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Instagram Bids to Boost Transparency and 2FA

Instagram has announced some new features designed to make accounts more transparent, harder to hijack and easier for brands and celebs to get verified.

The security and transparency features can be seen as a response in part to increased activity by Russian state actors looking to influence public opinion on social media ahead of elections.

In fact, Facebook was forced to remove seven Instagram accounts and multiple Facebook Pages and profiles a month ago after spotting “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” mirroring the kind of activity seen in the run up to the 2016 presidential election.

To that end, Instagram will be launching an 'About This Account' tool designed to make available more information on accounts with large numbers of followers — although it's unclear on how popular an account has to be to qualify.

By tapping the account profile users will be able to see the date the account joined Instagram, the country where it’s located, accounts with shared followers, username changes in the last year and crucially any ads the account is running.

“Our community has told us that it’s important to them to have a deeper understanding of accounts that reach many people on Instagram, particularly when those accounts are sharing information related to current events, political or social causes, for example,” explained Instagram CTO, Mike Krieger. “If you do see an account on Instagram you believe violates our Community Guidelines, you can report it.”

User authentication is another key area for any popular web company and Instagram is tightening up its log-in security by announcing support for third-party authenticator apps which will roll out globally over the coming weeks.

This should help mitigate increasingly popular attacks designed to intercept 2FA passcodes sent by text. That technique was used to hijack Reddit employees’ cloud accounts in June, leading to a major breach at the web platform.

“To use a third-party app to log into your Instagram account, go to your profile, tap the menu icon, select ‘Settings’ at the bottom and then choose ‘Two-Factor Authentication.’ Select ‘Authentication App’ as your preferred form of authentication,” said Krieger.

“If you already have an authentication app installed, we will automatically find the app and send a login code to it. Go to the app, retrieve the code and enter it on Instagram, and two-factor authentication will turn on automatically. If you don’t have one installed yet, we will send you to the App Store or Google Play Store to download the authenticator app of your choice. Once you’ve installed it, return to Instagram to continue setting up your two-factor authentication.”

Finally, businesses and celebs will be able to apply for a Verified badge more easily thanks to changes on the network which will enable them to do so from Profile and then Settings.

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