Scott P. Havens was wrong

Like any vain person I google myself. I am pretty boring and I am fine with that.

But one thing that shows up is this link How Not To Handle Security Problems.

This was from when I worked at Arvixe in support. There was a scanner that created false positives for the heartbleed vulnerability when our servers used a non vulnerable OpenSSL and were not susceptible to Heartbleed but Scott Havens, did not seem to get this so he wrote a post exposing our great technical support staff by name on his blog back in 2014.

Most of us left Arvixe when it was transferred over to EIG via A Small Orange Webhosting. From the time Scott Haven’s wrote about us we never once had our OpenSSl on any server cracked or hacked or any information stolen via the Heartbleed bug because we were never vulnerable. Anything that happened after October 1st 2015 I cannot comment on since I was not working there after that date but in case people google names and say to themselves “Wow, they did not patch for Heartbleed! I am not going to hire them!” I just want to say that Hrishakesh W. James G., Michael Carr, Ryan C., and Patrick Stein + all the other folks I worked with at Arvixe were great and we handled this request the best we could because Scott Havens did not understand that Heartbleed scanners did not work on our OpenSSL version. We were never vulnerable, so therefore there was nothing to handle so we handled the non-security issue perfectly.

Crime Could Have Paid (maybe).

At some point we read in the news about a murder for an amount of money that seems senseless, especially given the amount. I cannot recall the story exactly but there was one where a person in a homeless shelter was murdered over a debt of tube-socks.

In the homeless world where clothing and shoes are donated, socks are not, so discount socks become a valuable commodity. Quite sad this happened but as one goes up the socioeconomic ladder we see crimes that reflect the values of the class and perpetrators. An Oxy addicted bank robber might kill someone over $2000.00 to $4000.00, a typical amount taken when a threatening note is passed to a teller. An Armored car robber might not bother killing someone for that fee and certainly would not bother to kill someone over socks, but at over $100,000? I am sure its been done for that amount or less.

Some jobs pay well. A few years ago I was involved in a Penetration test where we had to “capture the flag” (present the contents of a file to a supervisor) for pay plus a bonus if a glaring weakness was discovered. I set about trying to get into the company from within, since I figured they would have shiny new firewalls and a 24/7 admin team and someone, someone always knows that a Pen Test is going to happen because most people are terrible at keeping secrets and no one wants to look bad.

I did a google search on the company. Nothing really interesting but that is always my first step. The next I did a whois search and found that they had 4 nameservers, 2 were third party, most likely secure, and 2 were of the same domain name and in a sequential IP address . So I did a “host -al domain.name ns1.domain.name” type lookup and all the subdomains popped up and they all had IP addresses not belonging to the webhost.

A quick scan of port 80 and port 443 revealed open ports on a number of internal servers. One that looked interesting to me was hr.domain.name. I pointed my web browser to the HR site and it had all types of useful information including the procedure for starting your first day on the job. The person to see, what to bring (photo ID for passport, Drivers License and job ID) . It also had instructions for supervisors. One was that the supervisor had to have the resume of the new hire on file within 2 months after the 1 month trial period for new hires had ended. That was a 3 month limit. I signed up on their “careers” site and applied for a job as a network admin and submitted a 17k jpg file saved as a txt file and then a .docx file…so it was gibberish. (I would submit again if needed) and I was emailed back a Thank You for Applying notice that gave the Job ID.

The next day I followed instructions on the HR server, talked to who I was supposed to talk to, filled out tax forms, signed an agreement that I was employed for 1 month only on a trial basis (the term “A Good Fit” was not used then, but I am sure it is now) I watched a video on diversity and harassment policy, I agreed not to ask anyone out on a date and then I reported to the Senior System Administrator. I was also told to bring my resume again as they were not able to read the one they had on file for some reason.

He was baffled as to why I was there. He said “who hired you?” and I said “I don’t think he is here now or he would have met me” and he said “Dave”. You must be hired for the second shift.

I left and had a coffee, then I had about three beers, then a coffee and then some Life Savers and went back for the start of second shift. I met “Dave” and said “Bob told me I was on second shift”

And I was in.

I got the file easily as I had access to everything from the start. The next morning I contacted my supervisor for the gig and told him the contents of the file. Then I told him how I got it.

He was quite angry, He said it was a penetration test of the firewall and passwords and other technical things. I got paid for the job but I did not get the bonus.

Then I wondered, what would have happened had I just quit my security gig after getting the Network Admin gig? I would have had a job that paid about $90,000 per year if I made it through the one month trial period. I would have known about the file and protected it and made my team look really good. But I would have gotten the job via fraud. If I was ever discovered people would have had a good reason to never hire me again for anything.

