I used bitcoins to pay a ransom

bitcoin-hackerThis post is going to be vague in some areas to protect the identities of the parties involved.

A person I know contacted me via facebook and asked if I was still involved with bitcoin. And this is where the story begins.

This person’s friend works for a business with sensitive personal data. The businesses computers got “hacked” and  their data was encrypted. The Russian hackers were asking for $500 USD worth of bitcoins to release the data. If the demand was not met in 72 hours, the price would become $1000 USD worth of bitcoin. Finally, if the ransom was not paid within the next 72 hours period, the data on the hard drive would be destroyed.

The business was crippled because their customer data was encrypted and they needed it for their day to day tasks. Of course they didn’t have any backups of this data.

They wanted to pay the money and move on with doing business but had no idea what bitcoins were, how to acquire them or how to use them.

I was asked if I could help out and facilitate the bitcoin payment. I wanted to check off the “paid a ransom” checkbox on my bucket list, and I had never seen ransomware in person, so I agreed to help.

I had the business owner send me the $500 via paypal. Once I received the money I used my coinbase.com account to purchase the 1.43 BTC ($500 USD at the time).

The hackers had a website setup on a tor network (anonymous and private network of computers). The website had detailed instructions and information on how to pay the ransom. They provided a bitcoin wallet address, along with a field for a transaction number.


I used coinbase to send the bitcoins to the wallet, and entered the transaction number into the website. After a few minutes the transaction was verified and complete.

The website updated with instructions on how to download the decryption software and keys needed to recover the data and remove the ransomware from the computer. I forwarded the information on the the business owner and his staff.


An hour later I got an email from the business owner telling me that the data was recovered and thanking me for my help. Everything worked out. The business owner got his data, the hackers got their bitcoins, and I get to tell the story of how I paid a ransom to russian hackers with bitcoin.


Okta Atlas Award 2014

oktaI’ve worked at Esri for 13 years, and I’ve had this blog for over 10 years. Despite those facts, I’ve never blogged about my job. This post will venture into some new territory, and with that I would like to state that the postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Esri’s positions, strategies or opinions.

In February 2013 I took on the role of Identity and Access Management (IAM) Team Lead at Esri. The teams focus was on consolidating user stores and account systems across the enterprise. Along with consolidation, improving the end user experience and hardening security or both internal staff and external customers was also key. Very large goals.

Enterprise identity management is difficult. It’s a balance of IT infrastructure, user account management, and security. In today’s world we all know the problems that happen when one of those areas is compromised and user accounts or data is leaked.

My team reviewed many IAM solutions, and ultimately selected Okta. It’s been an awesome experience. There is only a hand full of companies that I’m a complete fan boy for, and Okta is one of them – along with Shopify and Apple.

I feel that Okta has help me change our Enterprise IT for the better. It’s allowed us to be more agile and enabled better collaborate with our colleagues around the world. Our needs have pushed the Okta platform into some new areas, and Okta staff has always been there to support us. We have grown together.

Last week Okta held their annual conference – Oktane, in San Francisco. As part of the keynote presentation Okta presents awards to recognize organizations and individuals that have taken major leaps into the Okta platform.

I’m proud to say that the Esri IAM team won the 2014 Okta Atlas Award

“The Atlas Award celebrates the customer teams that have effectively extended Okta and are “doing it all,” this award is given to those who take all on their shoulders like the primordial Titan, to cover the identities of their employees, customers, partners or other external users alike.”

Okta Award 2014

I shared the award along with my friend and teammate from Esri, Ramchand Rao. Gaston Zilleruelo of Amway was also presented with the award.

Ramchand and I may have accepted the award on stage, but it also belongs to the other members of the Esri IAM team, Aaron Asencio and Alagukannan Alagappan. We’re a small team but we’ve pulled off some amazing things together.

I truly think that cloud Identity and Access Management is the future, and Okta is leading that charge.

You can read more about the Okta conference and the winners of other Okta awards here – https://www.okta.com/blog/2014/11/celebrating_customers_partners_oktane14/

So I’m writing a book

book_writingIn early 2013 I started writing a book.I didn’t get far before starting work on other projects.

Its August of 2014, and I’ve started working on my book again. It’s about SEO and SMO (Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Optimization). Currently it’s about 100 pages completed. I’ve started and stopped this project more that any other project in my life. Today I took some time to reflect on why it’s taking me so long to complete this task.

Through writing this book, I’ve realized that it’s difficult for me to convey my thoughts and ideas on a page. I can make it happen, but I’m very slow at it. Truthfully I am more comfortable writing computer code.

To me, code has a personality and a life of it’s own. I go to war when I code. Code does not want to run, you have to wrestle into submission. You have to understand it, you have to anticipate it. You have to imagine all of the different ways your code is going to try and elude you, and crash. Like all worthy adversaries, you must respect the code to truly understand and master it. For the code to run, you must be successful, you must be correct. The poetic dance that I experience with code, I don’t feel when writing in English. Maybe it’s the linear fashion and format.

I can say however that the research process has been fun, and stretching myself to write this book has been a great experience and a true challenge. I am passionate about seeing this project through. Here’s to the future, and here’s to completing this bad boy!

My Goals For 2014


Every year I posts a list of things I want to accomplish in that year. 2014 is going to hold some big things. Here is my list for things that I’m going to strive for and achieve this year.

  • Get more involved in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies
  • Involve more wearable tech in my life
  • Work on educating people more about MFA and account security
  • Get more involved in the Shopify community
  • Continue to automate more of my income
  • Continue to pay off more debt
  • Launch another Shopify app
  • Continue to delegate more of my tasks
  • Finish and publish my SEO book
  • Expand my SEO offerings to clients
  • Drive a Tesla Model S (at least a test drive or a rental)
  • Have a  conversation with Kevin Rose, and Tim Ferris
  • Contribute to more charities