Wednesday, April 17

Impersonation of profiles: ” With my Instagram photos they created a false account and put a link to erotic content ” | Technology


A young woman looks at her Instagram account.
A young woman looks at her Instagram account.Santi Burgos

It was Halloween night when Blanca Lozano (Madrid, 1998) learned that, for the third time, someone had taken her photos from Instagram and impersonated her. This was less than three months ago. This journalist could not help but wonder why it was happening to her. Two of the accounts that tried to impersonate her took several photos that she had on her real profile and added a false name. In the other, they put their real name and included a link in the bio. With this third account, the impersonator (s) tried to imply that this was Lozano’s secondary profile: link. I got in and a gif of a girl making a very explicit sexual gesture, as if it were me. ” To access this supposed content, you had to pay within the link.

Lozano believes that account is still active. The young woman says that, after asking her almost 2,000 followers to report the false account, she received a notification from Instagram saying that the account did not violate the platform’s rules. ” What else is missing? What will happen to a girl who is uploaded a video and is there for several hours? I felt vulnerable and tired, wondering who it might be. I didn’t understand why they were doing it to me. Anyone who does that knows that they are harming the other person, ” he laments.

Lozano decided to go to the National Police to report it. When an agent asked him what he was going to report and he told him, he said, according to what he relates: “Man… I would not report it because if the person who is impersonating you has not used your address or your number phone number, or your full name, it is not that you are committing a more serious crime. Unless it is something serious, these things do not usually go through the process ”. That is why he did not denounce it. Nor the next time. “I thought they were going to ignore me,” admits Lozano. He reported it to Instagram, yes.

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It was a correct decision. The complaint before the social network itself is the first step that the user who faces such a situation must follow, according to Commander Alberto Redondo, head of the Technological Crimes Group (GDT) of the Technical Unit of the Judicial Police of the Guard Civil.

According to Redondo, after that, the victim must “go to the nearest Civil Guard headquarters” to report him. He considers, however, that “many times the complaint is more successful at the administrative level, as in the Spanish Agency for Data Protection, which, in addition, tends to impose higher sanctions and the procedures are faster.”

It is very difficult to know if a case like Lozano’s would have ended in conviction. By having a public profile, the photos were not stolen as they would have been through the hack from a private account. In addition, everything would depend on the judge’s consideration and whether there was a crime of usurpation of marital status or identity theft, whether or not a fraud occurred, the damages that the victim faced, etc. Although, yes, normally in this type of action a single crime is not incurred, but it is a contest of infractions, as the commander insists.

To all this is added that, according to Redondo, the investigation of these crimes is very complex for the authorities: ” It is not only that whoever is behind these accounts does not appear with their real identity, but also uses certain complicated detect, such as anonymizers or VPN (virtual private network). ”

In fact, the head of the GDT assures that the criminal model has evolved to the point that cybercriminals are subcontracted and “we must forget about the classic uncle, or aunt, who is alone and hooded in front of the computer. Right now they are criminal organizations with defined roles; Some are dedicated to looking for victims, others to technological development, others to money laundering … Crime is taken as a company, ” he details.

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Common situations

Although in the eyes of many it might seem surprising, this type of situation is more common in social networks than you may believe. According to Redondo, crimes related to data theft “are the most lucrative business that cybercriminals have right now.” From the theft of a Twitter password or credit card number to scams like the one that was tried to materialize as a result of Lozano’s false profile.

What is striking about this practice is, above all, that it affects ordinary people and not only public figures, who are also used to exposure and on many occasions have assumed that their position or profession carries problems like that. In other words, any user, especially if they have a public profile, can be the victim of an impersonation attempt.

Photographs are the basic raw material for the lenses that impersonators seek. Therefore, it is logical that they go to Instagram. Even so, spoofing also occurs on other networks, such as Twitter. Precisely on this platform, the La Mancha singer Rozalén denounced a few days ago that there was a false account that asked minors for photos and money on the pretext that they could meet her. The artist’s tweet generated a debate among users about the possibility of requesting a DNI to create accounts on social networks, about the age that children should be when they are given a mobile phone and about the impunity that some users believe is usually occur in these cases.

Twitter establishes in its policies that it does not actively review the profiles, but instead analyzes the alleged impersonation case when it receives a valid report. If a user wants to report it, you can do it in the help center. In the case of Instagram, the company warns that only admit the complaints of those affected or their representatives, although that has nothing to do with the complaint that any user of a profile within the platform can make when they believe that the content they upload is inappropriate or violates any rule or, as in these cases, they are not even real profiles.

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On Instagram, which is owned by Meta, in addition to offering the complaint resource and some tips in its help center, to avoid the scams launched last July a security check aimed above all at victims of hack of their accounts so that they can make their profiles more secure, through double factor authentication, for example. Although there are no exact figures on Instagram, on Facebook, from July to September 2021, 1.8 billion fake accounts were deactivated, 500 million more than in the first quarter of the year. The latest figure is the highest since the first months of 2019.

In a year characterized by the increase in this criminal activity and after facing the third profile that tried to supplant it, Blanca Lozano felt forced to privatize her account. He claims that he had never wanted to do it, but since he changed the settings, an account has not been found that has stolen his images.

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