Yes, Your Instagram Account Can Be Stolen
I have been thinking for awhile about writing a blog on the problem of online theft of photos and how to deal with that problem proactively. I suspect the work of street photographers is a bit less vulnerable than the work of some other genres because it is hard to use our photographs commercially without a model’s permission. However, as a blogger, I have a new appreciation of how easy it is to download a picture off of Facebook and use it. Of course, I am scrupulous in getting permission, but not everyone is.
The issue of preventing photo theft was therefore not a front burner issue for me because the risk seemed relatively small. Then I realized the true risk of having an Instagram account stolen and what that means for a photographer. For many of us, probably most of us, our Instagram gallery is the only place our work can be publicly viewed. When someone steals our gallery and claims it as their own, aside from being a major copyright violation, it is assault on our artistic identity. It is also the theft of the hard work that it takes to build a follower community.
The full force of such a theft came to me as I was getting ready to publish blog that included a photo taken by my Instagram friend, Teresa, from her account @tsllvina. Someone had stolen her account. She could see, and I could see, all of her posts and her followers, but they were under another name and she could not access the account. I was going to have to publish her picture without citing an account, because effectively she did not have one.
At about the same time, my Instagram friend, Jaclyn, triumphantly reported that after a long time she had finally gotten access to her account. I do not know if being locked out of that account was a because of theft or some other problem, but the result was the same. She had no access to her posts or her followers. The final straw came as I was talking with my daughter. She reminded me that a family member had an account stolen that had no posts and no followers. What value could that kind of account have?
Teresa and I studied for a day or two about what might be done to get her account back. Certainly everything that I read indicated it was going to be a long hard road. Getting help from Instagram is not going to happen. Her son, thank heavens for our techie kids, finally figured out how to wrest back control through Facebook.
This blog is not about what you should do if your account gets stolen. It is about alerting you to the risk of an account being stolen and what you can do to help keep that from happening. Let me assure you, I have taken the steps I am recommending for both my Instagram account and my Facebook account.
Use a strong password.
First of all, you need to protect your accounts with a strong password. That means choosing a password that has at least six characters, a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, and both upper and lower case numbers. It has to be changed frequently. For a while now I have chosen strong passwords, but not super strong. For sure, I was not changing them frequently because of the hassle of keeping track of them.
I now use the app 1Password, which is available for free in the U.S. It helps me keep track of my passwords. As of last week, I let it generate truly strong passwords for any account, like Instagram or Facebook, that I only access on mobile devices. I cannot use it for accounts that I access from my desktop, because I have to copy and paste the password, so I have to be on a device that allows me to use the 1Password app.
Set up two factor authentication.
Two-factor authentication is a security feature that provides additional protection any time someone tries to access your social media account from an unrecognized computer or mobile device. To access the account, the password has to be given, plus a special login code. This code is sent in a couple of ways, like an email or a text message. That choice is made at the time of set up.
I am not going to go through the steps on how to set up two-factor authentication, but I will give you two links that explain how to do it.
Get account recovery codes.
As you complete the procedure for two factor authentication in both Instagram and Facebook, you will have the option to get recovery codes. These can be used in the case that you lose your mobile device and cannot get a login code to meet the requirements of two-factor authentication.
For more tips on how to keep social media accounts secure, you can read the suggestions from Facebook in the article, “What can I do to keep my Facebook account secure?”
The most important thing, in my mind, is two-factor authentication. It is easy to add. Take a few minutes and do that, if you have not already enabled it.