It rained on Saturday. I visited a friend. I ate a pizza.
A plain old Saturday kind of day. Except for this …
On Saturday my Instagram account was hijacked by a Russian bot and I can’t get it back.
Because angry people like me turn to the Internet to find support when Big Tech firms ignore them, I am writing this for those other victims.
That I was hijacked by a Russian bot is ironic, because when I’m not writing baseball, I can sometimes be found consulting for a good government organization in Washington that is fighting to get our government to pay attention to, and deal with, the army of Russian bots meddling in our elections and affairs.
That Instagram, owned by Facebook, provided me with no support or useful help, and put the burden on me to fix a problem that they created, makes me angrier at them than I am at the Russian bot.
Here’s how it happened.
On Saturday afternoon, Instagram sent me an email saying that my Instagram password had been reset. “If you didn’t make this change – blah, blah, blah – ‘click here.’”
In the five minutes – five minutes – from the time Instagram sent me the email and I responded, my account was completely hijacked. My password was changed, my user name changed, my email contact address changed.
Once those things were changed, I was locked out. Completely.
It was completely out of my control. It is still completely out of my control
It was still “me” up there. My pic. My witty little profile story. My followers, just a handful of friends, really.
Just one post – a photo of my cat Mookie.
My account, along with that lone photo of my faithful cat Mookie, is now controlled by this guy:
I have spent hours trying to alert Instagram that my account was hijacked. I have reported that my likeness is being impersonated. Instagram’s unhelpful “Help” function says I need to file forms and upload a photo of a government ID to prove I am who I am, but when I try to find the forms, I end up in a Catch 22 circle of “click here” that takes me to another “click here” that takes me back to the original “click here.” When I’m on my computer, I’m told the form is on the app. When I’m on the app, I’m told to try to upload things via my computer.
Their circular unhelpful suggestions come with stern motherly nagging that I should have set a stronger password. I DID HAVE A STRONG PASSWORD! Stop trying to make this MY fault.
It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating.
Oh, and how do I know it’s a Russian bot?
Because, apparently, I’m smarter than Instagram.
I tried to change kinnear’s new password. (Turn about’s fair play, you Russian bot jerk. I’m going to try to hijack you.)
I failed, of course, but when I did, Instagram alerted me that a password reset had been sent to the bot that stole my account:
The email address they shared was partially redacted. But, I saw all I needed to see. And, you can see it, too. Can’t you?
Russia, I see you!
What’s more? There are plenty of hijacked “kinnear” accounts on Instagram.
They all look like basically the same:
kinnear [underscore] [three digit number] [double underscore] [random name]
I’m no detective, but a bunch of Instagram users who all have weirdly similar names, but have nothing else in common, sure looks fishy to me.
Apparently, Instagram doesn’t think so.
Hey, my Instagram account is nothing. It’s just 30-some friends. I’ve alerted them and asked them to block the no-longer-me account and report it. Four actually have. The rest, I’m afraid, didn’t bother and are now following a Russian bot.
Maybe Congress, and Facebook/Instagram, and Twitter, and Google will finally deal with the enormous growing-bigger-every-day Russian meddling problem they have on their hands.
On a smaller scale, how about this? Dear Instagram, If someone changes their password, put a temporary “hold” on making other account changes that would lock out a real user, including changing the username and the email address the account is linked to. If there was a 24-hour hold, or even a one-hour hold, after a password change, I would have been able to get in and get my account back before that jerk-bot kinnear made it impossible.
(It’s a good idea and you’re welcome, Instagram. Clearly, I have to do your work for you.)
The hell with this. I’m swearing off Instagram. So is ever-faithful Mookie.
“Instagram Sucks.” — Mookie the Cat
If Instagram doesn’t want to help me and Mookie, let the Russian bots have the damn thing.