Wiretapping the Secret Service can be easy and fun | Bryan Seely | TEDxKirkland

Translator: Araminta Dutta
Reviewer: Queenie Lee Last year, a hacker recorded over 40 calls to the Secret Service
and the FBI in one day, without anyone finding out. I think most people in here would agree
that that was a bad idea. People on Twitter
and the news talked about it, and some people even accused him
of being a fraud of a government agent. Some people called him a moron. My friends call me Bryan. (Laughter) The point is not
that sensational headline, albeit it is kind of sensational. It’s why I did what I did
and for why I’m here. Wiretapping the Secret Service
can be easy and fun. If you haven’t figured out
that that is satire, then we need to have
a whole other discussion. This was the front-page
article on Valleywag. It made it to KOMO
and a variety of different places. The reason all of this came up was because of this. What you see on the right is a common map search
for a local business – an auto-glass repair category. On the left – same search,
same city in Orange County – auto-glass repair. There are fake businesses
in these listings, and they look just like the real ones. There isn’t a person in this room who’d probably be able
to make an educated guess as to which one is which. On the left, there are six fake businesses
in the Google listings, and on Whitepages, anyone care …? Ten out of ten – they’re all fake. They’re all controlled by one person. This one person found a way to manipulate
the variety of local business systems, like Yelp, and Angie’s List, and Bing,
and especially Google Maps, which is the target. They have the most traffic,
they generate the most business – if you’re on Google, you’re set. So what happens? They bumped off
the original ten placeholders, and they no longer get the phone calls
they rightly deserve. This is a scam. This has been going on
since directories even started. Before the internet, there were
actually people in Yellow Pages doing the same thing
with alphabetical listings. They would all name their businesses
“AAA,” “AA,” “AAAA,” to get at the front of the category. People have always found
a way to game the system. Problem is now,
no one knows it’s happening, and it’s happening in every city,
in every country, every category that services
businesses and consumers, and there are over 50 major categories
that this is just epidemically bad. Another problem that’s actually
come to light recently is – What you might be familiar with
in a typical Google search is at the top, there’s a Google AdWords. These are the advertising results
that people in businesses have paid for. And what you see here,
and it’s a little blurry, my apologies, it says, “$15 locksmith service.
24 hours a day, 20 minute response time.” I don’t know a single locksmith in this country that will drive to you
and service you for $15 for any type of – They wouldn’t even give you
a handshake for $15. It’s not worth the gas,
it’s not worth the labor. This is bait and switch. It’s a very common thing
in fraud textbooks. It’s a price they have
absolutely no intention of fulfilling, and they will charge you through the nose
because you can’t afford not to pay them, or they’ve already done the service,
and then they use intimidation. You’re locked out of your car. It’s 11 o’clock at night. You’re in a bad neighborhood. They show up because you clicked
on an ad that said “$15 service,” and now it’s 350, and they make you go to the ATM
and pull money out. What if it’s your grandmother? Your wife? Your sister? This happens and it’s been in the media, but no one picks it up because this problem is so complex,
and big, and multijurisdictional, the FBI and the Secret Service
don’t want to touch it, the attorneys general; there are so many different pieces, and we have to start
at the original root of the problem. This man ran a business
called the Serbian Crown; this is in Wired magazine. Hackers who didn’t like him turned his business hours
for the weekend to nothing. They just deleted
his availability on the weekends, and it single-handedly killed his business
in less than a month. He had to shut his doors. He was open for two decades or more –
I think even longer. So I approached Google. I told them all of the different methods
that these guys are using – the exploits, the ways
that they beat the ranking systems – and I was pleasantly surprised
by them doing absolutely nothing. So I started creating some funny listings
to maybe get some social following, and this one was my personal favorite: the Snowden Super Secret Hiding Place
on the White House lawn. (Laughter) You can see why they chose that
for the main website image. So I walked into
