Instagram is finally addressing a huge problem on its platform: hacked accounts.
The company says it is making a series of changes that will make it easier for people to regain access to a hacked account. The update comes almost a year after reports of a wave of bizarre hacks that hit Instagram users, leaving them little recourse to get their accounts back.
With the newly announced changes, which are currently being tested ahead of a wider rollout, Instagram will allow users to access its account recovery tools directly in the app, even if a hacker has changed their account information. So when a person is unable to login to an account, Instagram will prompt users to enter information associated with your account like your email address or phone number. (Users can also access this via “need more help” in the app’s login screen.)
From there, Instagram will send a verification code you can use to access your account. Instagram will also remove any other devices logged into your account, so a hacker who has access to your email will be unable to use the recovery code.
This may sound fairly straightforward, but these changes address significant issues with Instagram’s previous account recovery process. Because hackers often changed the email, phone number, or username associated with an account, it could be incredibly difficult if not impossible for the actual account owner to navigate the automated support system.
Users have reported Instagram sending recovery emails to the address of their hackers, for example, or inexplicably telling them it could not verify their identity even though they provided the information requested. This caused some people to resort to more elaborate schemes, such as reporting a hacked account for impersonation or leaving voicemails for Instagram support.
This new process will hopefully make those kinds of moves a thing of the past, as Instagram says its goal is to move the entire account recovery process in-app. Additional support will still be available to those who need it though, according to an Instagram spokesperson.
Notably, this new process will also apply to people whose accounts have previously been hacked and unable to regain access.
Additionally, Instagram says it’s addressing another major issue often associated with hacked accounts: username theft. Because accounts that have short or original names are considered valuable and desirable, they often face a disproportionate amount of hacking attempts. Hackers will often change a username in order to scoop it up for a fresh account or sell it on shady forums.
Now, Instagram says that a previously used username will not be available for anyone else for several days in order to make it more difficult for hackers to steal valuable usernames. (The company isn’t disclosing exactly how long names will be inaccessible to others but a spokesperson says it will be “multiple days.”)
While it’s unlikely these changes will put a stop to hacking attempts, or the massive business of buying and selling stolen accounts, it could make life more difficult for hackers — at least until they find new ways to circumvent Instagram’s policies. But it should also give users more power to get their accounts back.