FutureFive New Zealand logo
Consumer technology news from the future
Story image

Symantec: How Instagram accounts were hacked & altered to promote adult dating spam

By Contributor
Mon 15 Aug 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Earlier this year, we reported an influx of fake Instagram profiles luring users to adult dating sites. Over the last few months, we have observed Instagram accounts being hacked and used to promote adult dating spam.

Figure 1. Instagram account password changed by scammers

Our findings follow a previous report on Twitter accounts being hacked to post links to adult dating and sex personals, which bears some similarities to this new campaign. However, we have not established a direct link between them.

Traits of a hacked account When we first noticed these hacked Instagram accounts, we observed a few identifying traits:

  • Modified user name
  • Different profile image
  • Different profile full name
  • Different profile bio
  • Profile link changed/added
  • New photos uploaded

Figure 2. Example of hacked Instagram accounts

The profile instructs the user to visit the profile link, which is either a shortened URL or a direct link to the destination site. The profile image is changed to a photograph of a woman, regardless of the gender of the actual account owner.

In addition to modifying the profile information, attackers upload photographs, which are often sexually suggestive. However, they do not delete any images uploaded by the account owner.

Figure 3. Original images from account owner remain on hacked profiles

Account passwords changed The attackers also change the passwords for the breached accounts, which is how the original account owners may learn of the compromise. Even after a few months, these accounts remain in the same state, indicating that the real owners may have created new accounts since.

Scammers get lazy or change tactics? Recently, we have noticed hacked Instagram accounts lacking some previously identified traits, such as:

  • Instagram user name remains the same
  • No new photos uploaded

Figure 4. Examples of hacked Instagram accounts with fewer changes

It is unclear why these two identifying traits have been discarded. However, everything else remains intact, including the modified profile image and link.

Affiliate-based spam As with similar scams, the profile links redirect to an intermediary site controlled by the scammer. This site contains a survey suggesting that a woman has nude photos to share and that the user will be directed to a site that offers “quick sex” rather than dating. Interestingly, this page only appears on mobile browsers. If the user tries to visit the URLs on a desktop computer or laptop, they are sent to a random Facebook user’s profile.

Figure 5. Adult-themed survey leads to adult dating website

Once a user completes this survey, they are redirected to an adult dating website that contains an affiliate identification number. For each user that signs up to the site through this link, the affiliate, or in this case the scammers, will earn money.

How were these accounts hacked? While we do not know how these accounts were compromised, we suspect that weak passwords and password reuse are the cause, especially since over 600 million passwords have surfaced in 2016 from breaches affecting other sites.  

Enable two-factor authentication (if available) Earlier this year, Instagram began rolling out two-factor authentication to its users. This account security feature would prevent the scammers in this campaign from taking over accounts. However, not all Instagram users have this feature available to them. Users can check to see if the option is accessible by tapping the wheel icon on their profile.

Figure 6. Instagram users should enable two-factor authentication, if available

Report hacked accounts If you or someone you know has had their Instagram account hacked, report the account to Instagram. Note that Instagram will only release information to the account holder and not a third party.