the Secret Service office after recording phone calls. I didn’t have a lawyer with me. I had no idea what was going to happen
other than I kind of needed to be there because if I got caught, I think it arguably would have been
a first-class vacation to Guantanamo Bay, and although I was in the Marines, I don’t want to be reunited
with them there. (Laughter) And orange isn’t exactly my color. (Laughter) What I did was very simple. I created a very identical
Secret Service listing with a different phone number, and as you can see, this one at the top
has three reviews, 202 area code, this one has a 425 area code, same address, more pictures. I deleted their reviews
in less than five minutes, and I added reviews of my own
that were fake. Took less than 20 minutes,
beginning to end. The positions switched because mine suddenly
had more “hidden points,” which then meant anybody
who looked for the Secret Service, anywhere in the country
for this specific one, got mine, and that phone number forwarded to them, and I could record both sides
of the conversation without ever touching their systems. It’s not even technically hacking. It’s just stupid, really. (Laughter) You seem to think it’s a bad idea. Where were you? This was me waiting. (Laughter) Might never use a phone again,
so might as well take a selfie. (Laughter) While I was sitting
in the Secret Service office, waiting for the guys to show up, they walked out,
they all rolled their eyes. They all thought I was crazy because I’d just literally
called them and said, “Hi, I might have just recorded
a bunch of calls to you guys trying to prove something. Can I come in and show you?” “Oh yeah. Yeah, sure. Yeah, come on in.” It sounded crazy. So I’m standing there with the agents
in the Secret Service office right after I took those initial photos, and the agent goes, “Look, I don’t believe you. This isn’t really happening.” I said, “Okay. Do me a favor,
and I’ll prove this right now. Call the Secret Service office
in Washington, D.C., and I’ll prove it.” Pulls his phone out, says his name – He knew the guy on the other end. Maybe they were roommates at the academy,
if they even go to an academy. I don’t really know. (Laughter) Who does know, I mean, really? (Laughter) They hang up after about five minutes,
and I open my laptop. I push play, and it played back
the conversation I’d just heard, because he was standing next to me, and the full audio
of the guy we didn’t hear. And their eyes suddenly stopped rolling. And it got very quiet. And they handed me a statement saying,
“These are your Miranda rights. You are not under arrest
but we need to search you, and we would like you to accompany us
to the guest suite – (Laughter) this luxurious, closet-sized suite
with no windows, in which you’ll be staying
an undetermined amount of time. You’re not under arrest,
but we really don’t want you to leave.” (Laughter) Obviously, I was there of my own accord. Obviously, I was there
because this was the right thing to do, because there was
something bigger at stake, because there are people being affected, and so I took a risk. I took a risk of never
seeing my kids again. I took a risk of a misunderstanding. There have been people jailed
for far less, who are completely innocent. I didn’t have any criminal intent. I walked in immediately and went like,
“Ha ha ha, I’m sorry. I’m an idiot. And here you go. This is a problem, fix it.” They couldn’t ever
bring a case against me saying, “He was going to sell this.” The first people I called was them! While in the room,
they called Google and said, “Okay, he’s been telling you,” and they go, “Oh,
but we didn’t believe him,” and then … I don’t know whatever they were saying,
I wasn’t monitoring that call. (Laughter) What ended up happening was they said, “Delete the listings.
He needs to delete the listings,” and then the Secret Service said, “Google, shut it off
until you guys fix the problem,” and they said, “Okay, got it.” So they hung up,
and he walks in and goes, “You’re a hero for bringing
this to our attention not knowing what the results
would be against you. This is a national security problem. There were phone calls that had sensitive or potentially investigation-compromising
information on them.” I stopped listening –
I didn’t want to hear anymore. I didn’t want to be like, “Oh man,
like, President Nixon,” and, “He totally did something stupid.” (Laughter) “I’m going to end up in a bag in a river!
Why did I do this?” (Laughter) So they said fix it. Six weeks, Google shut off
phone verifications for new businesses. They shut off a lot of the little methods that I required to be able
to do this kind of thing. I thought it was fixed. Six weeks later, they turned it back on
