An Alberta business owner is fuming after hackers took over his long running and successful social media page, taking most of his business and his 20,000 followers with them.
David Blankenstyn, owner of Okotoks Hot Glass, told Global News his Facebook account was taken over by hackers on Sept. 8, 2023, and Meta has yet to help him recover it.
“It’s my whole business,” he said tearfully. “I wish I didn’t invest all of this into Facebook because, just like that, it’s now gone.”
Blankenstyn, who creates blown glass memorial items using the ashes of deceased people and pets, set up his Facebook account eight years ago and has been slowly growing it ever since.
“I was one of the early people to start a Facebook business page and I grew it one person at a time.”
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Blankenstyn grew it to more than 20,000 followers across the province and beyond, many of whom shared their loss journeys with him.
“It’s a lot of crying with strangers to be honest,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”
“Sometimes when people are in hospice and they’re on their literal death bed, we would do a FaceTime with their family present. They would be choosing colours and I would be consulting with them. It makes me cry every time.”
Those connections are now lost, along with thousands of dollars.
“I’ve invested $30,000 of my own money in advertising to boost posts, because that’s what you have to do to be successful at Facebook,” he pointed out. “(Hackers) charged $7,000 in ad fees. They changed all the settings so no Canadians could ever see my page again. They disabled my ad account that had eight years of connections to it.”
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Blankenstyn said he did receive a notification on his phone that someone had accessed his account, but because he had all of the necessary security measures in place he didn’t think much of it until it was too late.
His numerous emails to Facebook also haven’t yielded any results.
“You can’t call up Facebook and say, ‘Hey I need some help.’ Mark Zuckerberg is not coming here to save me,” he said.
“I’m not a huge, multinational corporation. I’m a single father who has worked 20 years to get here and now it feels like it has all disappeared. It’s hard.”
Cyber hackers hit businesses
Cyber security experts told Global News businesses and organizations have been prime targets for hackers for years and it’s only going to get worse as technology evolves and artificial intelligence) (AI) picks up.
“With businesses, they’ve definitely become a huge target,” Tola Jimoh said.
Jimoh, who is the founder and chief information risk officer with Cyber Strategy Consulting Inc. based in Calgary, pointed out it’s often a no-brainer for hackers to go where the most money is.
“If I was an attacker — why go after one person when I can hit a corporation and get 10,000 people for example. That’s more money for me when I exchange that data on the dark web.”
Jimoh said business social media accounts are also far from safe, adding they contain a lot of information and contacts that can ultimately lead to a payout.
“As an attacker, I need to find a way to get you. If I can’t get you on the corporate network, I’ll get to you through your social media,” she said.
“I think there’s a huge assumption that social media is not as vulnerable as your business network — that’s not true. Social media is the easy pipeline. It’s the place we pay less attention to. The place where we’re not necessarily deploying many or as much security parameters as we need.”
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Huge loss of business
Blankenstyn told Global News he had taken all of the necessary security measures to keep his account safe and he still doesn’t know what his hackers were after by taking over his account.
What he does know is that his business has suffered significantly. He used to get about 30 orders for products every second day, he now gets about five a week.
It’s not nearly enough to pay his overhead for his studio, which costs about $5,000 a month. He said he’s not asking for pity, just for some justice and above all, compassion.
“If there’s someone out there that is doing this to me, please, please stop.”
Global News reached out to Meta, parent company of Facebook, for a comment but has not heard back.
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