Instagram contains some of the most sensitive and personal information that we’ll ever voluntarily upload to the Internet. Vast quantities of filtered, embellished, and shareable Instagram photos uploaded every day.
Because some of these photos are definitely the kind that we wouldn’t want to be seen by the greater public, Instagram has given users the wonderful option to make their profiles private.
This means that their content can only be viewed by their followers, with other viewers being greeted with the following message:
However, for one reason or another, you might want to see a private account’s photos. Perhaps you want to do a little background check on someone you met on an online dating app. Or maybe you masochistically want to see how your ex-girlfriend is doing with her new boyfriend.
Whatever the case, doing these things means that you’ll need some means of viewing the photos of a private Instagram account without being a follower of that account. This may mean bypassing the privacy feature that Instagram has put in, or by finding a way to become a follower without drawing suspicion.
Let’s get this out of the way:
There isn’t really a foolproof way to view a private Instagram profile without having some kind of connection to the target account. Therefore, accessing these accounts is a little more involved than just inputting an Instagram handle in a shady website somewhere.
In this article, I explore some of the best ways to view a private Instagram account, as well as some tools that can make the job a little easier for you.
1. Private Instagram Viewer Tools
The majority of these tools work by allowing you to monitor your target’s device, giving you direct access to their Instagram profile without even having to go through the website and its privacy controls. They provide a whole suite of features geared towards this end goal.
Many of these tools offer keylogging, which allows you to capture and store every touch and keystroke that is made on your target’s device. If they ever log into the site with their username and password, you’ll be able to acquire their login information, and you can use it later on to log in and view their images with impunity.
These tools also allow you to access the photos and videos on your target’s device. You’ll be able to browse their gallery, and because Instagram posting is typically only done on mobile, the private images you want to see are almost certainly going to be among the photos on their device storage. If you’re lucky, you might not even have to sift through all their photos—Instagram sometimes saves all uploaded photos to an album that is conveniently separated from the main photo roll.
Some tools even allow you to bypass all these manual steps and simply give access to whatever Instagram account is signed in on the target phone. You’ll not only be able to view the photos and videos on their private profile—you’ll get access to their DMs and all links shared in these messages as well.
The beauty of these tools is that they’re oftentimes they’re billed as parental control software intended for child monitoring, giving them a fairly harmless front that doesn’t draw any suspicion. However, it’s easy for them to moonlight as spying tools due to the degree of control and access that they give to a remote user.
This sort of hidden nature is important, because in order for these tools to work, they need to be installed on your target’s device, and they have to be running in the background constantly.
It goes without saying that you need to have access to your target’s device to install such tools. In addition, if you’re going to use their login information, you need to ensure that two-factor authentication is turned off, otherwise just having their username and password won’t work for you.
2. Send Follow Request
Perhaps the easiest and most “earnest” way of making an attempt at viewing a private Instagram is to simply send a follow request. If you get your target to accept your follow request, then you’ll immediately skip all of the busywork and you’ll have access to the desired content immediately.
In a lot of cases, especially with Instagrammers who have plenty of followers, your target won’t even pay much attention to who you are and will just blindly accept your request. This is especially true if they already know you directly, or through some mutual friends. It’s far less likely if your target has a particular reason to worry about others prying into their lives, or is otherwise sensitive about their privacy.
If your target doesn’t accept your follow request immediately, don’t give up just yet. Patience is key—it’s altogether possible that they haven’t noticed you among their notifications yet, and making any rash moves or decisions, such as moving to more drastic methods, won’t improve your situation. Give it a couple of days.
After waiting, you’ll have the option of direct messaging them to improve your visibility. The way you go about this depends on the angle you’re going for.
For example, if you’re someone they absolutely don’t know, then you could send them a message that tells them who you are, how you feel about them, and why you want to see their photos. You should aim for authenticity, as there’s a chance that they’ll be on their guard while reading your message, and a disingenuous reason might be detected easily. It’s also important to keep your profile public so they can vet you.
Of course, you don’t want to seem too earnest, as though you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve; you might end up looking like a creepy or awkward stalker with a crush! This is something to avoid at all costs, as it will not only ruin your chances, but could also raise their guard and render other methods less effective.
On the other hand, if you’re someone whom your target should be aware of, or if you’ve met in passing at some point, then you can remind them of your connection. Describe how you know them, whether you were introduced by family or mutual friends, or met them at an event. Reminding them of this connection is an effective way of getting your follow request accepted, as your target will be inclined to believe that you just want to follow them because of the expectations brought about by that connection.
If you are someone that your target specifically wants to avoid, this method is not going to work if you’re using your personal Instagram account to make a follow request. There are other methods that can help with this problem.
3. Impersonate Their Friends
One trick to get a follow request accepted is to create an account that purportedly belongs to one of their friends. If you know your target’s network sufficiently well, you can create a new Instagram account that uses the profile picture of one of their friends, and has their personal information listed in their Instagram bio.
If you’re lucky, or if you’re very good at constructing a fake profile, your target will see this follow request, give the profile a quick glance, and then accept the request. There’s a good chance that they won’t even bother verifying with the friend you’re impersonating.