with not a single change made. They had just paused. The news had died down. The Secret Service
had closed the investigation because when the Secret Service
tells you to do something, I think they’re pretty
used to people doing it. I mean, it’s not like, “Please put your hands up,
if you don’t mind,” and, “Would you mind not shooting
at the president, today?” Like, they don’t make requests,
they make demands because it’s a very clear,
black-and-white thing for them. The reason I know it’s still broken is because I built this
with no one’s permission on Northwest University’s
campus last week. The cell phone for that number – it’s in my dressing room. Postcard verification is required
to establish new business addresses. I obviously don’t get mail
at the university. I didn’t go. This was built yesterday. It’s a snowboarding shop
in the Oval Office called Edwards Snow Den. (Laughter) (Laughter) (Applause) Yeah, they didn’t fix the thing. Google lied to the Secret Service. They said they would fix it,
then turn it back on. They just waited
for the media to die down. What we can do now. I’m the authority on this subject. The largest tech publisher in the country let me write a book
that’s coming out in August. That book is designed
to raise awareness for all of the businesses
and all of the consumers – all of the victims of this horrible scam that people don’t even know is happening. All you know is your American dream
of owning your own home is slowly being taken from you, but you don’t even see the guy
who’s taking your money. You just got less calls last month. You can’t pay for your kid’s braces. Suddenly, you can’t make your mortgage. I’ve talked to well over
20 different people whose families all live
with their in-laws. They lost their business;
they lost their bond; they lost their insurance;
they lost their work truck. Whether it’s a locksmith
or a carpet cleaner, these are hardworking Americans. These are small business owners. They’re complaining to Google,
and Google’s going, “Nah, it’s not us.” They don’t have a chat support line. Their forums are just empty of admins. There’s nothing really going on
on Google’s end, and the worst thing is – Remember those advertisements
I was showing you? The scammers pay Google
for those ads by a click – every time they click. So when you click for that $15 service,
the scammer pays Google 25 bucks. Doesn’t make sense. If they were originally
going to charge 15, how can they spend more on the ad
than what they were going to bring in? Because they were never intending on that. Google knows they’re doing this because they just fought a lawsuit and got it dismissed under a law
that’s not designed for doing this. They’re hiding behind
their army of lawyers and their motto of “Don’t be evil,” and they’re cashing the check of the guys who are robbing
from the consumers and their clients. I don’t know a clearer way to say it. They’re happy to cash the check. They don’t want to fix the problem
because they’re making a lot of money. There are hundreds of thousands of these
fake businesses across the country. For example, you can fit, in one category, three to five auto-glass shops
in a city of 100,000 people or more. There are over 299 cities of over 100,000
population in the United States as of the 2013 census. How I know that is because I used to be working
with these kinds of scammers. I have detailed files from all of the different things
that they’ve done. They pay for bulk reviews written by professional
authors and writers – 20,000 bought at a time. They are so good at gaming the system that you are so ill-equipped
to even notice because you’re in a hurry. You’re not looking for a plumber because you might have
something wrong next week. Your basement’s full of water
and everyone’s going to drown. Call the plumber now; you don’t need to price check,
and they’re counting on it. Stop using Google for this product. Now, don’t get me wrong;
I love Google. I use their Gmail service, I love the way they invest –
clean energy, SpaceX, self-driving cars – they are a great company. This one piece is a cancer. It’s a blight, it’s a shame, and the way this stops is them going,
“Okay, we’re going to fix it. Let’s see what we can do
and make this right. Somebody’s making money
and somebody’s covering something up.” And until that day comes to light, I’m pretty good at being loud,
and I’m pretty good at being obnoxious, and I’m pretty good at getting away
with some really, really obnoxious stuff. If you want to go
and look those businesses up, they’re live on Google Maps, prominently displayed
for the whole world to see. So if you’re in the Oval Office
and you need a snowboarding shop, I might know a guy. (Laughter) Thank you. (Applause)

