Influencer’s Instagram hacked and held hostage for S$410

Photo: Instagram screengrab

Clarie Teo, a local influencer and former marine systems operator, found herself locked out of her Instagram account. Her email, password and username had been changed, rendering it inaccessible when she tried to log in. She received an email telling her that her Instagram account had been hacked.

The hackers gave her half an hour to their demands that she pay S$410. Otherwise, they said her account would be deleted. After 20 minutes, she received another email that threatened to sell her account delete all her pictures.

Ms. Teo’s account, @xclarieacaciateo, was hacked on September 20. On it, she regularly promotes apparel and cosmetic brands, and has more than 20,000 followers.

Ms. Teo, age 25, first tasted public recognition three years ago in an article for Cyberpioneer, the magazine of Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN). Her good looks caught the public’s attention. She is no longer with the RSN, and is now enrolled at the National University of Singapore studying mechanical engineering.

She believes that the hackers are not from Singapore. “As the e-mails were sent from overseas, I believe that they belong to foreign hackers. My account was secured with the two-factor authentication, but it still got hacked.”

Ms. Teo reported the incident to the police, as well as to Instagram itself, and thinks that it’s highly likely that the hackers were able to access personal information she had on wither Tumblr or old Neopets accounts that she hasn’t used in a decade.

On her account, the last posting is dated September 16. No new posts have been put up since she lost access to the account.

She does, however, plan on making a new account.

However, the hacking of her account has come at a cost to Ms. Teo, to the tune of $400 for every post, which is what influencers who have the same number of followers she does regularly earn.

Lars Voedisch, a social media expert, says that “It may be possible that her Neopets and Tumblr accounts may have been hacked, given that older servers usually have less updated security features. Hackers usually flock to such servers because they are easier to breach.”

According to Ali Fazeli, a cyber security expert, influencers on social media end up being an easy target for hackers since they post much personal information online.  He also said, ”This looks like quite an elaborate case of hacking because if they could get pass the 2FA, it means that the hacker had access to her phone.”

He lauded her choice not to agree to the hackers demands. “That is too much trouble for US$300. The hackers most likely would not have returned her the account even if she had paid. To protect accounts from hackers, users should come up with complex passwords and refrain from accessing personal e-mails on public networks on shared computers, such as in airports.”