But it could have been a crime that paid. I likely would have never gone to jail for it even if I had been discovered. I probably would have never even been arrested.

People are deceptive at job interviews all the time. People exaggerate on their resumes quite often, this would have just been one step above that by never actually going to an interview.

For $90,000 there are people out there who would kill for that amount, but $90,000 + health and dental & a 401k and maybe some profit sharing and a chance for a promotion and Christmas bonus for 5 years or more?

That is tempting and perhaps I was foolish for doing the job I was hired to do instead of doing the job I was never hired to do for more money and more stability, but here I am now.

I have always had this in the back of my mind. I wondered who has done this? Who has done something similar? A well crafted career fraud can pay better than most crimes and be legal and have your proceeds “laundered” because you have been getting them as a legitimate paycheck and paying taxes on it.

Yesterday on LinkedIn I saw a “Trending” story about an ex-poker player named Haseeb Qureshi who landed a $250k job with Airbnb with about 1 year experience as an instructor at one of those “coding camps”. The interesting thing about the story is that Qureshi had previously been involved in a poker scam where fake accounts and references were used to produce a profit. More later as I investigate this.

And it might be the guy is completely legitimate but I saw a bit of my penetration testing technique in his story so I have to check it out.

Stolen Artwork: That is How I Got Here: Part II. Johnny Mathis.

A friend of mine asked about Johnny Mathis.

Its cutting to the middle of the story, so you have to imagine that this is one of those films that starts in a non-linear way:

I was standing in my underwear with a gun in my mouth…No, that’s Breaking Bad. Like I said, it has been 17 years.

We did not find the painting in the truck and we had to get to LA. One of the deliveries in LA was to the house of Johnny Mathis.

Johnny Mathis lives in one of those houses that you must be very careful not to drown in his living room. He has a pool there.

This was not a concern in other houses I had been to.

Anyway, he had this door that was made of this rough iron that was sort of scalloped. It was as if, instead of a door, you had a very stylish cheese grater that you used to enter your house.

I cut my finger on the door/grater. I moved my hands so much with driving and lifting art that the infection never quite went away until I got back to New York.

My girlfriend* asked me “What happened to your finger?” and I said “Johnny Mathis”.

*My wife wants it known that this was 17 years ago and I am not allowed, or able to obtain, mistresses.

More News on News. Hackerslist, Neighborhood Hackers, Azorian Cybersecurity

This article was published in The Denver Post:

Colorado Man Buys Odd Welcome Mat

In this article it claimed I went to the New York Times:

“”Instead of coming to me about it, he went to The Times,” Tendell said, adding that he didn’t claim the site earlier because of “personal issues” that consumed his time.”

Not entirely true. I contacted both hackerslist.com and neighborhoodhacker.com via “chat” and neighborhoodhacker.com was contacted via phone before I contacted The New York Times. When I contacted Mathew Goldstein I just asked if he found a link between the two and then he went with that additional information. I had all the information I needed to make a post here and that was what I cared about. In fact I thought it was a possibility that someone had set up Tendell with a fake whois registration because it was akin to carrying carrying a sack with a dollar sign drawn on it; so obvious that there would be no way money could really be in there.

Anyway. I was contacted by Azorian Cyber Security and I told them I would be happy to talk with them once they got rid of their “hacker for hire” freelance business model as I have no wish to associate myself with anything that even has the taint of cyber-crime. I would also add that submitting past jobs, successful and failed for an independent audit might help in explaining their side of this issue.

Stolen Artwork: That is How I Got Here.

Since my last post I have been asked how I got into doing investigations both as a side profession and as a hobby. I usually tell people it involves a painting by Cubist Jean Metzinger, a Fundamentalist Christian with a penchant for prostitutes, The Teamsters, Russian thugs and crooner Johnny Mathis.

Then I say, “It’s a long story and the short version is more interesting that the long version”.

Which is true.

The short version allows you to create a whole world of intrigue. You can almost see Peter Lorre lurking somewhere in a fedora smiling or scheming or perhaps lots of fist-fights and maybe an explosion or two. Certainly art being stolen would involve someone in a black turtleneck sliding across a floor on K-Y Jelly following their grappling hook.

But its not like that. Real art theft involves someone in a position of trust walking off with something. That something was Man with a Pipe (Portrait of an American Smoking) and that someone in a position of trust was an employee of Atelier 4 Art shipping and I was also an employee of Atelier 4 as a truck driver and I was blamed for the painting being stolen.

