Lifestyle

How Britain's best chefs are falling victim to cyber attacks

Cooking up a cyber attack: Top British chefs say Instagram hackers are killing their businesses – with one revealing they had to call the POLICE over malicious Google reviews

  • EXCLUSIVE: British chefs told FEMAIL they are falling victim to cyber attacks
  • Aktar Islam, Brad Carter and Tom Heaney all had their Instagrams taken over, with some unable to take their control back and saying they lost ‘thousands’
  • Mursal Saiq, who runs cult barbecue restaurant Cue Point revealed she’s been flooded with fake Google reviews after threatened by an angry customer 

Some of the UK’s top chefs and restaurants are falling victim to cyber attacks with many having their Instagram accounts – that have been years in the making – hacked and destroyed, causing them to lose out on key business.

Aktar Islam, who won Great British Menu in 2011 and Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word the year before had his Instagram hacked earlier this year, he lost 60 per cent of his follower and a ‘huge chunk’ of revenue.

Meanwhile Mursal Saiq, who runs cult barbecue restaurant Cue Point in west London has revealed she’s been flooded with fake Google reviews after threatened by an angry customer – with both platforms not taking action. 

Jeremy Lee, who runs Quo Vadis in Soho, MasterChef winner Shelina Permalloo and food writer Valentine Warner have all publicly spoken about losing control of their Instagrams in recent months, while Tom Heaney of Heaney’s Cardiff told FEMAIL he lost ‘thousands’ after his Instagram was hacked, which he said ‘absolutely gutting’.

Elsewhere, Brad Carter – who runs the Michelin-starred Carters of Moseley in Birmingham – also lost control of his Instagram for five months.     

He said Instagram is a ‘key tool’ in modern food businesses, and being without it can be detrimental to restaurants, who have faced a catastrophic year after continuous lockdowns. 

The chefs have slammed Instagram and other big tech companies for not being able to help them.

An Instagram spokesperson told FEMAIL: ‘We take account security seriously and we encourage everyone to create a strong password, enable two factor authentication and to be suspicious of emails or messages asking for personal details. 

‘Official messages about account security will only be sent to your email address, not through DM or Messenger, and you can check what emails we’ve sent you recently by looking in the security settings of your Instagram app’.

Aktar Islam: ‘I lost tens of thousands of followers and key business, all my posts started to disappear’

Aktar Islam, who won Great British Menu in 2011 and Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word the year before had his Instagram hacked earlier this year. He is pictured on MasterChef 

Aktar Islam runs the Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Opheem in Birmingham as well as Argentinean steakhouse Pulperia.

He built up a following of tens of thousands and saved hundreds of jobs after setting up an ‘at home’ business, when lockdown forced him to close his restaurants last year. Much of the business came through Instagram, with people regularly scrolling to discover photos of the delicious meals. 

Speaking to FEMAIL, Aktar said: ‘I tried to log into my Instagram through my phone one afternoon, bizarrely it wouldn’t let me log into my account and it kept saying the password was incorrect,’

Aktar formerly went by aktar_islam (bottom), but this account was deleted making him  create @aktarislam_  

‘Unbeknown to myself I was being hacked. I tried to reset my password, but the security details had been changed to almost the exact same email, just now with an extra letter. I was notified of this in the evening, that’s when I lost total control of my account’.

He added that in total he lost around 60 per cent of his followers, which was a ‘big chunk’ of revenue as a result.

‘It was quite surreal, all my posts started to disappear, as did my followers and people I follow. 

‘The handle was there but I had no access, I didn’t know what was going to happen next. 

‘My account was mainly used for business and I had tens of thousands of followers which I built organically over the years. 

‘It was my Instagram account that helped build Aktar at Home, an initiative that kept over 100 staff in work during lockdown and enabled the team and I to support the local and charities throughout the pandemic. 

Aktar Islam runs the Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Opheem in Birmingham as well as Argentinean steakhouse Pulperia. He built up a following of tens of thousands and saved hundreds of jobs after setting up an ‘at home’ business, when lockdown forced him to close his restaurants last year. Much of the business came through Instagram, with people regularly scrolling to discover photos of the delicious meals. 

‘My platform was the main marketing tool and it worked – we are currently recruiting from the inner city, from areas that have high unemployment levels, aiming to help some of the city’s disadvantaged people into work.

‘My personal account has been my main point of contact for the industry, I get regularly get contacted by people looking for employment. 

‘It’s a powerful part of our business and how I connect with customers. We’ve been quite lucky as my restaurants (Opheem and Pulperia) have their own Instagram accounts, but the timing was terrible. 

‘We had been shut for a long time due to the pandemic and we’re gearing up for re-opening.

