Security Expert Warns of Vulnerability of Instagram to Phishing as Tech Firm Rolls Out Free App for PCs

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By Vittorio Hernandez | November 16, 2012 10:39 AM EST

Due to the growing popularity and higher demand for its use, Instagram just launched a PC version called Instagrille. This free desktop app provides all Instagram experience from the mobile to the PC.

All its mobile features such as effects, feeds, profile views, comments, and likes are available to PC users. Instagrille also allows the user to search, share, and download photos from Instagram directly into the computer.

Instagram, since it was launched in October 2010, now has more than 30 million accounts as of April 2012. The application was initially supported in iOS devices until the company decided to launch an Android version for 2.2 (Froyo) and later versions. iTunes App Store and Google Play are the distribution link used.

Below are some guidelines about the desktop Instagram app:

1.     Users should sign in using their Instagram account or they could simply use the skip button. Signing in allows the user to be a part of the Instagram community.

2.     For those with no Instagram account yet, download the Instagram app via iOS device or Android units.

3.     Uploading and editing of photos is still only possible via Instagram app from iOS and Android.

4.     Instagrille supports Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.

The availability of this popular application to both mobile and desktop users makes Instagram more vulnerable to phishing, a security expert warned on Thursday.

Phishing is the act of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by pretending to be a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. This communication can be from social Web sites, auction sites, online pay processors or IT administrators. Phishing can also be carried out by links with malware, email spoofing, or even instant messaging.

Symantec disclosed in its October cyber security report that Instagram is starting to attract more security threats.

Symantec security analyst Ben Nahorney, who authored the report, cited as example notifications with suspicious content such as offers of a free game, which when opened, can place at risk an Instagram account. Mr Nahorney received a notification on his mobile phone that offered a free game. To entice the public, the notification had a photo of a pretty blonde woman.

To avoid automatic removal by Instagram of a suspicious link, the offer was in the profile, not in a comment. Even after he had deleted the comment on his Instagram account, Mr Nahorney observed that his followers in Instagram double in two hours. The new followers all had the same photos of the blonde woman and a shortened URL that led to an ad for social media jobs that requires the name and email address which are phishing methods to obtain more information from gullible users.

Another security issue comes from file called ransomware which locks the screen with repeated audio file played indicating the user had violated federal laws.

Due to efforts by different institutions and groups to curb phishing, attempts in October have decreased by about 22 per cent, Symantec said. Spam in email traffic also went down by more than 10 per cent since September due to fewer spam activity from Saudi Arabia.

To prevent phishing attempts, Symantec advised Instagram users to set their accounts to private so viewing is limited to individuals the user is familiar with. The same advice applies to accepting followers and following other Instagram users.

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