Sales drop after hackers hit suburban bakery’s social media account

WGN Investigates

There’s been a dramatic rise in ransomware attacks, but it’s not just big companies getting hit.

A small suburban Chicago bakery owner tells WGN Investigates that business has plummeted since hackers shut down her Instagram account.

“My business ran on Instagram,” says Leila Manoochehry, owner of Leila Love Macarons.

Manoochehry opened the bakery in 2019 on an industrial corridor in northwest suburban Park Ridge. She acknowledges the location wasn’t ideal. But the business thrived, thanks to the following she built on social media. On Instagram, her more than 16,000 followers generated 85 percent of her income. 

“We had this shop button on my Instagram,” she says. “So, we kind of took people to my website, so that’s how they placed their order, either for pick-up or shipping.”

MORE WGN INVESTIGATES: Chicago police merit promotions continue on the word of demoted, retired cops

But all that changed last month after hackers gained hold of her account. They sent threatening emails but she didn’t engage.  

By the next day, her account was gone – and so was the business it helped generate.

“It’s like we never existed,” she says.

It’s a feeling many small businesses owners have these days.

MORE WGN INVESTIGATES: Lawmakers summon DCFS officials to hearing after nearly 200 kids have slept in offices

While cyberattacks involving big companies dominate the headlines, experts say hackers are increasingly targeting mom-and-pop shops, often demanding pricey ransoms.

“I’m hearing ransomware to be between $5,000 and $100,000 in the small business industry,” says Joanna Mirov, founder and CEO of MXOTech, a Chicago-based cybersecurity firm.

Manoochehry says she’s contacted Instagram numerous times.

But had no luck getting through. WGN Investigates also tried but Instagram did not immediately respond to our emails as well.

In the meantime, Manoochehry has opened a new Instagram account but with only 1,000 followers, it doesn’t have the same reach.

MORE WGN INVESTIGATES: ISP rolls out license plate readers in effort to curb spike in Chicago expressway shootings

“Maybe in [a few] years, I can find more people,” she says. “But right now, it’s like nobody sees me. All the effort we had. All gone.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Latest News

More News