Box of Kindness is a gift service that’s growing fast.

Hacked businesswoman ‘not going to lie down’

A Cork entrepreneur has described feeling heartbroken and afraid after the Instagram account of her business was held ransom for €10,000 by Russian hackers.

Charlene Corkery, founder of gift service Box of Kindness, woke up on Sunday morning to find the account she had poured “blood, sweat and tears” into had been taken over by hackers going by the name ‘kingsanchezx’.

The hackers had gained access to the account by posing as Instagram and informing Charlene that a song she had used on the account was infringing on copyright laws and that she could be banned.

Charlene clicked on a link in the message, unaware that she was allowing criminals access to her account.

Initially, the hackers demanded €10,000 in bitcoin in return for the account which had amassed over 14,000 followers in less than a year.

They then lowered their asking price to €1,000, of which Charlene says she will not pay a single cent.

“This is huge for me. It was such a simple idea, and then for this to happen, I was heartbroken. It feels like the pause button has been pushed,” she said.

Charlene says her Instagram account played a crucial role in attracting customers to her online business which allows people to send personalised gifts to distant loved ones.

In an attempt to rescue the account, Charlene sought the help of Ronan Murphy from Smarttech who, speaking on ‘The Neil Prendeville Show’ on RedFM, said this kind of account takeover is an “increasingly common occurrence”.

“You’re negotiating with terrorists at the end of the day. They’ve deleted the username, the associated telephone number, all of the details. It’s shocking that you can’t contact Facebook or Instagram and say ‘look, I’ve been hacked’,” he said.

Box of Kindness has been a huge success since it began during lockdown and will celebrate one year of trading on 25 July. The business has attracted customers from as far away as Seattle, Chicago, Australia and New Zealand.

Charlene says she now has to “start from the bottom again” and that she has already received a huge outpouring of support from customers and followers.

However, she told the Cork Independent she is still afraid that it could happen again and urged business owners to be extra vigilant about similar attacks.

“It wouldn't feel right to even share an image today. The whole thing just feels so scary. I was very naïve and thinking that it would never happen to me, but it did. These hackers are criminals and they'd hack anyone. It's a simple game for them,” she said.

Going forward, Charlene says she wants her followers to know that Box of Kindness is still standing and that she is “not going to lie down”.

“I want to stay in my own lane. Box of kindness was really holding its own. I’ll start from a blank canvas and pray to God that people will support me,” she said.

Asked what message she would have for the hackers who targeted her and her business, Charlene said she would say a prayer for those people. “If you give me anything in this world, be kind,” she said.