Saturday, August 10, 2013, by

Homes for Hackers gets a visit from the FBI

tl;dr:  Nobody gets arrested.

On Monday I received this text from one of the guys from Traveling Nuker (one of the startups in my hacker house as part of the Homes for Hackers program):
Hey when you get a free moment, you had a visitor that wants to get a hold of you. One Special Agent *** ****** of the FBI. Nothing to worry about though he's just reaching out, with great internet speeds comes a potential for higher cyber related crimes. So if we see anything fishy we have his number ***-***-****. He does still want to catch up at some point. 
(Name & nbr obscured because I don't want to get in trouble)

Needless to say, I called the guy right away. Apparently he showed up at the hacker house, very casually wearing shorts and a T-shirt, introducing himself as an FBI agent, not flashing a badge or anything, just wanting to know more about the program, kind of like exploratory research.

We had a very nice conversation and he said maybe we could go to lunch sometime in a few weeks time, when his schedule calmed down. I said "sure" and we hung up.

On Wednesday, he called again, this time asking to take me to lunch the following day. He said he might bring another FBI agent along too. I said "sure".

On Thursday at 11am, I met three special agents for lunch at Cupini's, right opposite the Google FiberSpace. No, I don't have any pictures. Just take my word for it. And yes: I know they were FBI for sure because I called the KC FBI branch to confirm the meeting and was routed straight to my guy.

I mention the Google Fiberspace because a) it's cool and b) apparently the agents didn't know it even existed and asked me all about it. I was dumbfounded. I don't know if this was an ignorance play on their part to get me talking or if they honestly didn't know about it.

Anyway, I ended up telling them all about the Homes for Hackers program and the KC Startup Village. I hope they understood that I give free rent to entrepreneurs, not black-hat hackers, but one can never be too sure.

I ended up walking them down the street and showing them the hacker house in person.

Now, in retrospect, there's several things I showed them that have me a little worried:
  • There's a big map on the wall, right as you walk in, of all the nuclear power plants in the US. 
  • Traveling Nuker is the name of one of my startups in the house right now.
  • TN has a small demo sample of naturally occurring Uranium, complete with Geiger counter, right there on a coffee table when you enter the house. 
  • There's a small wireless bridge dish rigged up on the front of the house. 
At one point, one of the guys asked to use the bathroom. I showed him where it was and went back outside the house. I remember thinking he had been in there longer than was normal. Either he had a genuine FBI turtlehead poking out or he was scoping the place out. I'm guessing it was the latter.

End of story, we gave them at tour of 2 other houses in the Startup Village and nobody has been arrested ... yet.

Stay tuned for more drama as it unfolds. Let's hope I don't get in trouble for this blog post!

[Aside: For more info about Traveling Nuker, check out their excellent presentation at 1 Million cups here.]


Seppo said...

LOL! Awesome post, BB. Love the bullet points. Each one made me laugh harder than the next. :D

Hope the blue coats don't come knocking on my door.... Even tho I have nothing to hide ;)

Anonymous said...

Have you considered the possibility that you may have been bugged or otherwise had your security and privacy compromised in some interesting way, if these agents were out of your sight on the premises for long enough?

Anonymous said...

never agree to a meeting with the fbi, its like talking to the police. just don't do it.

Benjamin Barreth said...

Anonymous #1: yeah we've talked about it. I'm sending an email to all my hackers about it now actually. I doubt it's true, but if it is, my emails might be being watched now too.

Anonymous said...

You're bugged, dude.

MC Easy Penis said...

Yeah dude wtf don't ever voluntarily talk to these scrubs. Get a lawyer if you do. Nothing casual in any of this. Don't be a fool these are pro spooks.

Anonymous said...

> They met our paying guest in the house right now - a Canadian Sikh of Indian ethnicity. He's a fantastic guy. He also looks a little like a terrorist.
Or rather like a common stereotype of a terrorist.

Anonymous said...

Why would you take them on a tour of your space or go out to lunch? You have nothing to hide or worry about in terms of legit legal trouble; what possible good could come from showing them around?

Anonymous said...

musicgrinder said...

Sad that just "talking to the FBI" would set off your 'hope I don't get in trouble' radar.

When talking to (any) law enforcement entity triggers a fear reaction in people, and it does, something's really out of balance.

Anonymous said...

I think there are some real hackers in KC that can help you find the bug they planted.

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