100 comments on “Wiretapping the Secret Service can be easy and fun | Bryan Seely | TEDxKirkland”

  1. Bitter Gay Man says:

    SpaceX is Tesla, though.

  2. leef_me says:

    The man says that he asked an agent to call the DC office. The agent does, and talks for approx 5 minutes. Then the agent hangs up.
    The man plays the conversation back from his laptop.
    What appears to be missing in this talk is that *the agent willingly called the number in the Google listing, instead of the actual #*
    If the agent calls the PROPER number, the man cannot intercept the call.

  3. Evan Blum says:

    Is it just me or is he constantly just patting himself on the back for how daring he is and how hes such a powerful player? Brian, you just spend 15 minutes telling us how when the Secret Service & FBI got involved Google sat on it and did nothing. Then you finished your talk by saying you can be really obnoxious and loud about it…. They didn't care then and I doubt they'll care about your Ted Talk. You made some really good points and provided good public info, but your also right about being obnoxious. Self-aggrandizement is obnoxious

  4. theo boehm says:

    you're not hearing laughter bc his mic isn't picking it up bc it's a good mic. It's not because the audience is silent.

  5. dividing and conquering says:

    google – mossad

  6. jeffg24LT21 says:

    Update 4 1/2 years later nothing changed… Google still allowing this, and now Google ISN'T a good Company… lol

  7. D Y says:

    I wouldn't consider you a "hero". A real hero, like Edward Snowden, would have recorded as much as possible and released it to the public.

    The U.S. Government has absolutely ZERO right to privacy from the citizens and everything they say and do should be public record.

  8. iGot AZombieArmy says:

    So that's why Google shows a del taco in area 51….

  9. Jelle Poppelaars says:


  10. FiKZ Wolf says:

    Google: Has a problem

    Also Google: Let me recommend this video of our problems

  11. jeremiah davis says:

    This guy got way too few laughs, he was hilarious

  12. JC H says:

    Its still a problem i made a shop just for fun then i saw this video. I made the shop 6 months ago.
    Its called " bad book store "

  13. Excadia says:

    He said it, stop using Google search engine, that's it

  14. Marcos Mota says:

    I gave up. His energy and delivery just sucked…move it along dude. I talk a lot and randomly, so it's always good to learn what I sound like to other people. He really didn't give a hoot and failed to practice for this presentation….

  15. Brandon Spiegel - Future Millionaire says:

    Wow, this is truly amazing!!!!!!!!

  16. Kysier says:

    Based on activity history, Google/YT suppressed this video for years.

  17. praxis22 says:

    Then the way to break the locksmith is to click on the link, multiple times in different days throughout a month, setup a script to do it.

  18. TheChill0ut says:

    I laughed, wife laughed, the kids laughed and Google Alexa laughed…

  19. Kaeden Dansereau says:

    Well I would know from experience…

  20. Jay Clements says:

    Dam tough crowd. Jokes weren’t bad and they still coulda gave him a charity laugh. ASSHOLES

  21. Lewis Johnson says:

    And he was never heard from again.
    And neither were we because we watched the video.

  22. Lewis Johnson says:

    Should’ve brought a lawyer

  23. Omgitsjoetime T says:

    The “guest suite”

  24. Dennis Fyhr says:

    Does one have to use a fake google account to do this or can one just go ahead and do this from one’s ordinary account?

  25. mike lowe says:

    Its actually a good idea to monitor a government is not bad

  26. Suitaloo says:

    hey btw the reason you can't own your own home isn't because of some scammer over the internet, it's because of the absurdly rich using their power within the government to widen the wealth gap and get better tax cuts while taxes get raised on the lower class. kthxbi

  27. nope nope says:

    has this problem ever been fixed?

  28. Medical Man says:

    I'm not gonna watch this, the secret service doesnt give af what's illegal. And killing me certainty is.

  29. BadIdeas101 says:

    This guy has balls of steel to decide to do something like that

  30. Frank Parker says:

    5 minutes in and he does not even begin to talk about what the talk is supposed to be. Terrible speaker.

  31. John Mayer says:

    "My friends call me Bryan."


  32. StarlitFox115 says:

    scamming buisnesses on google "super easy barely an inconvenience"

  33. Paul Delsandro says:

    How are you supposed to vote at all when freedom acts are not upheld and education avoids actually letting people know exactly where they stand also not educating that we now exist on a whole planet level… All people can,and are, recorded on what they believe and who they really are yet no accountability to anyone that is a higher up… Children are going to be way more intelligent then the best of the people from the past… A new class truly,the old way of listen to my daddy's daddy knows best no longer applys and we are going to watch.multiple society's give there last kicks and die

  34. rohit govardhanam says:

    I don't understand, how was he able to record the calls? 🤔🤔🤔

  35. Gustav Derkits says:

    The book is not available in kindle format. It would be good to spend the extra time to transform it.

  36. YouWotM8 says:

    Was there even a crowd?!!

  37. John Runyon says:

    "wiretapping" "hacked" "I created a fake listing with a fake phone number and recorded calls that went through it"

    Those are three VERY different statements.

  38. Jiss James says:

    This crowd is a bunch of assholes. I will fight all of them. You sir, you did great and I laughed you legend!