I have to apologize as I have been telling people for years the painting was recovered after a PI talked to me and I was deprived of both back pay for wrongful termination and a reward for finding a painting. It turns out the painting was never returned.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_with_a_Pipe

Man With a Pipe was gifted to the Wriston Art Center Galleries, Lawrence University, by Howard Green.[3][4] The painting, shown here in a black and white half-tone photographic reproduction, has been missing since 1998, having disappeared in transit while on loan, between 27 July and 2 August.

In 2000 I was told by someone who was still working with Atelier 4 that the painting was returned and the person in possession of the painting was given $5000.00 as a “finders fee” but I honestly cannot remember who told me or if it really was an employee of Atelier 4. It was almost 17 years since the theft and 15 since I remember the talk taking place so it would seem I am either mistaken or someone lied to me but I cannot say which is which only I know that it is not true now.

—more later. It is going to be long and parts will be boring.

What if Security and Insecurity are The Same Company?

“Hacking” as cracking and illegal compromise of accounts and systems online is now called, is a big industry.   A hacked WordPress site (many of them are) can easily bring in $1 to $20 a day for the operator.  This does not sound like much but if you control thousands of these hacked sites and live out of reach of countries prone to prosecute you it can be a really good income.

So that is why we have companies that protect things like websites, email and social media accounts.  Local Law Enforcement still has to be given a finger puppet show to explain what the complaint is, what law was broken and why they should care (its been getting better over the years, but still quite slow) so we need security companies and security services to act where Law Enforcement cannot or refuses to act.  They also serve as intermediaries between Law Enforcement, Web hosting companies and web sites and can make a frustrating situation easier…for a price.

The other day I had a wave of curiosity about this.  I wondered if anyone who offered a security service for “hacking” would also offer a hacking service.

It would be a good plan.  You could use your leads created by the hacker for hire site to solicit customers for your white hat website.

So I googled “hackers for hire” and eventually found an article written by Matthew Goldstein found here:

Need Some Espionage Done? Hackers Are For Hire Online

The article is about a website called Hackers List.  This is a clearing house for services that are often illegal and the site owners get a cut once a job has been finished.  (from the article)

“It is done anonymously, with the website’s operator collecting a fee on each completed assignment. The site offers to hold a customer’s payment in escrow until the task is completed.”

Some of the things quoted on Hackers List are this:

hackerslist01

University Grade alteration (hacking into School computers was illegal last time I looked…I never looked…I have guessed this and I assume I am correct) facebook accounts and an odd thing called McKinnley for $200 to $300 (I was tempted to join as “Czolgosz” and bid on that one) so seems like the site owners are making money off of crime and benefiting from both volume of business and price.

The really interesting part came later in the article when an ethical hacking company or White Hat was quoted:

Still, the market for hackers, many of whom comply with the law and act more like online investigators, shows no signs of slowing. Many companies are hiring so-called ethical hackers to look for weaknesses in their networks.

David Larwson, a director of operations with NeighborhoodHacker.com, which is incorporated in Colorado, said he had seen increased demand from companies looking to make sure their employees are not obtaining sensitive information through hacking. He said in an email that companies were increasingly focused on an “insider threat” leading to a breach or unauthorized release of information.

On its website, NeighborhoodHacker describes itself as a company of “certified ethical hackers” that works with customers to “secure your data, passwords and children’s safety.”

I did some checking and found out that the two companies, neighborhoodhacker.com and hackerslist.com seem to have the connection making both a Grey Hat company (one being a conduit for legal security work and the other being a conduit for illegal work  and profiting from both)

The WHOIS of NEIGHBORHOODHACKER.COM

Domain Name: NEIGHBORHOODHACKER.COM
Registry Domain ID:
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.1api.net
Registrar URL: http://www.1api.net
Updated Date: 2014-03-30T21:48:40Z
Creation Date: 2012-05-04T22:20:32Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2016-05-04T22:20:32Z
Registrar: 1api GmbH
Registrar IANA ID: 1387
Registrar Abuse Contact Email: abuse@1api.net
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +49.68416984×200
Reseller: iwantmyname http://iwantmyname.com
Domain Status: ok
Registry Registrant ID:
Registrant Name: Neighborhood Hacker
Registrant Organization: Neighborhood Hacker LLC
Registrant Street: 590 w hwy 105 ste 274
Registrant City: Monument
Registrant State/Province: CO
Registrant Postal Code: 80132
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.8889660937
Registrant Phone Ext:
Registrant Fax:
Registrant Fax Ext:
Registrant Email: charles@charlestendell.com
Registry Admin ID:
Admin Name: Neighborhood Hacker
Admin Organization: Neighborhood Hacker LLC
Admin Street: 590 w hwy 105 ste 274
Admin City: Monument
Admin State/Province: CO
Admin Postal Code: 80132
Admin Country: US
Admin Phone: +1.8889660937
Admin Phone Ext:
Admin Fax:
Admin Fax Ext:
Admin Email: info@neighborhoodhacker.com
Registry Tech ID:
Tech Name: Neighborhood Hacker
Tech Organization: Neighborhood Hacker LLC
Tech Street: 590 w hwy 105 SOE 274
Tech City: Monument
Tech State/Province: CO
Tech Postal Code: 80132
Tech Country: US
Tech Phone: +1.8889660937
Tech Phone Ext:
Tech Fax:
Tech Fax Ext:
Tech Email: info@neighborhoodhacker.com
Name Server: ns01.domaincontrol.com
Name Server: ns02.domaincontrol.com
DNSSEC:
URL of the ICANN WHOIS Data Problem Reporting System:
http://wdprs.internic.net/

