BENGALURU: Social media influencers on Facebook and Instagram who sometimes have followers running into millions are facing a new kind of menace.
A growing number of online scamsters have gained access to their page admin rights over the past few months, leading to these users losing followers. ET spoke to several of these social media influencers who have been victims, primarily through phishingmails or messages, and they say they turned to cyber-security firms to deal with the problem Bengaluru-based Rahul Dakare Desai who started a Facebook page, National Biography, saw his data get compromised in December last year. “A man approached to help us monetise our page through advertisements. He sent us a link through Facebook. Assuming it was genuine, we clicked the link, which redirected us to a website for filling out a small survey. I was asked to login after 30 minutes, only to discover I’d lost the page credentials and over 6 lakh followers,” Desai said.
He later reached out to Facebook to retrieve the page, but the social network said it couldn’t help him since it was not a third-party hack.
Similarly, Mumbai-based Vishal Chauhan lost his pages on Facebook and Instagram, after sharing his business account details. This happened after he received a promotional mail asking for these details. “Once I shared the access of the page, they removed me as the admin and renamed it,” he said.
According to cyber security experts, the intent behind these attacks could be many. A page could be sold for a hefty sum, depending on the number of followers.
The page can also be directly monetied. “Many of these phishing attacks also happen through bot websites which are active for merely a month or so, making it difficult to track the IP addresses. After accessing the page details, one can promote websites to direct traffic, eventually increasing its advertising revenue,” said Rajashekhar Rajaharia, a cyber security professional.
Manan Shah, a cyber security expert, said, “The scale at which these cases are coming up is quite high. Typically, these pages can be retrieved in a period of two weeks, but in some instances it is far tougher. When a user shares details unknowingly, Facebook or any other social media network cannot help.”
India is among the top three countries targeted for phishing attacks, according to a report by network security firm RSA. When contacted, an Instagram spokesperson said the platform was taking steps to resolve the issue. “We encourage people to be vigilant about the security and not to accept suspicious requests and report suspected phishing messages,” the spokesperson said. Emailed queries to Facebook remained unanswered until press-time.