Saturday, 28 September 2019

Cuddle Fairy and the Instagram Pirates - Protect Your Social Media

A drawing of a fairy, smiling, wearing a purple dress and a white flower headbandI am writing this post primarily to help a friend, but also to try to prevent anyone else suffering the same fate. Her plight has made me realise exactly how easy it is for your online content; photos, writing, whatever, to be taken and used against you and how distressing it is when this happens. It is preventable and we all need to take steps to protect ourselves so that blackmailers can't prosper. In this post I will show you how to secure your online life and also how to help support someone who lost everything she'd worked hard for at the hands of these cretins. I think it is important that she gets something back of what she lost, so that those criminals don't win.

Cuddle Fairy is a blogger who has spent 5 years of her life making a beautiful Instagram feed, full of lovely photos that created a window into her little world. Her focus was very much on positivity and joy and her happy posts appealed to so many people that, over time, she amassed over 39,000 followers. Then, suddenly, yesterday she found herself locked out of her own account. Shortly after, she received a message from strangers telling her that she must pay $300 or her account would be deleted. Obviously, you can't give in to blackmail, who knows where it would end, they could just keep asking for more and more money, so she appealed to Instagram for help instead. It was her account, surely it must be possible to get it back from these people? As I write this, however, they have been unable to help and Cuddle's account is no more. She is being her usual stoic, positive self, the exact same qualities that made her account so popular in the first place, and I think she's amazing for being able to stay upbeat in the face of this horrible situation. If you would like to support her and beat the pirates who think it's okay to hold someone's work to ransom, you can follow her new account here: Cuddle Fairy on Instagram

Screenshot of a message reading: Your account has been hacked and temporarily blocked. Waiting for an answer 2 hours! If no answer, we begin to clear your account.

It is really easy to secure your account to make it much harder for unsavoury people to get hold of your property or information. It doesn't take long and is really worthwhile, because although it's easy to think it won't happen to you, if it does, it could cause a lot of heartache and problems. It isn't worth the risk. Below are the steps you can take to keep your accounts secure and avoid this happening to you. 

  1. Pick a secure password. I know some people worry about using a combination of letters and numbers, in case they forget it, but there are ways around this. You can use a memorable word, but change some of the letters for numbers, like this: R3M3MB3R, or 1Nd1ANA or you can use a short word and add some numbers at the end that are memorable to you, such as an anniversary or door number. The important part is to find something that is specific to you and thus impossible to guess. 
  2. Change your password regularly and never ignore a request from your social media platform advising you to do so. They sometimes perform automated security checks which recover stolen log in information, so changing your password could be protecting you from a threat to your account. 
  3. Never click on links to your social media from an email. If you receive an email that is purporting to be about your social media account, open the account in a separate tab and log in yourself. Some scammers use sophisticated methods to get your password using seemingly innocent communications. 
  4. Use Two Factor Authentication wherever it's available, it's there for a reason. See below for how to do this on all the major social media channels. 
  5. Be vigilant with third party apps. Only allow apps permissions if you are sure you trust them and check your third party apps regularly, removing any you don't use, in case they get hacked. 

Screenshot of messages demanding $300 for release of the owner's instagram account.

Two Factor Authentication

Two factor authentication requires an extra step to log into your account instead of using just a password, such as receiving a code via text message or using a security app. This means that even if someone guesses your password they will still be unable to access your account. Here are the steps to activate Two Factor Authentication on different social media accounts. 

Facebook (PC): 

  • Click the down arrow right in the corner of the screen. 
  • Click Settings, then Security and Log In. 
  • Scroll down to where you see 'Use Two Factor Authentication' and click Edit. 
  • Click on Get Started.
  • Select the security method you prefer.
  • Follow the instructions given.

Facebook (Mobile): 

  • Click the three lines in the top right hand corner.
  • Scroll down to Settings
  • Click Security and Log In
  • Click Two Factor Notification
  • Follow the instructions given

Instagram (Mobile): 

  • Click on the little person shape in the bottom right corner.
  • Click on the three lines in the top right corner.
  • A list will pop up and right at the bottom, click on Settings.
  • Click on Security, then Two Factor Authentication.
  • Follow the instructions given.

Twitter (PC): 

  • Click on 'more' in the main menu.
  • Click on Settings and Privacy, then Account.
  • Click on Security.
  • Tick the Password Protect box.

Twitter (Mobile):

  • Click on your profile picture, top left.
  • Click on Account, then Security.
  • Tick the Password Protect box.

Google and YouTube:

  • Go to your Google account.
  • Click on Security.
  • Scroll down and click on Two Step Verification.
  • Click on Get Started.
  • Follow the instructions given. 

As you can see from these examples, the process is generally pretty similar and you will probably be able to work it out for any other channels you need to secure. Even if you don't feel you have anything worth stealing, it is still a total pain to try to recover a compromised account and I think it's worth stopping these nasty scammers in their tracks as often as we can. Please pass this information on to anyone you know who might be vulnerable and let's do everything we can not to let the scammers prosper. Cuddle Fairy wants a positive new start with her new channel and is not going to let these people grind her down, so I hope as many people as possible can get behind her and support her. 


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