Article by Satnam Narang, senior security response manager, Symantec.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
PaaS
New digital traffic light system to tackle construction defects
Smarter Defects Management launches its PaaS digital system and says it will revolutionise managing defects in the construction industry.
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft backing Māori and Pacific wāhine in tech industry
A new initiative focused on getting Māori and Pacific wāhine into the tech industry and backed by Microsoft, NZTech and the government is calling for tech companies to get involved.
Story image
Review
Hands-on review: MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WIFI motherboard
It’s all change with Intel’s 12th generation CPUs. We have a new chipset in the 600-series, a new socket with the LGA 1700, and new DDR5 memory.
Story image
Gaming
Mastercard users can now use rewards points in gaming
Mastercard has launched Mastercard Gamer Xchange (MGX), allowing APAC consumers to convert their rewards points into gaming currency.
Story image
Corsair
Hands-on review: Corsair 32GB Vengeance 5200MHz DDR5 DRAM kit
Corsair’s Vengeance 5200MHz DDR5 DRAM offers PC users an entry-level upgrade to the new memory standard allowing them to get a little bit more out of their new Alder Lake CPUs.
Story image
Logitech
Logitech releases new mouse with ergonomic and sustainable focus
Logitech has announced the Logitech Signature M650 Mouse and the Signature M650 for Business Wireless Mouse, both with new ergonomic features and capabilities.
Story image
E-waste
NZ’s first and only e-waste sorting machine launched
Computer Recycling launches e-waste shredder and MSS optical sorting machine BLUBOX, which is able to sort out a tonne of e-waste per hour
Story image
Collaboration
TikTok launches community-inspired effect capability
TikTok has announced the launch of its Effect House feature to allow its users to create and share Community Effects.
Story image
HCL
HCL brings TechBee IT education programme to New Zealand
HCL is bringing its TechBee early career programme to NZ in an effort to help close the country's IT skill gap.
Story image
Malware
Vulnerabilities in Lenovo laptops expose users to UEFI malware
Researchers at ESET have discovered three vulnerabilities affecting various Lenovo consumer laptop models.
Story image
NFT
Emirates to launch NFTs and experiences in the metaverse
"Emirates has embraced advanced technologies to improve business processes, enhance our customer offering, and enrich our employees' skills and experiences."
Story image
Sustainability
The AI Forum helps NZ pave the way with AI sustainability practices
Non-profit organisation The AI Forum is helping Kiwis learn about addressing climate change issues through the use of AI technology.
Story image
Poly
Poly introduces new smart devices and announces Amazon e-store in Australia
Poly is introducing two new pro-grade devices to the market and announcing its first official Australian e-store on Amazon.
Story image
Gaming
Game review: Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands (PC)
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a spin-off that joins Borderlands, Borderlands 2, Borderlands 3, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.
Story image
Wireless
Sony to bring new 1000X series WH-1000XM5 headphones to the market
Sony has announced the newest edition of its award-winning wireless headphones, with the 1000X series WH-1000XM5 noise-cancelling model.
Story image
Dynabook
Dynabook A/NZ announces new Portégé X40L-K hyperlight laptop
Dynabook A/NZ has unveiled the all-new Portégé X40L-K, a hyperlight 14.0" modern laptop utilising cutting-edge, high-performance computing power.
Story image
IDC
IDC finds 3.9% decline in worldwide tablet shipments
Preliminary data from IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker has found tablet shipments reached 38.4 million units during Q1 2022, a year-over-year decline of 3.9%.
Story image
Wireless
Hands-on review: Steelseries Aerox 9 Wireless and Aerox 5 gaming mice
Steelseries offered two interesting mice for review, the Aerox 9 Wireless, aimed at MMO/MOBA players, and the Aerox 5, a wired mouse for multi-genre use.
Story image
Jabra
Hands-on review: Jabra GN PanaCast 20 webcam
We get our hands on a Danish-designed high end webcam that has some rather unique artificial intelligence (AI) features.
Story image
Jabra
Jabra reveals its latest portable headset Engage 55
Jabra has launched the Engage 55, the newest product in Jabra's Engage series designed for ultimate call security and quality.
Booster
Booster Innovation Fund. A fund of Kiwi ingenuity – for Kiwi investors.
Link image
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Tell-tale hints before volcanic eruptions found using AI
Researchers have pinpointed precursors to volcanic eruptions, in data collected before explosions including the deadly 2019 Whakaari surge that killed 22 people.
