‘Internet troll’ and ‘Facebook hacking’ are terms few had heard of until recently. But now online abuse and identify theft have become so common that social media users are being sold specialist insurance to help protect their reputation in case of an attack.
Hacking of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media accounts – where another user logs in and posts derogatory or offensive messages – can cause huge damage to an individual or business’s image.
A UK-based information privacy company has launched the country’s first social media insurance to specifically protect against reputational damage, account jacking and ID theft.
Justin Basini, CEO of the company providing the service, ALLOW, said that insurance ‘perhaps wouldn’t have been needed a few years ago.’
He added: ‘That’s all changed now. Every internet user faces a certain level of risk that one day a digital criminal will target them or that they will suffer damage to their reputation.’
The cover – at a cost of £3.99 a month – will pay for legal advice and support if someone suffers an online attack and seeks some form of redress.
It includes the cost of disabling accounts, suppressing offensive material and stopping any legal action triggered by hacking, for example if a hacker posts illegal material under a victim’s name.
Mother-of-one Nicola Brookes was hounded for nine months by anonymous bullies who set up a Facebook profile in her name and set explicit messages to children, after she wrote an innocent message of support for an X Factor contestant online.
The fake profile, which featured her picture and email address, falsely described her as a drug dealer, prostitute and child abuser. Her email address was also hacked and her home address was published by internet trolls.
Miss Brookes, 45, won a landmark legal case to compel Facebook to release the bullies’ details in June and hopes to bring private prosecutions against them.
Her legal action would have cost her £5,000 but her solicitors Bains Cohen agreed to represent her for free because of her horrific ordeal.
As the number of similar cases rises and the likelihood of solicitors taking on more work pro bono diminishes, more people may be tempted to pay for insurance.
Ian Giles, a marketing consultant from Surrey, has signed up to the insurance. He runs his business under his name and is concerned that it could be ruined if his social media accounts were hacked.
‘My name is my brand,’ he said. ‘If someone were to impersonate me online then it would cause damage to my business. It would really help to have experts on call in that sort of situation, because you’d just want the damage repaired ASAP.’
The insurance is available via the ALLOW Protect service, which also allows users to monitor how their personal data is used online.