In April, Aktar set up a new Instagram after his was hacked by ‘scumbags’. He has much fewer followers now than before

‘From a personal standpoint, I’ve been with Instagram since 2013 and have lost a lot of memories. 

‘The most alarming thing for me was the poor response from Instagram, there really is little to no support. 

‘This is a common issue affecting a lot of people, it’s people’s livelihoods on the line. 

‘We pay our way with Instagram, a lot of money is spent on advertising, but when it comes to a serious issue you can’t even speak to anyone. 

‘The no support is quite scary.

Tommy Heaney: ‘I lost thousands, it was absolutely gutting and Instagram were ‘little help’ 

Tommy Heaney runs Heaneys Cardiff, a restaurant with a Michelin Plate and that recognised by the red book as ‘modern and pared-back in style’. 

He told FEMAIL he lost ‘thousands of followers’ after his Instagram was hacked, which he described as ‘absolutely gutting’.

He added the social media platform were ‘little help’ in getting business back.     

‘My other half came to me at the end of service to say that we had received a message from Instagram and had a violation on our account, they said our restaurant’s account would be deleted within 48 hours if we didn’t respond,’ he said.

Tommy Heaney runs Heaneys Cardiff, a restaurant with a Michelin Plate and that recognised by the red book as ‘modern and pared-back in style’.

‘Within minutes of her filling out the form they changed the profile picture, name, and there was absolutely no way of accessing anything. 

‘I reported the attack and received little help, I ended up starting again from scratch and trying to build our followers up to what they were – we lost thousands. 

‘Two weeks later I found an email from Instagram in my junk mail written in Turkish, the email had a code that I figured I could use to re-set the password on my account. 

‘I managed to get the email address back and the account, but it was a complete fluke.

‘We were really lucky, but the timing was really bad as business was a bit pear shaped due to not being able to open. 

‘The last thing you need is something like this happening, it was absolutely gutting.

Brad Carter: ‘The app changed in front of my eyes. I didn’t have access for five months’

Self-taught Brad Carter of Carters of Moseley also saw his Instagram hacked.

The Michelin-starred chef, who is known for serving attractive dishes that blend modern and classic techniques, was without his account for more than five months, which meant he lost out on key business.

He added that ‘Instagram is so important’ for food businesses these days – and being without it was a ‘real concern’.

‘On 1st January this year I was cleaning up the restaurant’s Instagram, archiving old posts and editing story highlights,’ he told FEMAIL. 

Self-taught Brad Carter of Carters of Moseley also saw his Instagram hacked. The Michelin-starred chef, who is known for serving attractive dishes that blend modern and classic techniques, was without his account for more than five months, which meant he lost out on key business.

‘Suddenly the app changed and I couldn’t scroll properly, it felt like it was being controlled by someone else. 

‘I received a notification saying someone was trying to log-in from another address and I was logged out. I tried to get back in but I couldn’t. 

‘I think the main issue was the fact that the number tied to the account was our restaurant’s landline so the codes you receive via text, that help you verify yourself, wouldn’t come through. 

‘After two months of messaging Instagram through my personal account, I heard back from them and they sent me a code. 

‘They asked me to write it down on a piece of paper and hold it up against the restaurant which we did but it didn’t help us. 

‘It’s been quite challenging not being able to communicate our business on social media for five months, especially when we need the support from our customers more than ever due to the pandemic. 

‘Instagram is so important in this day and age and we’ve worked hard to build out 18k followers. 

‘I’m excited to say that we had a breakthrough recently though and we are back into the account’. 

Mursal Saiq: ‘We had to contact the police after a customer threatened us and flooded us with fake reviews’

Mursal Saiq, co-founder of the wildly popular Afghan BBQ specialists Cue Point, recently relaunched their restaurant. 

While it got five star reviews across the board, with Jay Rayner saying he ‘rampaged through the menu’ while MailOnline gave their at home kit five-stars.

Their Google reviews are overwhelmingly five-star, with customers saying  it’s the ‘best food they’ve eaten’ and praising ‘friendly customer service’.

But Mursal told FEMAIL one incident with a customer caused a barrage of abuse.  

The restaurant focuses on inclusivity and is halal and vegan-friendly, but one unhappy patron claimed the restaurant wasn’t halal and created dozens of fake online reviews.

‘A few weeks ago during the height of relaunch we got incredibly life threatening abusive messages from a customer,’ Mursal told FEMAIL.

‘This turned into a social media and online smear campaign.

