A hacker who calls themself “The King” is demanding more than $40,000 to return control of a social media account to its rightful owners.
The access being held to ransom relates to an Instagram account belonging to 33-year-old Al Ferguson and his 43-year-old wife, Jen, who together founded a parenting forum geared toward fathers, Dadsnet.
For more than seven years, the entrepreneurial British couple have shared personal details of their lives with tens of thousands of their followers on Instagram. But the pair recently found themselves locked out of their account.
Jen told the Daily Star that a hacker compromised their account and changed the handle. The attacker sent a message via WhatsApp demanding that she and Al pay £1 per follower to regain control over their account.
The couple, who live in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, have 30,000 followers on their Instagram account, making the ransom demand more than $41,500.
On August 29, via WhatsApp, Jen received a screenshot of the Instagram account that showed that the handle had been switched from @it’sTheFergusons to @PharaBenDarWay30K.
The family photo that had been in place as the profile picture had been swapped to an image of a bloodied face. In place of the couple’s profile description, the attacker had written, “This Instagram account is held to be sold back to its owner.”
Jen and Al tried but failed to regain control of the Instagram account. On Tuesday, 36 hours after the hacker made contact, the account was deleted.
The couple said that some of the 5,000 photos they had shared via the account have now been lost forever. Gone too are the captions capturing the family’s highs and lows, which have included seven miscarriages.
Al said: “We’re devastated. All our emotions and memories from the last seven years were in that account.”
The cybercrime has also had a financial impact on the couple, who used to receive income from the account via adverts and sponsorship.
“It feels like someone has come in and stolen all our diaries,” said Jen. “They’ve taken our jobs too, but the emotional side is much, much worse.”