Hacked: Part One

Hey! Welcome back to my long-forgotten blog…I was actually trying to get motivated to write a blog post this month, perhaps another year in review (but who wants to hear about that?!) or my move to podcast editing and how that arose, and the services I do now but instead I’m writing about what happened to us this past month….

As you may have already heard, the Whale Tales Instagram was hacked in the middle of January and is now gone. Just gone. 54540 followers, over 2000 posts (I think), 7.5 years of work…all gone.


I’ve been through this with a lot of people but honestly it’s still mostly a blur, one of those things that you react to at the moment and then don’t know what you did.

It started off as just a normal Friday…I was standing at the bus stop heading to the office when I saw we got an email about an unusual login location, so naturally I went to go check the account and found I had been logged out – which usually only happens when your password has changed. While this was happening, I also got WhatsApp messages from a random number…one said “hello” and the next said “I have your Instagram account if you want to get it back, you have to give money. If you don’t buy it, I’ll sell it to someone else”

At this point I had already texted Sara who was at home working (thank GOD) to see if she could sign into the WT Insta. When I got that message, I sent her a screenshot (which is how I still know what is said, this rando number has since been blocked and reported). We discussed how it was weird, but she had seen similar messages – at this point I had to get on the bus and while she tried to sign in I started freaking out and focusing mainly on changing our other passwords.

In my memory this bus ride felt like it was an hour long- all I wanted to do was get to work so I could get on a desktop and try and sign in and sort this out…but it took FOREVER (probably the extremely normal amount of time of 10 minutes). Sara was sending me verification codes and links to sign in but by this point the hacker had not only changed the password but the username of the account which made Instagram very confused when I tried to report I was hacked or entered a verification code. By the time the longest bus ride in history was over and I got to work the account was gone. Deleted or probably deactivated.

We tried probably for another half an hour or so to get back in: we followed all the steps from Instagram, from Meta but they all led to the same result – with a different user name, a different password, a deactivated account, the combo just led the help AI’s (I assume that’s what we were dealing with) to fizz out and just stop working – verification codes once entered wouldn’t go anywhere, error messages about not finding our account would just pop up over and over and over again…

At this point – in the midst of both of us changing the passwords to every platform we could think of and still trying to report the hack but getting nowhere– I called it. All the posts were gone – if you search our hashtag #whaletales you won’t see any of them. Everything was gone.

Now I know very little about hacking and the purpose of these kind of hacks (aside from just being a giant douche) but we’re pretty sure it was to sell our followers – since our other Instagram accounts (like Physarum) were all following Whale Tales, we should be able to tell if that’s what happened if we all start following some random account at the same time.

So that was that. It was gone but thanks to Sara the passwords to everywhere else had been changed (well mostly-I still keep thinking of ones we need to change). I had changed our Instagram passwords in the fall after all of Meta went down but they were still very similar to a past password that we still used in a lot of places – not a great plan-but it was one of the best passwords I’ve ever had and I mourn the loss of that now too.

And now we rebuild. We have started a new account @whaletales_org which you can follow for the same content we’ve always had but it won’t be the same. The number of followers was nice and gave the account and the website and me as a digital marketer a lot of credibility which sucks to lose but loosing the work is the worst part. The record of the last seven years of our site, the community. All the random nice comments we got, the messages we had from storytellers, even the funny memes I had saved for eventual reposts. Something that was such a stable part of my every day life is gone – it feels weird to refer to an Instagram account like that but its true. I knew what to expect there, what posts and stories would do well, who would share them and now that’s gone …in these last 22 months of uncertainty it was there and now it’s not. And that feeling will never truly come back.

So, what now? Firstly: go change your passwords and set up two factor authentication wherever you can. Seriously. Go do it. And I will work on “rebuilding my empire” as one friend put it. And try not to be paranoid every time my WhatsApp notification goes off or I get an email from Instagram, (no promises) and we will keep on keeping on…just with a bit more sadness and a bit more anger (ok, maybe a lot more anger).

This might end up being a multi part blog series if there are more updates about what happened and how it goes on the “empire rebuilding” so keep an eye out. This is also apparently my 50th blog (woo what an anniversary! ?) and almost exactly the four-year anniversary of my “new life” and this blog. I had lots of plans about writing more in the last four years, but I was fortunately too busy with work /unfortunately too busy living through a global pandemic – maybe I’ll be inspired to pop back on and write something more uplifting soon…maybe. Until then, thank you for reading this and any other posts you’ve read. It shouldn’t take an utterly douchey thing to make you grateful for the support you have from friends and family and fans and followers but sometimes it does. So, thank you. And go change your passwords.



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