  39. Hunter Dean says:

    Ted talk at a Costco?

  40. thethegreenmachine says:

    After Google turned it back on without fixing it, why didn't he record Secret Service calls and bring it to them again?

  41. Bryan says:

    every click? so if we just make a bot to click their links a billion times a second, can we bankrupt the scammers?

  42. Charles Weeman says:

    Until they give us more transparency there will be hackers going after them. Same goes for all branches of the government.

  43. Joseph Orlandi says:

    If you wanna get em to fix it just make a fake google headquarters and when people call just forward it to Bing. Make them realize how it feels to be in the receiving end.

  44. Kate Allan says:

    He is pretty awesome

  45. Jon says:

    Terrible presenter. Boring

  46. Linkandzeldarules says:

    Btw, looks like the snowboard shop in the White House has closed down… or Google decided to remove it lol

  47. Cuddly Cactus says:

    So I just found this video, and it's now 2019 & this problem is still NOT fixed, but has only gotten much worse, plus "smart" phones are easily hacked as well, and I am sure that it's not being fixed either!!
    And reminds me of this quote – The reason it's called The American Dream is because you need to be alseep to believe in it! – George Carlin

  48. Muhammad Ali says:

    It will probably take people, a year or two to even recognize that this guy is a hero!

  49. Adam Baum says:

    Accidentally locks key in vehicle. Calls locksmith who advertises $15 unlocking service. Locksmith arrives, unlocks car, demands $350 as payment. You are stuck paying $350. Does a spare key, which you are smart enough to purchase before this happens and which you then carry on your person when using the vehicle, cost less than $350?

  50. tony belford says:

    audience had their funnybones removed

  51. Chris Russell says:

    vaguely related.
    i do a fair bit of research.
    dragging up uni papers, patents, technical stuffs.

    about five years ago or more… i could find literally anything. free. direct. fully downloadable.

    these days… the first twenty pages of results are hits on paysites. theyve taken these formerly free documents, locked them up, and expect you to pay now!
    of course, you can bypass googles paid promotions and just skip those twenty pages…

  52. john hopkins says:

    "call the secret service office in Washington D.C…."; did the secret service agent use your published fake number??? or the actual number (that the agent would already know?)

  53. Ember Hydra says:

    I wonder if CIA did anything about it.

  54. Dan Snyder says:

    Google's time is yet to be determined along with facebook and several others. Google got into politics to influence elections, meanwhile pushing forward in their so called "algorithm" that Russia tried to influence elections. They need to be taken out to help All of us, no matter what a person's politics are. We need to all come together and fix things instead of fighting. thank you.

  55. Evans Mhando says:

    Aye I'm from Kirkland

  56. the1raaKile says:

    The scammers pay for clicks on the adds. Sooo could we just get some auto clickers going and hit them with a huge bill?

  57. Cindy Tartt says:

    Yes, the audience didn't laugh a lot. No wonder. This is about our lives being chipped away at or, to put it another way, we're being boiled to death like frogs very slowly.

  58. Zane Stewart says:

    How can he just delete reviews?

  59. Darwins Explosions says:

    Umm I live in Ladera Ranch…

  60. ailaG says:

    Nice talk but "what if it's your grandmother, your wife, your sister"? Neither he nor TED reviewers could find any examples of people who could need help that are not women? (around 4:30)

    (inb4: people whining that it's not the point of the talk. like all other comments talk about the sum of every single thing that he said)

  61. Caelan Serrano says:

    I felt so bad, especially at 17:33, man thats a very tough crowd, the jokes were funny tho

  62. HappyQuails says:

    He should have placed the emphasis on the word "friends".And "unpleasantly surprised", not pleasantly.

  63. tom 12 says:

    2019 and this is still around there was a dam del taco at area 51 like 3 weeks ago

  64. Jemcm123spy says:

    Him:“Without anyone finding out”


    News press: “hold my stories”

    Me: “I think I missed something here…”

    Also me (1 minute later): Oh…

  65. Steve Hoyland says:

    'Bait and Switch' Is a popular rip-off here In England, particularly those carpet cleaning firms who offer a 'basic clean' for £19.99 then end up spending two hours bullying old people Into spending hundreds of pounds.

