Manchester businessman whose Twitter account was taken over by hackers helping new cybersecurity drive

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Aiden Ryan, who runs coffee and cake business Loaf Mcr, has had to prioritise cybersecurity from the start because prior to establishing the brand he had hackers take over his Twitter account.

Manchester’s small businesses are being encouraged to toughen up their cybersecurity after shocking figures revealed that almost half the city’s smaller enterprises suffered some form of online attack in 2022.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has launched a new plan offering businesses expert advice and is urging the city’s entrepreneurs to make use of its specialist knowledge.

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The data suggests Manchester firms are more likely than those in other parts of the country to attract unwanted attention online and less likely than businesses elsewhere to have trained up its staff in how to deal with cyber issues.

One businessman keen to spread the word about the issue in the city is Aiden Ryan, who had a nightmare experience when hackers took over his Twitter account but was able to then put the lessons he had learned into practice when he started his new food concern.

‘When I set up the brand, I took cyber security steps immediately’

Aiden Ryan set up his coffee and cake brand Loaf Mcr during lockdown and it grew quickly from making cakes to raise some money for the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic to a concern supplying sweet treats to Selfridges and more than a dozen cafes across Manchester.

Aiden said he noticed businesses struggling with their cybersecurity during the pandemic but he had made sure Loaf Mcr was secure from the moment he set it up as he previously endured a nightmare experience with his personal social media presence.

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He said: “Before starting Loaf, my personal Twitter account was hacked and completely taken over, after a leak of log ins and email addresses was posted to a hacker sharing site. The hacker cleared all evidence of me off the account and changed my password and the account email address so I couldn’t get back in.

“When I set up my business, I took this incident into account and prioritised my cyber security from the get-go. From the start I used 2-Step Verification on all my social media accounts and set up an entirely new email address.

The owner of Loaf Mcr has been speaking about the importance of cybersecurityThe owner of Loaf Mcr has been speaking about the importance of cybersecurity
The owner of Loaf Mcr has been speaking about the importance of cybersecurity | Loaf Mcr

“That was a lesson learned. When I set up the brand, I took cyber security steps immediately. It’s one thing when it happens to your personal accounts where you speak to friends and family, and quite another when it’s a business account with following of 14,000 and two to three years of work behind it.

“Often, people have paid money to grow those followings; they’ve spent on social media marketing tools, and agency advice. So, when something happens they lose the money they’ve invested as well as the future business.

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“Over the course of lockdown I began to notice that more fellow small business owners seemed to be falling victim to cyber attacks. Lots of businesses across Manchester were having their social media accounts hacked and I spotted that the small business community was rallying together to promote cybersecurity advice. You’d often see Instagram Stories where you’d know the account had been compromised.”

Before setting up Loaf Mcr the business’ owner suffered a cyber attack in which hackers took over his Twitter accountBefore setting up Loaf Mcr the business’ owner suffered a cyber attack in which hackers took over his Twitter account
Before setting up Loaf Mcr the business’ owner suffered a cyber attack in which hackers took over his Twitter account | Loaf Mcr

Aiden spoke about his passion for ensuring what he has learned about keeping businesses secure online is passed on and shared a couple of his top tips as well.

He said: “It’s something I see a lot of people in the business community talking about nowadays, and it’s something I really wants people to consider.

“I think ever since I started using 2-Step Verification, I felt more confident. I don’t feel scared it’s going to happen to me but I do know that you can always do more.

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“Loaf was built through community. It was an underdog story - people want to see good things happen. Which is why I feel so passionate about this too; I want to help others in the business community recognise that this matters. Businesses are built through community and they thrive through community.”

What cybersecurity help is being offered to Manchester businesses?

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is part of the UK’s intelligence, security and cyber agency GCHQ, is urging Manchester companies to use the tools it has available for staying safe online.

The centre has acted after the government’s 2022 Cyber Security Breaches Survey found 44% of small businesses in Manchester had suffered a cyber incident, compared to 38% for the UK as a whole. The survey also revealed the city’s small businesses were less likely than those elsewhere to have a cyber incident response plan in place and were also less likely to have conducted staff training on cyber security.

Manchester’s small businesses are being encouraged to work on their cybersecurity to prevent attacks. Photo: AdobeStockManchester’s small businesses are being encouraged to work on their cybersecurity to prevent attacks. Photo: AdobeStock
Manchester’s small businesses are being encouraged to work on their cybersecurity to prevent attacks. Photo: AdobeStock | terovesalainen - stock.adobe.com

To help small businesses and microenterprises improve their defences the NCSC has launched its Cyber Action Plan, which allows businesses to answer a number of questions and get tailored advice on keeping secure.

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There is also the Check your Cyber Security service which allows organisations including schools and charities to identify and fix cyber security issues.

In addition the NCSC offers other support for companies including its Small Business Guide.

What has been said about the cybersecurity awareness drive?

The focus on cybersecurity for small, independent traders has been welcomed in Manchester, while the security authorities have been urging firms to take advantage of the help on offer.

Lindy Cameron, NCSC CEO, said: “Manchester has a thriving community of small businesses, but we know that that cyber criminals pose a serious threat to them.

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“That’s why the NCSC has created the Cyber Action Plan and Check Your Cyber Security to help them boost their online defences in a matter of minutes.

“I strongly encourage all the city’s small businesses to use these tools today to keep the cyber criminals out and their operations on track.”

Rich Tyrrell, co-founder and director of Manchester Young Professionals (MYP), said: “The diverse MYP community covers various sectors and includes a number of start-ups and owner-led small businesses.

“As business in Manchester continues to flourish, with the continued arrival of multinational conglomerates and the continued success of local startups, it highlights the importance of cyber security becoming more prevalent. “

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