Food delivery start-up Foodpanda saw hackers gaining access to its Singapore Instagram page over the weekend.
The hackers changed the account’s username to “Osama” and replaced the company logo with a profile photo is a picture of a masked child.
The hack saw Foodpanda’s Instagram followers fluctuate throughout the day, from more than 20,000 to various numbers. All of its posts were also removed and replaced by troll content such as Batman and anime videos.
The hackers also took the opportunity to troll Foodpanda’s customers, with a customer who complained about its service in an Instagram story, receiving a message from the Foodpanda account with obscenities such as “dumb witch” and “bitch” and demanded she took down her complaint.
The customer noted that these messages were sent to her and then quickly deleted once she had read them. Meanwhile, other users also complained their orders were cancelled and some could not place any orders.
The platform addressed the issue on its Facebook page, saying: “Over the weekend, Foodpanda Singapore’s Instagram account was hacked. We apologise for any inappropriate messages you might have received during this time and we are working hard to resolve this issue.”
“In the meantime, please do not respond to any activity from this account and we’ll update you as soon as the issue is resolved.”
Commenting on the hack to The Drum, Charles Tidswell, the vice president for Japan and Asia Pacific at Socialbakers suggested the hijacking could have been a stroke of luck by a random hacker, or a more targeted attack by a disgruntled employee, or ex-employee, with a clear intention of menace.
Tidswell noted that the incident show there is a need for brands to step up ownership of their channels, and improve management of sensitive details such as social media passwords.
He stressed that every brand’s social media management team needs to keep track of how many people within the organisation have access to login details, when the password was last updated, and how the password is managed.
“This brings us to a number of different avenues, not specifically about the event itself, but how brands manage the security of their social logins. I often find that social media passwords are shared with minimal consideration to the potential implications down the line,” he explained.
“Brands frequently share social media logins and passwords with third parties, without ever knowing who has access to it. But if you would not share your bank PIN with a stranger, the same should apply to social media passwords.”
Regardless of how it happened, he said Foodpanda’s social history and digital personality has been eradicated, and the brand now has to start again from scratch, which is no easy feat.
“With social media now playing such a vital role in building a brand, it is the responsibility of the management to ensure that protocols are implemented and followed,” added Tidswell.
Fairil Yeo, the vice president for transformation for Asia Pacific at Lewis global communications, said from a public relations perspective, the negative and offensive remarks made by the hacker not only impacts Foodpanda's brand equity, but its business will likely take a direct hit.
He added that the hack raises questions on the type of security measures the brand has implemented to protect customers’ data. In the age of e-commerce, he said the hack spells critical concerns for consumers and merchant partners alike, as they will start to question the level of security placed to protect their personal information, such credit card details and other payment information.
"Against a backdrop of an increasingly digitally heavy economy, data security is one of the key factors that constitute a brand’s identity and establishes a baseline of trust for consumers to form a relationship with the brand," he explained.
"Failure to prevent data breaches will raise questions on whether Foodpanda can be trusted to hold on to sensitive information that is core to their operations and deter both consumers and partners from engaging with the brand."
"The impact then moves beyond managing their reputation on social media, but also their business in the long run, as any decline in consumer trust will likely result in negative implications on the brand’s performance, especially since Foodpanda operates in a highly saturated market with competitors ready to capitalise on any opportunity to increase their consumer base."
At the time of writing, the Foodpanda has taken down its Instagram page.