Mursal Saiq, co-founder of the wildly popular Afghan BBQ specialists Cue Point, recently relaunched their restaurant.Their Google reviews are overwhelmingly five-star, with customers saying it’s the ‘best food they’ve eaten’ and praising ‘friendly customer service’. But Mursal told FEMAIL one incident with a customer caused a barrage of abuse.. She is pictured with her fiance and head chef Josh Moroney

‘He also went to contact the health inspectors with false claims. He continues to troll us daily.

Mursal explained the grievance was that the individual wasn’t going to receive their at home meal kit  on time. Despite their website warning this was when it was going to arrive. 

She added that both the Cue Point website and DPD  website – who delivers the kits – advice they don’t do next day delivery.

‘This customer was not happy about this. They messaged us and when we saw their grievance we were incredibly apologetic and offered to refund them immediately. 

‘We apologised profusely and asked how we could best solve this.’

Mursal added that the customer then became threatening, saying they were going to ‘seek revenge’ upon them, telling them ‘watch out I’m coming for you’.

Pictured: The food served at Cue Point, including smoked brisket, lamb barbacoa and chicken wings

Unbeknown to the business, a relative of the customer was contacting them in a much more polite manner. 

‘They said they needed the food that evening and even though they were to receive £250 worth of food the next morning. They were desperate as guests were coming over,’ Mursal explained. 

‘However as it was the height of Ramadan we felt the need to assist, as we value our customers more than money, so we offered to get them the same order from the restaurant that evening and have them pick it up for free in us.

‘We said they could also keep the Saturday goods, that would then be nearly £500 retail.

‘When we tried to refund the first individual we realised that they had the same name as the relative.

‘Once we realised they were connected and they were playing us trying to defraud us of now £750 retail of food.

‘We immediately  contacted them asked them not to come.  Not to communicate with us anymore. We then contacted the police on charges of harassment, and fraud.

Going forward, Mursal hopes to put the bad experience behind her and is focusing on a new enterprise to help refugees in the hospitality industry.

‘The police warned the individual to leave us alone and to leave me alone as they were messaging me and emailing me personally, as a woman I’d not believe this male individual liked that I stood up for myself and didn’t now down to his abuse.

‘I blocked them they would use another email’.

Mursal added ‘contacting the police just made things so much worse’. 

‘The customer then began a smear campaign creating multiple identities and leaving false reviews saying that we are not halal, that we cook pork, screen-shotting images of other restaurants and very old menus from half a decade ago etc, claiming they were ours.

‘They then contacted the health inspector (having never entered the restaurant) and complained to them also. 

‘My mental health was so affected by this, to feel at the butt of abuse after a year and half of pandemic life which we are not through yet!

‘I felt like a punching bag to someone’s personal traumas the year of pandemic it’s been very much like this but this so the first time someone threatened our lives for barbecue.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=B2coVl7ygQY%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D1

‘I am seeing a pattern that we hope to revolutionise which is that the hospitality industry does not have the respect from clients for both the hospitality and the people that run it. ‘ 

‘Would anyone treat their car salesman this way? No because for some reason the belief that the customer is always right in hospitality has allowed for a disgusting lack of respect.

‘At Cue Point we value ourselves and respect our food and industry that we refuse rude customers, we don’t allow bullies to dictate our values and we have a social contract between server and client, it is not a one sided agreement but rules of engagement for both parties involved in a transaction.

Going forward, Mursal hopes to put the bad experience behind her and is focusing on a new enterprise to help refugees in the hospitality industry.

Mursal, who was born in Kabul and moved to the UK as a child now wants to help refugees move up the ladder in the hospitality industry.

‘So many fall into the lower rungs of the hospitality industry as it’s the largest employer of racialised individuals in the UK – yet at the lower levels, with no growth in generational wealth or prospects.’

Mursal – together with partner in life and in business – chef Josh Moroney, is set to change all that with the launch of Cue Point Kitchen, an all-encompassing central London restaurant-cum-social enterprise that will create the first ever ‘kitchen for change’, inviting refugees and immigrants to come and learn all about restaurant management.

The scheme will teach how to cook their fantastic barbecue food, as well as overall operations to enable them to climb up the ladder and accrue generational wealth, thus systemically changing hospitality narratives for racialised individuals.  

‘Our sole aim is to further diversify the industry and create generational wealth with our training, nurturing and overall attention to the individual’.

She’s hoping to raise £30,000 in a kickstarter fund to help this scheme.

‘So much of culture and identity is being eroded now. We need to hold on to it, and preserve it, to keep nationalities alive and empowered, ultimately through financial and managerial success. 

‘Furthermore, with action, refugees will continue to be dehumanised and seen as third-class citizens. Instead of ostracising them, why don’t we assist our UK economy and also support people seeking refuge simultaneously?’ 

Source: Read Full Article