Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat are extremely popular social messaging apps that allow users to exchange thoughts and ideas visually through photos, videos, and graphics. I don’t know anyone who does not use these apps. And now there’s news that struck a panic in the heart of many people who use these apps—the good old social media is under cyber attack again. In simple terms, Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp are all easily hackable. That is bad news for the billions of people who now conduct their personal and business transactions using these applications.
How common are social media hacks?
Social media account hacks between March 2016 and March 2017 were analyzed by Google and the University of California at Berkeley researchers. According to the research, 15% of users have had login troubles with social media or other sites.
According to a Norton survey from 2021, 14% of respondents had experienced illegal activity on their social media accounts at some point in their lives.
People’s fears regarding account hacks of any kind in 2021 were also investigated in a December 2020 study. According to the global breakdown, 34% thought it was plausible, while 45 percent thought it was unlikely.
However, disparities were depending on a person’s home nation. Account hacks were seen as more likely than not in Russia, Israel, Malaysia, and Turkey.
So not only are social media hacks incredibly common, they vary from country to country.
Why are WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat so frequently targeted?
WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat are routinely targeted by hackers due to the large number of active users on each network. Hackers frequently employ Snapchat and Instagram spy apps to target people on these popular social media networks. Cyberattacks can also be found on other social media platforms, personal blogs, and commercial websites.
Social media presence is a crucial and necessary strategy for businesses and celebrities to get exposure. It can be a critical method of promoting and marketing a brand. Hackers, on the other hand, may be able to take advantage of it and abuse it.
What benefits do hackers get from hacking social media?
In the case of a data breach, the company loses both time and money. Consumers get persuaded to click on potentially dangerous links that direct them to phishing pages, frauds, or vulnerabilities. It also attracts possible new customers.
Hackers may also attempt to extort money from a social media account’s followers. It is for this reason that hackers target accounts having many followers.
They could even send malware links to the account’s followers, hoping that at least a few of them will click on them. Unsuspecting fans or brand customers click on these links and get infected with malware or scammed via ransomware tactics.
Because these accounts have a large number of followers, admirers, and other celebs following them get targeted. If just a small percentage of those followers are misled into clicking on dubious links, hackers can make a lot of money, whether it’s in cash, cryptocurrency, personal data, or private messages. They could even use the account to get followers by hacking it.
When it comes to social media profiles with large followings, threat actors have a good chance of succeeding. Due to the nature of the Internet, hackers also benefit from anonymity. Hackers can also launch an attack without any physical limitations. They merely need a computer and a working internet connection to carry out these harmful attacks.
What techniques do hackers use to infiltrate social media?
Hackers use a variety of techniques to infiltrate social media accounts. I will go over the most commonly used hacking techniques.
The hacker uses this strategy to discreetly relay and possibly manipulate communication between the server and the victim, who believe they are interacting directly with each other.
The hacker establishes separate connections with the victims and passes messages between them, giving the impression that they are speaking directly to each other over a private connection when, in fact, the hacker is controlling the entire discussion.
The hacker must intercept and insert any important messages sent between the two victims. In many cases, this is trivial; for example, an attacker within the reception range of a wireless access point can act as a man in the middle.
Social engineering is an easy tactic that involves gathering as much information as possible from the victims. The data could contain your date of birth, phone number, and security questions, among other things. Once a hacker has this information, they can employ brute force or recovery methods to obtain login credentials.
Hijacking a web session
Your browser and the social media server keep a session for user authentication when you check in to your social media account. The session information gets recorded in the cookie files of your browser. The hacker grabs the cookies and then gains access to the victim’s account through session hijacking. The act of stealing a session is known as session hijacking.
Phishing is a simple technique that sometimes gets dismissed as a non-technical strategy but is one of the most effective ways to steal social network accounts. A hacker has a high probability of obtaining passwords via phishing if the target is unfamiliar with fundamental internet rules. A phishing assault gets carried out in a variety of ways. The most prevalent is when a hacker builds a fake social network login page that appears just like the real thing. The victim will then believe it is a standard login.
The most prevalent type of phishing is creating a copy of a login page that appears exactly like the actual one. The victim believes it is a standard social login screen, so they input their credentials. The person then logs into the fake page where the password and username get siphoned to the hacker’s screen.
A keylogger is a piece of code that captures your keyboard’s key sequence and strokes in a log file on your computer. Your email IDs and passwords may get stored in these log files. It can be software or hardware and is also known as keyboard capturing. While software-based keyloggers target computer programs, hardware keyloggers target keyboards, electromagnetic emissions, smartphone sensors, and other devices.
One of the main reasons why online banking companies tell you to use their virtual keyboards is to prevent keylogging. As a result, if you’re using a computer in a public place, be extra cautious. Keylogging has become such a popular hacking strategy that software vendors have developed a WhatsApp spy app that works remotely. These apps have built-in remote monitoring features that are available to the public for a monthly fee.
XNSPY, one of the commercially available remote monitoring apps, has a built-in keylogger function that is easy to use. It operates in stealth mode allowing worried parents to track their kids’ online browsing activities. They can also check on them to ensure they are using their time effectively for studies and not logging into their social media accounts.
Service Disruption (DoS/DDoS)
A Denial of Service (DoS) attack is a hacking technique that involves flooding a website or server with a large quantity of traffic. It causes the server to go berserk and eventually fail.
This popular technique involves flooding the targeted machine with ginormous requests to overwhelm the resources, preventing the actual commands from being fulfilled.
Hackers frequently use botnets or specific machines to launch DDoS attacks with the sole purpose of flooding your system with request packets. With each passing year, the magnitude of DDoS attacks grows in tandem with the advancement of malware and hacker types.
Will social media apps ever become hack-proof?
Honestly, no. Nefarious actors will always look to bypass securities and exploit code vulnerabilities for their gains. But we can start being more cautious and take extra care when entering passwords by not clicking on shady links. If it is too good to be true, it probably is.