That’s it. It just does. If Instagram wants to be where we capture and share our most treasured moments, it needs to help us protect them. The easiest way to do this is offer the option to turn on two-factor authentication or some similar security feature. Let users add a phone number, and when they successfully log in with their password, text a temporary code they must then enter to gain access.
At 400 million active users, this is sorely overdue. Instagram’s users skew young and 75 percent of them live outside the United States. Many might not be savvy enough to pick a strong password, know not to tell anyone, or be able to avoid phishing scams. They’re at risk.
Facebook launched its version of two-factor called Login Approvals over four years ago, before it even acquired Instagram. Obviously there are challenges to making an Instagram security system easy enough to use that people don’t accidentally lock themselves out, but the app is over five years old now.
Instagram recently moved to clean up its platform and ban sketchy apps using its APIs, yet the two-factor hole hasn’t been plugged. When asked, Instagram did not provide a comment.
This weekend I met an Instagram star named Rachel Ryle who does amazing stop-motion animation. She told me at one point her account was hacked, and the attackers deleted a bunch of her work and scared away 35,000 of her followers with spam. The hack lost her a sponsorship gig that would have paid a bunch of money. She could have been protected by two-factor authentication.
Luckily, since Rachel is so popular that Instagram worked with her to restore her account and content. But most users who get hacked aren’t so fortunate as to get special attention, and they’re stuck suffering the damages. This month hundreds of thousands of users had their passwords stolen by an unofficial app called InstAgent. They could have been protected by two-factor authentication.
Instagram isn’t just some app anymore. It’s one of the largest repositories of memories in the world, a platform for creators to turn their art into a profession, and a basic communication utility. The home for our photos and videos deserves another lock on the door.