Living life as a public figure comes with its own pressures. The constant public gaze on its own is a factor that has seen promising careers wilt before fully flourishing. Fans want to know every little detail of their idol’s life.
On top of the usual challenges that characterise the life of a celebrity, there seems to be a new devil that is haunting local public figures—hacking of their social media accounts. Hacking is an act that is defined as “gaining unauthorised access to data in a system or computer”.
Of late, reports of most public figures complaining about falling victims to hacking have become increasingly common. Once the intruders get into their system, they exploit their social media handles in different ways, including, at times sharing pornographic material and other undesirable content.
Musicians Skeffa Chimoto, Wikise, rapper Phyzix, Desert Igwe [previously Eagle] and comedian Tannah Mr Broken English are some of the names that have fallen prey to this vicious act recently. In their separate submissions, they all attest to how devastating the experience of having their account hacked was.
Wikise has been a victim twice and he said the last time it took him a week to recover his account. Meanwhile, the “new owners” of the page were busy sharing satanic worship stuff on his page.
“It is a painful experience. It is not easy to get 200 000 followers here in Malawi, and to have all that information wiped out just like that is so hard to take. What is even more worrying is the message that is sent to our followers. They don’t deserve to consume such content,” he said.
Wikise seems to have learnt hard lessons from the experience. He says fellow artists should be wary of offers that hackers dangle, and evaluate them reasonably.
He said: “They promise to be paying $1 000 per week. What kind of job can bring you such money? So, once you follow that link, they are able to hack into your system. The best is to avoid these offers.”
Comedian Tannah had 70 000 likes removed from his page from the over 100 likes that he had initially. His page was also removed from the new view format to the old one. The likes are crucial for they allow the responsible people to be seeing each and every post the page owner makes.
“They approached me as if they are acting on behalf of Facebook. They said they will close my page because I had violated some of their terms. I had to appeal and before I realised, my page was gone,” he said.
The actor said it appears the hackers who took over his page are based in United of America, and their intention was just to ship the likes and sale them to other users.
“During this time of Covid-19 pandemic, it has become hard to recover the pages since the Facebook guys are mostly working from home and using automated messages to respond to queries. This has made things even more difficult,” said Tannah.
In an earlier interview, Phyzix spoke of the anguish he suffered after his page was hacked.
“The hackers were even able to access my private phone conversations. It was too painful to digest. They invaded my privacy,” he said. He, however, recovered the page with the help of his fans who reported the incident to Facebook.
The hackers devise numerous tricks as they search for their next victims, including dangling nice-sounding monetary rewards. The hackers approach their targets with offers for advertising deals with promises to be paying them $450 [about K368 000] per advert for 24 hours.
The main attraction for one to be targeted is the number of followers the particular page has, and how active it is, according musician Henry Czar who is a trained ICT specialist. Czar is responsible for the recovery of Wikise and Desert Eagle’s Facebook accounts.
Czar said in an interview: “There are a lot of people who are stealing pages and selling them on dark websites. These are hidden collective Internet sites, only accessible by a specialised web browser.
“These people offer the page owners money to post items on their pages by telling them to add their pages into Facebook business manager. When you fall for this trap, they get access to your page and remove you from your page.”
The artist-cum-ICT specialist said most local artists are lured by the monetary offers. He says the best they can do is to ignore such offers altogether. Czar said most of the hackers he has encountered are foreigners mostly from India.