of vigilance with your online accounts,” she explained.
According to its website, Meta says it employs more than 40,000 people, a workforce larger than the FBI, many of them focused solely on safety, security and tackling today’s online pirates.
“Sometimes it does take some time because we do want to make sure that you are an authentic user and that this isn't a hacker actually trying to gain access to a legitimate account,” Randle said. “So we certainly always want to do our due diligence to make sure that we are not providing access unnecessarily to folks while also making sure that we're doing everything we can to get those businesses back to their account and doing what they need to do online.”
Randle suggests everyone take a proactive look at Meta’s online security manager for small businesses and security check-ups for Facebook and Instagram to help stop this growing problem.
Back at Yellowcake, even with the help of an acquaintance who works at Meta and help to expedite their hack, Mayen said it took six days to recover her account.
“If it hadn’t been for our connection, I don't know if we would’ve been able to get our account back,” she said. “I do know for a fact that there are some people, because of our hacking, that have also been hacked. It’s nonstop. It’s like a vicious ripple effect. It’s like a virus spreading continuously to people and it can happen to the best of us.”