Last year, Instagram was forced to publically admit that a major security bug had allowed hackers to compromise a large number of high profile accounts. For a platform which owes a large portion of its current success and reputation to the celebrities who are active on the service, this was a very embarrassing episode.
Among the big-name celebrities affected by the incident last August were Selena Gomez. After her account was hacked, nude photos of her ex-boyfriend, Justin Bieber, were leaked online.
Celebrities who are active on platforms such as Instagram often have hundreds of thousands, even millions, of followers. In the case of Selena Gomez at the time of this hack, she had 125m followers. That clearly leaves a lot of room for a malicious actor to take it upon themselves to cause some serious trouble.
According to a report from Variety, Gomez’s account was deleted very soon after the breach. However, she was subsequently able to rescue it.
Instagram put this incident down to a bug in its application programming interface (API). API bugs have been in the spotlight recently due to the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal. It is believed that the rogue researcher who first acquired the data that was used took advantage of a bug in Facebook’s API in order to gather user data from people who agreed to it, but also their friends who did not.
If you are interested in cybersecurity, and in data more generally, you should have a look at the Secure Data Recovery blog. They cover a range of interesting topics, many of them relevant to the services that we use to interact with our favorite celebrities.
APIs exist to allow developers to write apps and other software which can communicate with a website and make use of its services. It is through the use of API that developers are able to produce apps for Facebook but clearly, they also create security issues.
Restoring User Confidence
For celebrities the stakes can be very high when it comes to account security. With millions of followers, if something is leaked to a celebrity’s Instagram profile, it could be seen by a large number of people before it is detected. After the infamous breach of iCloud several years ago, which led to intimate photos of a number of celebrities being released across the internet, consumer confidence in the service was, at least temporarily, dented.
Celebrities therefore need to be certain that Instagram can provide them with the security that they need. Meanwhile, Instagram owes it to all of its users to ensure that such catastrophic security bugs do not occur in the future.
We are living in an age where data and personal information have tremendous value. The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal highlights the chilling effects of complacency regarding data. In light of those events, it seems unlikely that celebrities will tolerate any more serious security breaches from Instagram or others. These next few years will be very interesting from a cybersecurity perspective.