It may take a little time for them to accept this request, so be patient. Only send a direct message if you’re confident in your ability to impersonate the friend’s manner of speech.
One effective way to gather information about how your target’s friends talk to them is to look at Facebook or Twitter exchanges. Entire conversations are often carried out in publicly-visible threads on both social networks, and the way that people engage with each other on these threads is often representative of the way that they chat in private.
Use these public threads to your advantage, and select people to impersonate based on how much information is available to you from these threads.
4. Create A Fake Account
If you’re unable to get reliable information about their friends, or if you’re a stranger to them and have no information at all, then creating a fake account to send a follow request is the next best solution.
You must create an account that combines a believable sense of innocence and friendliness, and also carries with it a certain universal appeal that will encourage most people to accept your request without thinking.
One great way of doing this is to create a fake profile based on the image of an attractive woman. These photos aren’t particularly difficult to find, with plenty of gorgeous Instagram influencers having public accounts with photos that you can co-opt for your fake account project.
Don’t get too cocky with your choice of influencer, though. If you get someone who’s too famous, you might get recognized as a fraudulent account.
In addition, avoid the rookie move of choosing a stock photo as your profile picture. Stock photos are fairly easy to identify, and some are common enough that your target might have already seen them. They might even choose to reverse image search your stock photo profile pic, which will very likely reveal your fakery.
The more effort you put into your fake account, the better. Create a bio with a story that isn’t just believable, but also interesting. Populate your account with plenty of photos, each with their own unique story.
If possible, spread out your photo posting over a period of several weeks to a month. This is a rather involved way of doing things, but it adds to the illusion of a real account. If you don’t do this and instead send your follow request when your Instagram account in brand-new, it will look like a gallery of photos that were all posted over a span of a few hours.
5. Search For Their Photos
Sending follow requests, regardless of your methods, isn’t always going to work, but it also isn’t the only way of accessing a private Instagram account’s photos. Sometimes, even with just their Instagram handle or username, you’ll already have access to a treasure trove of photos from their account.
There are several websites that allow you to view Instagram profiles without going through the Instagram app or web interface, and some of them store copies of the images that they scrape from these accounts. Simply searching your target’s Instagram handle on Google might yield a link to one of these sites. If your target’s account was ever public at some point, there’s a chance that their photos were cached on one of these sites, and you’ll be able to access them.
Searching for your target’s handle can also lead to other sites where they might have shared their Instagram photos. They could be tagged in a photo by other users with public profiles, or a photo may have been shared with a text caption that credits or tags them.
There’s also the chance that your target may be using the same handle for other social network accounts that aren’t private, or can be penetrated by other methods. This holds true for image hosting services as well, such as Imgur or Photobucket. People often leave a long trail of social network profiles that can be difficult to truly secure, and finding a weak link is key to uncovering their private content.
6. Use Social Engineering Techniques
The term “hacking” is often used to describe the process of gaining access to social media accounts, and it tends to conjure up the glamorous image of high-tech computer software breaking through security systems and decrypting passwords.
In truth, most hacking really involves exploiting the gullibility of human users, or their lack of vigilance when it comes to the way they browse the Web. Manipulating people to reveal sensitive information is known as social engineering.
For the most part, modern social networks are extremely hard to crack, but a security system is only as strong as its weakest link, and in most cases, this weak link is the human account holder. Social engineering in this scenario involves exploiting this human account holder to reveal their login information.
One of the most important forms of social engineering is known as phishing, which is the use of fraudulent emails, webpages and other messaging to lure users into giving up their login information. This messaging is disguised as the real thing, purportedly coming from legitimate channels to would encourage users to trust them.
There are several websites that allow you to create Instagram phishing pages, which look exactly like legitimate Instagram login pages. You can send this link to your target, and if they fall for it and enter their username and password into the fields, the information will be sent to you instead, and they’ll be none the wiser.
Social engineering is more than just fake sites, though. It’s a whole philosophy of intrusion techniques that can be combined to improve virtually any of the methods that we’ve described.
For example, the keylogging tools I described earlier will be utterly useless if your target is constantly logged into their Instagram app. One good way to force them to enter their details is to send them a fake article or chain email that discusses a fake Instagram hacking incident. Data privacy is a very important topic in the current public consciousness, and your target will be encouraged to enter a new password through the Instagram app or website—a password that your keylogger will naturally be able to read!
Your ability to keep up a facade, or manipulate your target’s lack of awareness, is what will determine how well your social engineering skills hold up, and whether you’ll be able to enhance the effectiveness of any of the methods I’ve written here.
Viewing a private Instagram won’t always be as simple as a follow request. Knowing how to respond to each scenario, and understanding the best tools and techniques for the job, is the key to finding the content you’re looking for.
It’s also important to know your limitations, and select a different avenue of attack if a target’s Instagram is too hard to access. Instagram is far from the only means of learning about someone, after all—Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn are all valid targets as far as snooping is concerned, and many of the techniques that I described here will actually apply in some form to other social networks.
Whatever the case, these are the best ways of going about viewing a private Instagram. Many methods that claim to be a one-stop shop for this process may very well be social engineering traps themselves—so be careful!