The social media platforms are reportedly cracking down on those responsible for the hacking of highly coveted usernames. Such names have been dubbed “O.G. usernames,” and can include keywords like @Writer, @Killer, or @Gamer, for example. They’re considered high-value because they come from early adopters who jumped on these platforms as they launched. Once hackers obtain the usernames, they’ve been known to buy and sell them on online forums and group messaging apps.
“Today, we’re removing hundreds of accounts connected to members of the OGUsers forum,” a spokesperson for Instagram said in a statement. “They harass, extort and cause harm to the Instagram community, and we will continue to do all we can to make it difficult for them to profit from Instagram usernames.”
Instagram first launched the effort on Thursday, after a month-long investigation into one such site, ogusers.com. Some of the stolen account names had been obtained through extortion, blackmail, and harassment, and have been sold for upwards of $40,000. The big Twitter hack of last year, which impacted people including Elon Musk and former President Barack Obama, was traced back to the same site.
“Their main objective is to grow their pages, and selling these O.G. usernames is a game for a lot of them,” said 22-year-old Jackson Weimer, who is an administrator of a meme account that highlighted this insidious practice. “Their objective is to do this to as many people as possible. Every meme page has encountered one of these people.” When he first highlighted the practice, he was among those to be targeted with harassment by hackers sending him photos of his house on Google Maps.
“They told me they wanted to rape and kill my parents,” he said. “They said that I’ll regret doing this. They sent me my address a lot and created an account ‘exposing’ me on instagram, where they’d just post and make up lies about me.” While he thinks the bans are a good first step, it’s not going to be the end of it all by any means. “If Instagram really wants to fix this problem, they need to go from the top down and start paying people who create content so there’s no reason for people to make money in other ways.”