December 5, 2022

The owner of a small business that sells vintage eyewear has taken to TikTok to share her experience with “online hitmen” who are allegedly ruining her six-figure business.

Kaila Uli (@kailauli) the owner of Brillies eyewear, said her website had been cloned, and her revenue had sharply decreased. Her video has received 1.8 million views since it was posted Nov. 29.

“I knew something was wrong when I logged into my Facebook Ad manager and I saw 83 websites connected to my pixel (Facebook’s ad tracker),” Uli said. “I started looking at the links and they were all exact clone copies of my site. Then suddenly my traffic disappeared.”

Uli’s video was a response to another creator, @viliamufanene, who was discussing the methods used by these “hitmen” to divert traffic from a small business owner’s website. Uli called it a “multi-layered” attack.

“I’ve been in business for four years and it’s been a very hard four years, but I was about to hit six figures per month,” she said. “I was getting posted by celebrities, styling pieces for movies, and then it all stopped. Not only did they clone my site, they got my pixel information, got my Pinterest taken offline. This was a multi-layered calculated attack that I was never meant to survive.”

She said that she had considered legal action, but she might not be able to do anything if the entity doing this is beyond the reach of the U.S.

“I did consider getting an attorney but he said it would be very expensive, and if whoever was doing it was located outside the U.S., I would have no recourse, so that’s it,” she said. “Unless something changes, in a big way, unless my sales magically come back, and everything that I work for suddenly is back online, I’m done, I’m just done.”

Described by @viliamufanene, what Uli is experiencing is called a denial-of-service attack, or a DDoS attack. Her site is still safe to purchase from, but through the creation of traffic disruptions, attackers are preventing users from accessing her web page.

One commenter suggested that this is how larger companies might boot smaller competitors out of the market.

“Hate to admit this but I was in corporate America for a long time and we used to hire offshore companies to destroy our competitors this way,” they wrote.

Uli responded to a commenter that her current plan is to start over from scratch, following the attack.

However, it appears viewers are trying to help Uli save her business. In a follow-up video, she said she’s been put in touch with information technology (IT) and cybersecurity workers.

The Daily Dot has reached out to Uli regarding the video and her business via email.

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*First Published: Dec 4, 2021, 2:15 pm CST

Brooke Sjoberg

Brooke Sjoberg is an editorial intern for the Daily Dot studying journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. She is also the Daily Texan’s Life and Arts Editor and an editorial intern for Texas Connect magazine.

Brooke Sjoberg

‘I feel totally helpless’: Woman says ‘online hitmen’ are taking down her small business in viral TikTok