And the WHOIS of HACKERSLIST.COM before the 1/15/2015 article
Registry Domain ID: 1882636295_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.1api.net
Registrar URL: http://www.1api.net
Updated Date: 2014-10-28T19:43:27Z
Creation Date: 2014-10-28T19:43:25Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2015-10-28T19:43:25Z
Registrar: 1API GmbH
Registrar IANA ID: 1387
Registrar Abuse Contact Email: abuse@1api.net
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +49.68416984×200
Reseller: iwantmyname http://iwantmyname.com
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited – http://www.icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited
Registry Registrant ID:
Registrant Name: Charles Tendell
Registrant Organization:
Registrant Street: 590 W Hwy 105 ste 274
Registrant City: Monument
Registrant State/Province: CO
Registrant Postal Code: 80132
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.7204320389
Registrant Phone Ext:
Registrant Fax:
Registrant Fax Ext:
Registrant Email: info@neighborhoodhacker.com
Registry Admin ID:
Admin Name: Charles Tendell
Admin Organization:
Admin Street: 590 W Hwy 105 ste 274
Admin City: Monument
Admin State/Province: CO
Admin Postal Code: 80132
Admin Country: US
Admin Phone: +1.7204320389
Admin Phone Ext:
Admin Fax:
Admin Fax Ext:
Admin Email: info@neighborhoodhacker.com  
Registry Tech ID:
Tech Name: Charles Tendell
Tech Organization:
Tech Street: 590 W Hwy 105 ste 274
Tech City: Monument
Tech State/Province: CO
Tech Postal Code: 80132
Tech Country: US
Tech Phone: +1.7204320389
Tech Phone Ext:
Tech Fax:
Tech Fax Ext:
Tech Email: info@neighborhoodhacker.com
Name Server: ns1.iwantmyname.net 62.116.159.99 2001:4178:0003:a357:0062:0116:0159:0099
Name Server: ns3.iwantmyname.net 89.146.248.96 2a01:0130:2000:0118:0089:0146:0248:0096
Name Server: ns4.iwantmyname.net 74.208.254.95
Name Server: ns2.iwantmyname.net 217.160.113.131 83.169.55.71 2a01:0488:2000:0c02:0083:0169:0055:0071
DNSSEC: unsigned
URL of the ICANN WHOIS Data Problem Reporting System:
http://wdprs.internic.net/

And on January 16th 2015, one day after the article appeared.

Domain Name: HACKERSLIST.COM
Registry Domain ID: 1882636295_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.1api.net
Registrar URL: http://www.1api.net
Updated Date: 2014-10-30T10:21:01Z
Creation Date: 2014-10-28T19:43:25Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2015-10-28T19:43:25Z
Registrar: 1API GmbH
Registrar IANA ID: 1387
Registrar Abuse Contact Email: abuse@1api.net
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +49.68416984×200
Reseller: iwantmyname http://iwantmyname.com
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited – http://www.icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited
Registry Registrant ID:
Registrant Name: David Harper
Registrant Organization:
Registrant Street: Po Box 11671
Registrant City: Wellington
Registrant State/Province: CO
Registrant Postal Code: 6142
Registrant Country: NZ
Registrant Phone: +64.11111111
Registrant Phone Ext:
Registrant Fax:
Registrant Fax Ext:
Registrant Email: 1534387e@opayq.com
Registry Admin ID:
Admin Name: David Harper
Admin Organization:
Admin Street: Po Box 11671
Admin City: Wellington
Admin State/Province: CO
Admin Postal Code: 6142
Admin Country: NZ
Admin Phone: +64.11111111
Admin Phone Ext:
Admin Fax:
Admin Fax Ext:
Admin Email: 1534387e@opayq.com
Registry Tech ID:
Tech Name: David Harper
Tech Organization:
Tech Street: Po Box 11671
Tech City: Wellington
Tech State/Province: CO
Tech Postal Code: 6142
Tech Country: NZ
Tech Phone: +64.11111111
Tech Phone Ext:
Tech Fax:
Tech Fax Ext:
Tech Email: 1534387e@opayq.com
Name Server: duke.ns.cloudflare.com
Name Server: gene.ns.cloudflare.com
DNSSEC: unsigned
URL of the ICANN WHOIS Data Problem Reporting System:
http://wdprs.internic.net/

 

We can see some similarities here that are hard to deny.

