What the Hell Happened?
I hear you ask.
Well, maybe I hear you ask. If you are following a link here from some other place on the Internet, you probably are asking that. If you are following the QR code on our rather weird yard sign, you may not be yet, but if you live in the neighborhood you might remember the events of June 26, 2023, and have a few questions regarding those.
So I’m going to tell you.
That was the day my house was raided by the FBI.
This story begins back in 1998, when a popular video game was released. Those of you who were around in 1998 may be nodding now, because you remember it too. It was StarCraft. One of the factions, or rather races, featured in StarCraft were the relentless, hive-minded Zerg, and one of the creatures to be found among the Zerg were the cerebrates, massive, vaguely brain-shaped versions of the original creatures the Zerg were descended from, whose job was to strategize for the swarms. Basically, they spent all their time thinking.
(I promise this is going somewhere.)
At the time, I played a lot of StarCraft, and a short while later, in a conversation with friends, I was looking around for a nom-de-net to use as a username across various web-sites. Being smug as only a twentysomething can be and fancying myself quite the thinker, that’s what I settled on. I’ve been “cerebrate” or variants - “cerebral_silicate”, “silicate”, “cerebralicious”, etc., etc., on the internet ever since. And still am. Twitter. Mastodon. GitHub. Any number of assorted fora. Services that have long since disappeared. It’s a name I’ve been using for nearly thirty years, is my point, very often with my real name, e-mail addresses, and sometimes more detailed contact information in association with it. Anyone who bothered to look could very easily associate that name with the real me.
We now skip ahead to 2022, a year which people in the information security business will know for the “Redeemer” ransomware, a nasty little piece of malware that has encrypted many networks and done probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars worth of damage. And unlike many other bits of ransomware, its author decided to franchise his operations, by offering it on the “dark web”.
There are no prizes for guessing what name said author chose to use when so doing:
Some might say that this is no coincidence. Others might say that a name taken from the most popular game of 1998 that spawned multiple sequels and innumerable memes is basically the Internet equivalent of “John Smith” - there’s a reason I had to use variants on a lot of sites, and it’s because “cerebrate” was already taken - and there are probably thousands of them out there, however clever Much Younger Me thought he was being back in 1998.
And all of this brings us up to July 26, 2023, when I was taking a mid-morning nap only to find it rudely interrupted by a goon squad with silenced machine-guns.
I had, let me be clear, not one god-damned clue what was going on, and at the time was, naturally, terrified by what was supposedly merely the serving of a search warrant, but let’s call it what it was. It was a no-knock terror raid, complete with heavily armed goon squad, grenades, battering down unlocked doors (the back door of the house was even open at the time), and one of those demolition tank things.
You might question if this is even close to appropriate use of force to go after one creaky fifty-year-old science-fiction writer and his disabled wife, but then, the terror is the point, is it not?
But I’m not going to revisit that morning. Suffice it to say that they smashed up our house, terrorized my family, by some miracle didn’t shoot our dogs (the favorite sport of US law enforcement), took away every computer, telephone, and flash drive we had (which we never expect to see again) - about $10,000 worth -, smashed my doorbells and cameras lest anyone see them about their work, scattered our possessions all over the place by way of incidental vandalism, and cost us months if not years of work.
The only reason mentioned to me for any of this was that I happen to use the same nom-de-net as the author of Redeemer does on the “dark web”. (As you know, all criminal masterminds make sure to use a secret identity on the dark web that is publicly linked to their real name, address, and history all across the Internet.)
I was never arrested, and I have not been charged with anything.
You need actual evidence for that.
So that’s what happened, and that’s why the sign.
We are currently trying to get a civil liberties lawsuit off the ground, because as I hope you will agree, this should not have happened to us, and frankly, this kind of authoritarian bullshit should not happen to anyone, even if they are the criminals we aren’t. This is America, for fuck’s sake.
A good friend set up a GoFundMe for us to help us recover from all the damage and pay legal costs, which you can contribute to here, and your help will be very much appreciated. Otherwise, if you have some money looking for a home, I recommend the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Institute for Justice, and of course the ACLU.