I've watched HackForums.net evolve from nothing to becoming an empire and decline to dust once again. I have watched HF evolve time and time again. HF will always have a place in my heart, not for the content but for the people who have sparked an array of communities we see today.
If you do not know about Hack Forums, it used to be a popular hacking forum. According to Wikipedia, it is the most popular website in terms of web traffic but that claim alone is invalid since the citation to the statement leads to a 404 page.1 It has been widely reported as facilitating criminal activity, such as the case of Zachary Shames, who in 2013 sold a keylogger that was used to steal personal information. It first rapidly grew in 2009 and ever since then it is safe to say that the community is slowly dying. A lot of users on Hack Forums are young, inexperienced, and immature and they make up a majority percentage of the community.
Hack Forums actually started accidentally, Jesse Labrocca, a prominent videogame game shop owner, unknown he was about to strike pure gold, started various forums, one called HackForums.net - several years later (actually a decade) the forum is flourishing, with 30 million posts and hundreds of thousands of users, or is that what he wants everyone to think?
A large percentage of the userbase is inactive, dead, and banned, another large percentage consists of users who leech content from HF, LaBrocca has gone to extreme lengths to fake his success, severally breaching ethical conduct that his users expect of him. More importantly, his analytics page from Google is forged and not real, this can be located HERE.
It doesn't take long to realize that the "business model" here is convincing wannabe hackers to pay BTC to upgrade to "l33t" membership so that they can access all forums.
Forged statistics and terrible quality of posts.
LaBrocca has managed to keep his website's statistics all hidden by carefully forging and making changes to the site that users wouldn't notice, such as if you visit the index page of HF under "Who's Online" you will discover that the refresh time has been changed from "2" to "5" minutes in a last bid attempt to make users think the forum is still as popular as it once was. Now once might ask himself, but, why!? He can just develop and re-code the site to display false statistics? Young reader, you're right! But this requires vigorous testing and sandboxing to ensure it meets security standards for a site as large as HF, the time required for this made it a more viable option for LaBrocca to change the refresh time. After all, it's not like LaBrocca has screwed up and let his database be stolen before? You're right, he's let it become stolen not once, but three times!
The quality of posts by most members is shockingly bad. There are people with prestige and tens of thousands of posts under their belt who post complete garbage on every topic. You will never see a tech site whose senior members and "experts" know so little about technology.
The staff is the usual arrogant types you'd expect from a site like this.
The great, OmniCoin (OMC scam)
OmniCoin, short for Omniscient's (Jesse LaBrocca) coin. A sophisticated scam to reap hundreds of thousands of dollars from a userbase or user group of unknown users, a scam designed to deceive the very users developing the coin for Jesse Labrocca.
OMNICOIN (OMC) a crypto-coin designed for one purpose and one purpose only, to scam nearly $350,000 USD.
This scam was actually quite simple, LaBrocca owned a large forum, crypto-coins have an anonymity factor making them easier to sell-off anonymously with the use of coded programs like Mixers. And as you would expect the entire project disappeared after scamming thousands of members. His reason for closing the project was:
Unfortunately, the community support was not as strong as was anticipated, and there was not enough effort made to support it by service and goods sellers here on HackForums. The decision was ultimately made to pull all of the official nodes as community support weakened, and we were unlisted from the exchange that we had worked hard to get listed on due to this.
This scam deceived the very developers who were developing OMC. Nonetheless, the coin was released and integrated into the community, with stimuli such as the "OmniCoin reward" purchasable for $10 USD in OMC and the "3p1c" upgrade, Omniscient forced the value of the coin to skyrocket.
The investment, yield, and sophistication of the scam
At this point, he would have been mining rigorously with equipment purchased previously, a simple $25,000 investment into the equipment needed to mine his altcoin would have yielded 500% revenue. He would have remained undetected as thousands of users raced to mine the coin in an effort to obtain more while they thought it was cheaper. OMC was flourishing, hundreds of thousands of OMC transacting through the blockchain, tens of hundreds of deals through the marketplace, within days the value was nearly $0.01 per 1 OMC. At this point and given the original assumed investment he had made, he would have controlled and sold enough OMC to pay back the investment and earn a 2:1 yield. But why stop here?