I contacted tech support for a quote from both companies and both support technicians were not able to comment either due to lack of knowledge or company policy (both were very polite).

I do not think it is unreasonable to question the practices of both companies.  Or to one Charles Tendell who, according to his web site, is a Certified Ethical Hacker.

http://charlestendell.com/

http://charlestendell.com/about/certifications/

http://azoriancybersecurity.com/

Also for Fox News and Lockheed Martin.  I do not know, perhaps it is a smear job against Mr. Tendell (always possible) but I would think most smear jobs would be better known and not found out because some guy with a day off had a brain fart and access to google and whois.

 

—update—

Not a smear job.  New York Times article will be up on 5/13/2015

 

 

Recruiters emailing fake jobs

When I was unemployed I was taken aback by how difficult it was to get a regular job then (2012 and 2013) compared to 2006. In 2006 I had six years of Unix experience and I decided I wanted a new job, so I sent out 2 resumes to jobs I found on craiglist and out of those two jobs I sent out for I got two job offers and one I accepted that ended up being a wonderful job filled with really sharp people whose companionship I enjoyed immensely.

In 2012 I assumed it would function much the same way. I see a job online and I apply for it and I get an interview.

Wrong.

The jobs I saw often did not exist.

I learned this the hard way when I applied for (what I thought) was a very good position with Windstream. It was only for 4 months and in upstate New York but it payed well enough where I could have afforded a very temporary place up there and still kept my apartment in New York. My fiance (now wife) was very supportive as we assumed it would be a cash infusion right before our wedding and give us some time after to enjoy ourselves.

The company that I dealt with was Keshav Consulting out of North Carolina. Everyday someone named “Steve” would call me (his accent made me guess Americans have trouble pronouncing his name so he adopted “Steve” to be easier) and ask me some questions and finally he would say that the Client, Windstream, had rejected my offer of $50 an hour and would only pay $48. Calls like that kept coming every day, Taking a $1 or $2 off before the interview could be set up. I think I was down to about $40 per hour when I decided to do some research and contacted Windstream. They told me that no job existed in the place I was applying for and we both scratched our heads. They said Keshav Consulting was on their list of consultants but had no idea as to why I was in salary negotiations with them about a job that would be impossible to get. I asked Keshav consulting about this in an email and the reply I got from Akhil Reddy was this:

“Erik,

Yes, you can not give authority to other recruiter to submit your resume to Windstream, if you do also Windstream will not accept your resume as we already representing you. Also for each position we are supposed to submit 2 consultants and as of now we only submitted you and unless until we submit one more resume we will not remove the posting from Dice.

Regards”

Windstream advised I deal with them directly and that they had no idea why I was being told that another recruiter would not be able to represent me with them.

But anyway, it was weird and something was clearly wrong.

So now I frequently still get solicitations based on my earlier Dice profile so I investigate them now.

I have now decided to reveal my investigations on a per job basis, based on what was emailed to me and by whom.

First candidate is Ramy Infotech Inc

This is from

“MOI: Phone Then F2F

Job Responsibilities:

Operational support of Linux OS (RHEL 5.x, 6.x) and VMWAre ESXi 5.5 environment.
Migration of RHEL operating systems to VMWare environment.
Post-migration monitoring and tuning of virtualized systems.
Capacity planning of virtual environment

Job Requirements:

5+ years of Linux systems administration experience
5+ years of VMWare ESXi systems administration experience
Experience with OS imaging and conversion utilities (Storix, VMWare converter, Platespin, etc)
Experience with Cisco UCS Blade Infrastructure (Desired but not necessary)
Experience with enterprise storage systems (EMC, Hitachi, etc) ”

It was from Pramila Kafalia on February 23rd.

So I googled the part of the job description: “Experience with Cisco UCS Blade Infrastructure (Desired but not necessary)
Experience with enterprise storage systems (EMC, Hitachi, etc) ” since I thought that would be unique and I got this:

http://www.simplyhired.com/job/inwnyfmwhz

Its from a job by a company called Focusmindz.com and it was closed on Jan 15th. This was just a cut & paste of an expired job emailed to me as a current job.