Story image
Review
Hands-on-review: Creative Outlier Air V3
Creative is back with the third version of its affordable Outlier Air wireless earbuds range - aptly named the ‘V3’. And this time, they come boasting ambient mode and active noise reduction.
Story image
Norton
Hands-on review: Norton Anti Track 19 software
We get hands on with Norton's new privacy tool that was introduced in March 2022.
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft unveils adaptive accessories for disability access
Microsoft is introducing an expansive Inclusive Tech Lab to give people with disabilities greater access to technology through new software features and adaptive accessories.
Story image
Gaming
Game review: Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga (Xbox Series X)
The Lego Star Wars games have always been popular with both kids and adults as they are a cute way to relive the famous movies.
Story image
Gaming
Hands-on review: The A500 Mini Retro Gaming Console
Retro Games, the UK outfit responsible for a range of retro gaming devices from joystick to full-sized Vic-20s and C64 emulators, have launched their A500 Mini Retro Gaming Console.
Story image
Mobility
Hands-on review: STM laptop bags
The advent of hybrid working has meant we need laptop bags. We got our hands on two of the most popular laptop bags from STM.
Story image
Gaming
Hands-on review: Ghostwire Tokyo (PS5)
Although a bit of a tonal departure for Bethesda, Ghostwire Toyko is a good-looking and eerie action game that is aimed at a very select audience.
Story image
Gaming
Game review: MLB The Show 22 (PS5)
Historically the MLB The Show series has been exclusive to PlayStation consoles, but now the franchise is expanding.
Story image
Gaming
Hands-on review: 32GB PNY XLR8 Gaming MAKO 6000MHz DDR5 memory kit
PNY’s XLR8 Gaming MAKO DDR5 memory modules are designed to get the most out of systems based on Intel’s 12th generation Alder Lake CPUs.
Story image
Review
Hands-on-review: GoPro Hero 10
I have a long history with GoPro; I still remember getting my first camera when I was 16, using it to film Parkour and the day I lost it down a dingey crag. 
Story image
Review
Hands-on review: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition
In almost every respect it works like a book, apart from the fact that it weighs next to nothing, fits in my hand perfectly, and is soothing on my eyes.
Story image
D-Link
D-Link launches new G415 Smart Router as part of EAGLE PRO AI range
D-Link A/NZ has announced the launch of its new G415 AX1500 4G Smart Router as part of the new EAGLE PRO AI Series.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Google to enter the smartwatch market with the Google Pixel Watch
Google has provided a first look at its new Google Pixel Watch, which is set to make an entry into the competitive smartwatch market.
Story image
Gaming
Study reveals Minecraft the hardest mobile game ever
According to a study by Mozillion, Minecraft: Pocket Edition tops the list as both the most searched for game and the one players need help with and try to cheat the most.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Significant spike in consumer fraud, new report finds
Reported cases of consumer fraud more than tripled in the years 2020-2021 from prior years, according to a new report by Accenture.
Story image
Wireless
Hands-on review: Technics EAH-A800 Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones
Designed in Osaka, Japan, these headphones just exude quality. They aren’t heavy, but they feel well built and solid.
Story image
Sustainability
Can bots succeed where humans have failed in sustainability?
People want businesses to turn talk into action, and believe technology can help businesses succeed where people have failed.  
Story image
Design
Dynabook launches new Tecra A40-K and A50-K models
Dynabook has announced two new additions to its Tecra range, with both said to help promote flexible working solutions while also reducing the strain on IT managers.
Story image
Gaming
Game review: Weird West (PlayStation 4)
There have been many games released over the years based on the wild west era, but Weird West is one of the most unique.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Russian, Ukraine-themed war lure of choice for cyber espionage
Russian and Ukraine-themed war documents have become the lure of choice for cyber espionage, according to a new analysis from Check Point Research.
Story image
Gaming
Hands-on review: Intel Core i7-12700 CPU
Intel’s middle-of-the-road 12th generation Core i7-12700 offers performance at a lower price than the pricey Core i9 for users that are not fussed by overclocking.
Story image
Online shopping
A/NZ shoppers plan to spend less, be more selective
For retailers, 2022 is set to be a year of introspection as shoppers across Australia and New Zealand indicate they plan to spend less.