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Showing posts with label Laxman Muthiyah. Show all posts

Instagram account can be easily hacked, finds hacker

A professional hacker discovered what he considered a fairly simple way to seize control of any Instagram user's account. Fortunately for the site's 500 million active daily users, he told Instagram exactly how it could be done.

Laxman Muthiyah is a professional bounty hunter. Not the kind who tracks down bail jumpers, mind you. He uses his hacking skills to collect bug bounties, money companies pay to hackers who find and report vulnerabilities in their software.

Muthiyah found the account-breaking bug in the mobile version of Instagram's password reset system. When a user wants to reset his or her password, Instagram tries to validate their identity by sending a 6-digit code to a recovery phone number.

A six-digit code is child's play for a hacker with any amount of computing power at their disposal, which is why Instagram has a system in place that can detect brute-force attacks. Muthiyah found that out of 1,000 attempts around 75% were blocked.

By creating a race condition -- a nasty situation that occurs when a computer tries to process multiple requests at the same time -- and making attempts from a huge number of IP addresses -- Muthiyah was able to do an end run around Instagram's brute force blocker.

He bombarded Instagram with 200,000 codes from 1,000 different IP addresses. That might sound like a Herculean task, but Muthiyah notes that it's actually quite simple using cloud-based tools.

In his estimation it would have cost about $150 to reset anyone's password.

Gaining control of an account with hundreds of thousands -- or even millions -- of followers is well worth the investment. It provides an opportunity to spam users with links to infected downloads or phishing pages from an account they are likely to trust.

There's no telling how many unsuspecting fans would've blindly clicked a malicious link posted from a celeb's verified IG account. It's quite possible that a major incident was avoided thanks to Muthiyah's hard work and Facebook's (which owns Instagram) rapid deployment of a fix.