OMC was extremely powerful in the first few months, smashing records and due to the support of such a large community combined with the forced stimulus of Omniscient pushing awards and upgrades payable by a currency with essentially no value, he artificially inflated the value, he would have been mining coin continuously and selling slowly to not detect suspicion. Yielding a potential revenue of nearly $150,000 - $200,000.
I imagine he was extremely careful in the way he conducted this scam in all aspects of operational security. Utilizing advanced mixing technology to split the funds he mined across hundreds of thousands of wallets mixed with other hundreds of thousands of wallets, then sold slowly, virtually making the source of the funds impossible to find.
Administrator (Jesse LaBrocca) is money hungry.
Omniscient, as greedy as he is, made a list ditch attempt to scavenge whatever he could from the dead OMC (as he naturally let the currency die slowly and undetected) -- in this case, he made a thread on Hackforums stating how OMC use would be completely removed and cleaned from the site, this caused panic among long-term investors and several users sold hundreds of thousands of OMC, his plan was working perfectly. Lure the large holders to release their remaining OMC so he could purchase it, of-course the purchase and transfer of such a large quantity would have required sophisticated coding to mix the OMC (well within Omniscient's knowledge) -- this stage of the scam is called the border where he prepares the currency for a pump (major increase in value).
Only days later, Omniscient makes yet another thread claiming that OMC is actually going to STAY on HF. Raising the value to an insane degree because now everyone knows that the value of OMC is LOW when it will INCREASE. It did indeed increase, he would as done before, sold the OMC and reaped revenue well within the 5 digits ($xx,xxx).
I understand Hack Forum is business and his form of income but ultimately this has been the downfall of the forums. He seems to allow borderline bribery to dictate the direction of the forums.
- 20-30% of all threads made by him are about receiving payments or in relation to buying/selling cryptocurrency for max profit.
- More than 50% of awards can only be purchased.
- There is a clear correlation between those with quite a number of purchased awards and other awards granted to them (especially those who donate large sums of money - yet contribute shit all content to the community)
Limiting those with genuine intentions of contributing to the forum.
He constantly limits members, what they can do, and actively destroy parts of the community.
- 25-30% of all threads made by him are limiting members, removing functions, and deleting groups.
- Less than 8% of posts are actually instigating conversation throughout the forums.
- 0% of threads are asking for members' opinions.
- Less than 15% of awards are for those who work their ass off for months/years to provide a good service to the forums.
LaBrocca needs help as an administrator to operate his website.
- 30% of all threads made by Omniscient are straight-out announcements - most of which were admissions that he was struggling with something; i.e. HF Mobile, myBB upgrade, tabs, and that people don't enter their correct Birthday's when registering (shock).
- You have to pay to post large threads and actually give the forums decent content.
- Current editor is appalling: it's almost impossible to format threads to create decent content.
- Firewall is the nail in the coffin. Whenever you try to contribute something, something as silly as a registry key in a code box trips it off.
To be quite frank, I would love to see Hack Forums be rebranded to Crypto and Paid Stickies in the Marketplace Forums because that's all you will get to see happening on there. You will be extremely disappointed with the way the forums are progressing and the community it has developed to.
And... I know that he already knows all of this...
I can't help but feel that all of these actions are pointing to something more subtle... That HE knows the end is coming. It's clear he has lost his enthusiasm and his passion for the community.
It's clear that he is milking every penny before the imminent demise. I wouldn't be surprised if the sudden takeover of groups is somewhat related. There has been no major development in the forum for a long time, even the theme of the forums looks old and outdated. There is nothing but scam reports and posts in the lounge, as well as members selling their utter shit programs and ebooks.
The admin "Omniscient" acts out of emotion and bans anyone who has a different opinion than his and regularly lashes out in fits of rage and "roasts" and bans his community members. To be honest, he has had a hard year, his site/main source of income is on a strong decline, he's trying to pump out update after update and most of the time don't even work. The site is a shambles and a shame to the real hacker community.