Takeaways from the Epik hack call

A call that starts with a discussion about the Epik hack covers lots of ground and sometimes goes off the rails. Here are some of my takeaways.

Screenshot of Rob Monster in a video conference

Rob Monster in a live meeting last Thursday. Photo from video still.

On Thursday, September 16, Epik CEO Rob Monster held a live meeting on his platform PrayerMeeting.com in the wake of the hack of his company.

Nearly four hours of the meeting is recorded and available on YouTube. It has also been transcribed.

I read through the entire transcript. It went off the rails at times. Consider this exchange, per the transcript:

Catgod [holds a gallon-sized bag of marijuana up to the camera] You see that demons? You see that demons? God has given me, he’s just given me [crosstalk]

C What you smoking on, Catgod?

Catgod Got some A1 Yolo, got some Cherry Lime Rickey.

Monster, 3:15:57 That’s funny.

Catgod But all them demon n*****s, He’s just giving them reggie.

HF [holding vape] NYC Flow.

Monster, 3:16:06 Um, gosh guys.

Gosh guys, indeed.

Twice during the call, Monster broke into prayer to cast away demons. But Monster said he also thinks Epik will be better after the hack because God will repay the company:

Monster, 2:54:42 I think that Jesus basically allows evil to happen because he gives us free will. But I think that in the end he transmutes evil so when there’s injustice… and it’s repaid sevenfold. So this hack could happen, it’s going to actually repay Epik with a bounty sevenfold. That’s God’s… [noise from other participant, unintelligible] …but when Satan overplays his hand, does something really stupid, then the Lord transmutes that into good.

Here are some takeaways and other thoughts from reviewing the transcript:

Shitty code

Monster admitted that there was some “shitty Russian code” that came from acquisitions. He said the code stemmed from the acquisition of Intrust Domains in 2011.

Monster, 0:35:56 [reading chat. Full comment from “JP”: “I’m upset at the security incident at Epik, but my anger isn’t towards Rob specifically, he’s just human.”] “upset at the security incident at Epik but my anger isn’t towards Rob…” Yeah no, thank you, I appreciate that, JP. Yeah we… we did not nail that one. I think quite candidly that was some serious weak code, like hard-coding API keys… just weak sauce. And in reality, like I said earlier in the call, our top engineers mostly hadn’t seen that code because it was kind of blackboxed, behind a firewall, separate git repository, and not part of the Epik git. And that might sound surprising… [pauses to blow nose] sorry, I have a cold… considering that we’re like a registrar, but that’s basically because of the history of how that company became part of Epik. It was an acquisition, it is a captive dev team, and I’ve operated with that group to a large extent on the basis of trust. They’re good people, they’re honorable people, ethical, responsible people, but their coding methods and frameworks are not up to standard, and they’ve pretty much handed over all the keys to two top guys, Justin Tab, David Roman. And they’re they’re doing a great job diving into the code. And there were some very unpleasant discussions, very heated conversations, because some of the team hadn’t seen the code until until it was exposed. That might sound a little bit crazy but you have to keep in mind that we’ve grown really quickly around a core registrar, and if you want to know the history, I’ll tell you a story. You guys mind a digression? I’ll tell you a story…

Rob then tells the story about how he left DigitalTown and doubled down on Epik in August 2018 after he gets “absolute clarity that the Lord is going to need a registrar”.

Monster draws a line on free speech

Monster is clearly not a free speech absolutist. Epik has taken content down. Live during the call, he took down a site that had been spreading information and doxxed one of the callers. It’s also worth noting that he made a Texas anti-abortion group take down a site that asked people to submit information about people getting abortions.

This brings up an interesting point. Monster draws a line, and it’s a line somewhere in his philosophy and mind. Other people draw the line elsewhere, but Monster calls this deplatforming and unfair. So really, nearly everyone believes in free speech up until a point. And if their point is less restrictive than someone else’s, they call it censorship and deplatforming.

Monster elaborated on drawing the line:

We had two board directors, they were both Jewish they both resigned because of the Gab stuff I think was too hot. Then after the 8chan thing, it was a client for two days and we let them go. But it’s not easy running Epik, right? You have to understand. Trying to thread the needle on what’s lawful free speech is not an easy task. The decision tonight to turn off Joey’s site [the doxxing site] is not a light decision.

Epik apparently raised a lot of dough this year

Monster says the company raised $32 million from a billionaire in June of this year.

I think the Swastika guy interaction has been taken out of context

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t defend Monster on one thing. I saw some chatter on Twitter about a guy with a Swastika showing up to the meeting, and Monster saying, “Much love to you.” If you read the totality of the conversation, it’s clear that Monster doesn’t approve of this person’s actions and rhetoric.

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