Early last year, and you could see this one coming miles away, Instagram announced a new feature through which users could memorialise their deceased loved ones. Its parent company, Facebook has the same policy, so it was only a question of time Instagram adopted it too.

Memorializing an account also helps keep it secure by preventing anyone from logging into it. No changes can be made to the account. No-one can log into it, no-one can add new photos or videos, no-one can comment on the account's past posts. The account is effectively frozen in time as a memorial.

Sound solid doesn’t it? Except it isn’t. All Instagram needs to memorialise an account is a link to an obituary or news article. How funny then, that a hacker faked an obituary of Adam Mosseri, wait for it… the Head of Instagram. Employees were tricked into thinking their head honcho was no longer, he was dead, definitively deceased.

We don’t know what the reaction was among employees but with Mosseri being Instagram’s top dog, when it was discovered he was still very much on this earth, access to his Instagram account was restored quicker than you can say, “Let’s have a memorial service.”

There’s also a bit of a deeper story to this. According to the hacker who fooled Instagram with Mosseri’s fake obituary:
  • As long as the obituary is recent, within a week, the target will be memorialized. It apparently works 98% of the time.
  • If an account has less than one million followers, Instagram's support team may not even check if the name on the submitted obituary matches the account.
Unsurprisingly, the ease with which obituaries can be faked and accounts frozen has made it an effective way for scammers, trolls, and harassers, to victimise Instagram users and throw them off the site.
  • In the past it has been reported that cyber underground services offer Instagram bans to those who would like to see someone kicked off the site for a handful of dollars.
A micro industry also appears to be developing on in which scammers are freezing accounts and then offering Instagram users to restore their accounts, for up to $4,000 depending on the number of followers.

It seems no alley is too dark, no nook too hidden or no cranny too deep for online scammers. Wherever there’s an opportunity, they’ll be there looking at how to exploit them.