If you want a job that exists with them, check here:

http://focuzmindz.com/job-openings

Who knows where your resume will end up and for what purpose if you sent it to Ramy Infotech Inc.

The Laptop Repair That Almost Became a Kidnapping

In my last post I wrote about an almost job I had from Craigslist where I could have gotten paid in five cars for designing a website to make a Russian man’s professions look more like real businesses.  I also used to tour the Computer “gigs” section and look for work after my regular job.  I stopped doing this in about 2006 when I got a better paying job with a more chaotic schedule.

Most of the jobs I took were filled with decent people who paid well but just wanted someone to come after regular business hours.  This worked for me since I had a regular job and so did they and it was always a pleasant exchange of services for cash.  The one I began to be wary about was Laptop repair.  In those days most computers were still desktops as laptops tended to still be on the expensive side and people who wanted them repaired were often clumsy people who broke the LCD screen and somehow thought they could find someone to fix it for $25.  They were easy to ignore.  One time I responded to one way down in Sunset Park in Brooklyn.  It was fairly late at night too but from the description I figured I would just have to re-solder the power supply that had likely been knocked loose when someone tripped over the cable.

When I got there it was at some Photography Supply store on the second floor.  I was supposed to meet a man named “Jim” and when I buzzed the place I asked for “Jim” and was buzzed up.

Upstairs there were three Orthodox Jewish men.  Sometimes people take familiar names to use with outsiders and it was clear I was an outsider in this place.  I asked them about the laptop and “Jim” showed it to me.  But…He put down a printed contract in front of me so I could sign it.  It was about two pages long in printed legal paper.  I found this to be very unusual so I read it all the way through, most of it was “blah Blah name of business hereafter referred to as the client blah blah”

Then, finally, “blah blah blah I hereby guarantee that if I am unable to repair this computer that I take full responsibility for causing its un-usability and agree to pay for all damages amounting to (handwritten) $2000.00”

So they wanted to pay me $100 if I fixed the computer but if I failed I had to pay $2000.00.

I said “no”.

Then “Jim” got very hostile.  Very, very hostile actually.  As I got up he and his friend shoved me back down in the chair and he slammed the pen down in front of me and said “Just sign the fucking paper and we will be done with this”.  I forced myself up again and backed away from the table with the laptop and the “legal” document.  “Jim” said again “Sign the fucking paper asshole.  No need to make this tough on you because you are not leaving until you sign the paper”  I let them back me toward the window and then I opened it.  “What are you gonna do pussy?  Jump?” and I told “Jim” that I was going to start yelling that there was a fire to the people below and that I had set it because I am “off my meds” and could they please send help right away before I hurt someone.

“Jim” and his bearded friends scowled and advanced and then paused.  I yelled “Help!” out the window and then suddenly “wait, wait no.  We are just kidding.  We are just teasing you.  Sorry.  didn’t know you would be such a pussy and take this seriously.” and they cut a swath for me and let me out the door.

They were smart enough to know that a little resistance could mean a lot of trouble for them so I let them go.  About two years later I remember reading that one of the photography stores in that area was shut down for bait and switch tactics and threatening customers who canceled their credit card payments, similar to what Vitaly Borker would get sent to prison for doing years later.

I gave up on laptop repairs after that.

Donate Your Used Car and Fund A Website Designer

Web Design is a tough business. It is so tough that these days I don’t do it at all except as a favor or to make some very quick money doing a routine upgrade or something I find on Craigslist.   But about seven years ago I had a few jobs, which is funny in a way because though I am technically skilled I have no sense of style or taste in web design.  In fact this site only looks like it does because my fiancée told me earlier versions of it were so ugly that someone in some country I was visiting might have a reason to arrest me for creating a public abomination with my face on it.

It looked as if North Korea had designed a promotional poster for a Three Stooges Movie.

In the salad days of 2005 I was in demand as a cheaper alternative to Web Designers who had a sense of style.  This way they could hire a separate graphic designer once I got all the critical things working like the MySQL database and the shopping cart.  The problem was that on Craigslist people wanted to pay nothing for everything.  They wanted me to do work for free so I could “put it on my resume” but I did not want to put most websites on my resume.  Plus most people who actually paid were hired to do the work themselves so I couldn’t put them on my resume, but I did many of them.  I always wanted $500 to $2000 for what would be one week to four weeks part time work.  A bargain really.

One day I got a call from this Russian fellow and he saw I had responded to his ad to design a website for his school and he promised he could pay me well for my work but he wanted to meet me.  So I agreed.

I met him in a bar near Canal St.  He wore cheap clothes and expensive jewelry and he told me about the job:

The State of New Jersey funded the education of released prisoners and also had given low interest loans to people starting technical schools.  I was to design a website to promote this technical school that offered everything from car repair, computer associates degrees and welding classes.

