Instagram accounts in Malta have been targeted by foreign hackers, who are asking for bitcoin payments from users to regain access to their accounts.
Lovin Malta has spoken to several small business owners and everyday users who have had their accounts hacked.
Screenshots sent to the newsroom show the hackers casually demanding hundreds in cash to return the accounts via Instagram chat. Payments, the hackers insist, must happen through bitcoin, a well-known cryptocurrency.
Sources have suggested that the hackers are based in Turkey and have been targetting accounts in Malta over the past few months.
Police have confirmed that several reports have been filed on the issue. Investigations are ongoing, so Police could not confirm the origin of the criminal act.
It remains to be seen how the situation will develop, with victims reluctant to cooperate with the hackers. It is also unclear whether Instagram itself can or will take any action.
Hackers have been the subject of news reports in recent weeks after the Nationalist Party received a blackmail threat or have sensitive data, including payment records, leaked online. The Police are investigating that case with the PN refusing to meet demands. The hackers have given several deadlines but have failed to act on their threat of publication.
Cybercrime, in general, has exploded in Malta over recent years with more and more people making daily use of the internet. From 2017 to 2020, the police opened 4,508 cybercrime investigations. In 2003, there were just 50 such cases.
It actually increased over the COVID-19 pandemic, with Lovin Malta receiving several reports of internet users experiencing some form of cybercrime including one instance in which a hacker tried to coerce $1,900 off a Maltese man.
Cybercriminals have also targetted major Maltese companies. A cyber attack on Melita led to an outage across several localities, while BOV lost millions in a hack.
If you do come across some form of cybercrime, The Malta Police Force suggests doing the following:
- Don’t panic. Your password was probably publicised in an old data leak. Criminals bank on the fact that most people use common passwords for their accounts and rarely change them.
- Don’t reply to these messages. Ignore such messages as any attempt to engage is another opportunity for the criminal to put further pressure on you.
- Don’t send any money. In such cases, criminals wouldn’t have any private information – they are simply putting pressure on you to get you to comply with their requests.
Have you been a victim of hackers? Let us know