  66. ib10jhs45 says:

    Thank you for bringing this to the surface.

  67. Matt Bryce says:

    He loves Google, especially the SpaceX part! 🤨

  68. Why So Serious says:

    money laundring

  69. Danny BRITZMAN says:

    The biggest risk he took was cracking jokes in front of the worlds most deadpan audience.

  70. 10 Billion Subs - 2 Sh*t videos says:

    we should all click those adverts then not order anything.

  71. RubyTV says:

    bruh why they do Bryan like this… give the man some love

  72. Alexander Locke says:

    This was a really good ted talk.

  73. rob dog says:

    God I miss the seventies …….

  74. rugbywarrior89 says:

    I think people are confused between the joke itself and the delivery. They didn't laugh because the delivery lacked emphasis in the right places and the punch lines felt awkward and rehearsed. This presentation was great for the content but the delivery not so much. His presentation skill (in 2015) was fine enough for a tech conference but not to the level I would expect for a TEDx talk. I would like to read his book, though. I bet it's brilliant.

  75. RandomNooby says:

    might be wise to inform tabloid papers?

  76. R Mc says:

    It's in Seattle, most people were there to get out of the rain and had no idea who he was or what he was talking about. That and Americans are very slow on the uptake.

  77. Jack Bradford says:

    Why not they do it to us.

  78. Siete Vision says:

    Only a white man can get away with this.

  79. kASHMIR STEFANI says:

    how can i get your book??????

  80. All Access Talent Agency says:

    You made me laugh so loud…that crowd sucked…I would have loved to be there.

  81. Lars Larson says:

    The crowd was all Google employees…Biataches!!!

  82. Slimeustas says:

    Devils advocate at it's finest

  83. LongDistanceCall11 says:

    Wow. Thank you so much, Bryan. It is sad, and as usual the ray of light and hope is generated by a small number of people. You being one of them.

  84. Matt Calza says:

    WTF is this?

  85. David Patel says:

    I can vouch for this, I've done a similar thing a while ago to see if it was possible, I became a local guide which makes Google trust your additions to it's map and set up a business in a place it didn't exist in a crowded city. It's hilarious, I made my friends house a business for fun

  86. SWIFTY_WINS says:

    Just sayin`, if some $15 Google scammer locksmith guy unlocks my car at midnight and then tries to say ok that's $300… I'd go "Damn man really!!??… aite then, lemme grab the cash outta my glove box right quick"…. (Insert tire squealing sounds)

  87. Willy Skundberg says:

    Anybody knows if it`s fixed yet?

  88. amy horgan says:

    I'm hyper aware of this since he pointed it out… is there anything the everyday person can do? I'm annoyed that I searched one gym and women's fitness was snook in under the title and then I go to YouTube and I'm being shown a video for women's fitness….I wanted studio fitness grrrrr how do I add screen shot? Although maybe they are the same company??

  89. swordman2000 says:

    Amazing ted talk. Smart man.

  90. Headmuck says:

    Can someone explain to me how he was able to tap the agents call to Washington? As far as I understood the technique, he made sure people find his fake secret service on google and would call his number, which would then redirect the call to the real secret service, while he was sitting in between and recording. But it's not like the Seatlle agent had to google the number of his colleague, so how was this conversation recorded, without any fake number being called?

  91. Culvey says:

    So basically, these guys could scam a business number and record all the credit card information that people give over the phone. Welcome to easy identity theft.

  92. Chess KING says:

    CPC Max is like £2 per click. 13clicks for the twenty five bucks

  93. Skyler Malizia says:


  94. Declined says:


  95. WILLY LYNCH says:

    When he said "pay google", my Google assistant popped up WTF.

  96. Denise Powell says:

    Are you the model on Seattle Metro Poster? I could swear I see your face everyday and laugh.

  97. UR Just Wrong says:

    He dead now.
    So now what?

  98. wayne Last says:

    We are still in the wild west days…. there are MANY scams on the internet….

  99. Slickpickle says:

    Based off privacy alone, google and android are way way way wrong. Apple is king of privacy and that’s what’s going to win this day in age.

  100. Brian LaRocco says:

    This guy is very hard to follow, made no sense. Still dont understand how he recorded a phonecall with a google ad. He needs to meditate and take some deep breaths. Then stand on the red dot

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