I thought it sounded good.  I asked about the pay and the man in the track suit said “Five Car”.

“What do you mean by ‘five car’?” I asked  and he said “Five Car…One Two Three Four Five Car.  You get paid in car.”

I had never had anyone offer to pay me in cars before and I had to say I did not like the idea.  Where was I going to put five cars in New York City?  How would I sell them all?

I then asked him if I could have money instead and he said “Car better than money.  With car you can drive taxi, make own taxi company.  Taxi make good money.  Make $600 a day driving taxi.  Lease other car for $100 a day for four car.  Make $1000 a day with car..No tax.”

I still was not interested in getting cars as payment.  I asked him why he could not pay me in regular money and he went on a long winded spiel about how easy America was and how he had started a school “for free” and how he also ran a Car Donation Charity that he used to make money for auctions where he was the only bidder and his used car lot would sell the cars for a profit while his “school” would get the cash earned in the auction “donated” and the people who donated the cars would get a tax deduction based on the auction price.

Apparently the first law of his business was that you never pay anyone in cash, so he decided that he had to pay me in cars.

I turned him down.

Every so often I see car donation charities advertising and I then wonder what sort of scheme this charity is funding.  Like he said, America is “easy” but only if you are willing to exploit it for your own gain.

 

Dodgy IT Recruiters and Human Trafficking

Yes, I just wrote the above as a title for a post because I felt it was about as accurate as I could get in six words or less. I have written other posts on this topic and most deal with IT recruiters who are based in both the United States and in India. I guessed that there is probably a massive unexploited resource in opinions on them from India as well so I decided to look for it. Luckily English is used in India and it is used by Indians to communicate with other Indians so I searched.

This search involved a website called Desi Crunch that reviews these recruiting companies from an Indian perspective.

http://www.desicrunch.com/

When you got to the review section you will see there is a cross scripting vulnerability where someone was able to fill it up with names of people instead of companies. I figured that this was done to cover up information written there so I kept on digging. What I found was that the recruiters based in the US actually charge for H1B applications, withold payment for labor, refuse to give the worker their w-2 forms should they actually get a job in the US and sometimes even force the workers to be “housed” someplace under their control either in India and sometimes in the US.

I then took out an add on Craiglist in Hyberdabad. I got many responses and some of them were downright scarey and others were hoping I would be able to get a them a job, but I appreciate everyone who took time to e-mail me (you know who you are, because I am sending you a link to this)

This is the ad I took out.

http://hyderabad.craigslist.co.in/sad/3691485341.html

From the responses to this and from reading about things on various websites I have a good idea what happens in these cases but I still am short some evidence so I do not want to name names yet because accusations of human trafficking are pretty big and one mistake would either unfairly end someone’s legitimate business and maybe end my career, so pardon my caution.

Here is what we see in the USA.

A recruiter copies an old job description that they gleened from Dice ages ago.

They post that job as a new position (google a line in a job description and you can often see the original one it came from)

They get get resumes in word format (they either toss out pdf format resumes or they request one in MS Word)

They find a real job offered by a real recruiter in the USA.

They submit a resume sent in for the non existant job after they modified it to make the candidate unqualified and demanding too much money. They also try to claim sole representation of the client thus locking them out of the job application process.

They also submit H1B candidates to this job and try to get the company to accept the cheaper, more qualified Indian applicants.

They hope that the company recieved too many unqualified applicants from citizens and green card holders and needs to go the H1B sponsorship route.

Meanwhile back in India……

Adverts are placed offering jobs either in America or as a recruiter for a phone call center in India calling American clients. You just need a phone and access to a computer.

Since recruiting in America from an Indian call center (usually a VoIP number forwarded to their mobile phone) is slow their employer offers them a chance at “IT Training” at their “School” for a fee but promise them the opportunity to go and work in America.

So they go to School, and according to my sources that school is often 10 to 20 people crammed in one room to sleep and they are made to clean everything, often in the whole building where the “school” is located (because the Recruiters also run a cleaning service, so they get their cleaners to pay to clean and they get building managers to pay them for their cleaning services). Most of the school consists of tech lessons without a computer, sometimes just a guy reading from a book. One source told me that after cleaning the “instructor” read them “Oracle For Dummies” that was on a PDF file on his laptop.

Training like this goes on for a while. Some places give free food and others make the students pay for food but everyone agreed that the training was hardly training at all.

Next, they are told there is a position open for them that needs to be filled immediately. The company they work with in the US loves their “training program” but they need fees to expedite their visa application (an illegal demand in the USA). They are then sent home to their family with the good news and they try to come up with the money. My sources told me anywhere ranging from $50 to $1000 (approx) are then given as well as essential documents like their passports, old pay stubs, and degrees or professional certifications.

Back in the USA lets say the recruiter has shut out citizens and green card holders or convinced the employer that cheap H1B labor is the way to go and their investment will pay off. The employer may be told that the candidate is already in the USA but their visa is about to expire. So they arrange for a phone interview. Lets just say it is for a Linux and Oracle administration job.

Back in India, the H1B candidate is told the employer wants to talk to him via skype. A skype call is made and the employer is presented as another Indian. This is not the employer but usually an employee in the US office of the recruiting company. The interviewer asks the candidate questions about his life and family but not tech questions. One source told me that the skype interview was about how American women loved to date Indian men and he would have American women all over him the moment he arrived.

Back in America, The recruiter just finished pretending he was the employer interviewing the candidate. He will interview every candidate in India the same way because there is more money to be made off of them by giving them hope. But now he arranges for a phone interview with the real people offering the job. They have not spoken to him before, only the other partner or perhaps they spoke to him when he used his “American Name”. So they call and ask him questions about Linux and Oracle. Since he also works as a sysadmin he can answer the questions correctly. He knows what questions to ask them as well. He does good in the initial phone screen. If it would be for a job he is not familiar with he will take out a classified ad or use one of his contacts on Orkut to have them do the phone screen with the company pretending to be the candidate.

Back in India, all Candidates are told they have the job but now they must get money very quickly to fly to America. Those that cannot come up with the money are thrown back into useless phone work for commission or just tossed out. Those that remain are told to give the money to the recruiter so he can buy the tickets for them. Many of these people are from the lower classes and have no idea what is entailed in things like Visas, international air travel or whatnot. The more generous ones will now allow them to get free meals while waiting, maybe out of “generosity” or maybe just to discourage them from leaving when there may be more money to be made from them. There may be 10 or more Candidates giving airfare to the US (likely inflated) to the recruiter at this point (the cheapest from Hyderabad to Chicago is about $1200 one way).

Back in the USA, the employers want an interview with the candidate that they think is in America. The recruiter tries to stall them long enough to make sure they get the guy over there. It is very rare to get to this point so they have to get the India side to hurry up and the American side must delay without offending the recruiter. Most of the time it is a “sick relative” and the candidate had to return to India, but they are on their way back now because they want to interview (this makes it so the employer might feel bad for the candidate too). Candidates told me how they often had to make up how a relative had died and that was why they were returning tto India.

Back in India the Candidate chosen is now rushed off to the airport if everything is in order. The other Candidates are told their time will come too, or told that this person got to fly to America first because they paid a special fee and the recruiters would be happy to pay a fee for them as well if they can get more money together.

In America the candidate is met at the airport by the US recruiter and taken for intensive coaching for the interview. Most likely the interview fails. It is hard to have someone with no IT skill to fake a real face to face interview. When this happens the candidate is told he must pay for housing in America and get his family to pay for a return plane ticket. He thought he was coming to America to get the job, but often had no idea it was just for an interview. If he cannot get the plane ticket the recruiter will call the INS on him and get him deported. He is told that he could be sent to jail forever in America for any infraction against the recruiter so his family had better pay up. Most of the time a whole family has gone broke sending a member to America and then getting them to return.

On the off chance the candidate is hired, the recruiter will be paid by the employer and then pay the candidate. It is here that the Candidate finds out that the recruiter may hold his entire paycheck or at least take 50% of it. He is then threatened with deportation at every infraction against the recruiter and if the employer realizes they have hired an inexperienced person they will fire them, and then the recruiter will hold the whole paycheck (sometimes only 50%) as a “penalty” and still demand they get their family to pay for their flight home.

During this whole time the recruiting company is sending out fake job notices and collecting resumes and they may even be benifiting from women and minority owned business preferences in Federal and Local government contracts.

Back in India, the crowd of IT and H1B visa hopefulls is out of money and getting angry at having to pay to be janitors while waiting for their jobs to start. At some point an excuse to get them all out of the building is given like for repainting or something and the company vanishes leaving them broke and unable to get any of their money back. Most of the time it just moves accross town but since internet cafes cost money and mobile phones do as well and they often never know what legal path to take in their own country to try to get restitution. Perhaps they know that the court would favor a higher caste over the lower ones anyway?

So that is the run down of examples I have gleaned from comments and some of the victims. I find it shocking that companies operating in the US often have their “offshore” wing charging people to work for them and keeping them in poor living conditions. I am going to try to find more solid proof and name some real names here in the US.