back to article Hacker House shoved under UK Parliament's spotlight following Boris Johnson funding allegs

Infosec training biz Hacker House has been catapulted to Parliamentary prominence after reports that co-founder Jennifer Arcuri secured UK government funding because of her personal relationship with now-Prime Minister Boris Johnson. At today's first Parliamentary sitting since the Supreme Court overruled prorogation yesterday …

  1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

    > It appears to El Reg that Hacker House's website is loading, albeit very slowly, suggesting the sustained public interest is causing its servers to wobble rather than anything nefarious

    2.8 million requests apparently.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Windows

      This used to be called the SlashDot effect...

      1. theModge

        and as times and relative popularities of websites change, is now the redit "hug of death"

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When I first read this headline I wondered if Hacker House was some government building which had been re-named in honour of the Right Honourable Jim of Yes Prime Minister fame

    1. Richard IV

      It certainly seems to be something to do with Administrative Affairs.

  3. H in The Hague Silver badge

    Where are they based?

    A Guardian journalist called their UK number to ask where they're based: "... A woman with a US accent then answered the call, but would not give her location other than saying that it was somewhere in the US. She added: “I don’t have a specific location information to provide. I’m in an offsite location. I’m not allowed to release that type of information. I’m in the United States.”"

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/25/unfit-for-office-mps-challenge-boris-johnson-public-money-jennifer-arcuri

    Curiouser and curiouser.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Where are they based?

      And that leads to the question, why are they getting government grants if they are an offshore company?

      Perhaps yhey have connections.

      1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        "an offshore company"

        FWIW Hacker House is based in southern California, where Arcuri lives with her partner, Matthew Hickey, who co-founded HH. It also has a UK presence and has UK staff.

        C.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: "an offshore company"

          > It also has a UK presence and has UK staff.

          From the various media reports, it seems people are having problems locating the current address of the UK operation.

          Perhaps if someone actually knows where it is they can give the address here - there is bound to be one or more El Reg commentors living just around the corner and verify.

          1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

            Re: Re: "an offshore company"

            Supposedly, it's in London.

            C.

            1. egeria
              Black Helicopters

              Re: "an offshore company"

              According to Companies House the registered office was changed yesterday from 9 Bollin Mews Prestbury Macclesfield SK10 4DP England to 107-111 Fleet Street London EC4A 2AB. I'm guessing journalists were turning up to sleepy-looking 9 Bollin Mews. 107 Fleet St is probably a law firm. https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09678695/filing-history

            2. uro

              Interesting that they changed their UK address the very same day they are mentioned in the HoC:

              https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09678695/filing-history

              As well as the registered address of their other UK company, Innotech Network Limited:

              https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/08424712/filing-history

              107-111, Fleet Street, London, England, EC4A 2AB appears to home a rather large number of dissolved / liquidated / dormant and active companies - fairly disproportionate to the number of offices available in a 4 storey building.

            3. BebopWeBop Silver badge

              Re: "an offshore company"

              Well they do appear to have a London telephone number - that forwards - we do as well, but it is clear that it is maintained by a company who provide office space for meetings in the capital (being based some hundreds of miles away)

            4. JetSetJim Silver badge

              Re: "an offshore company"

              Companies House shows registered address changed yesterday to 107-111 Fleet Street, London from the Cheshire address. Googling the address shows it's a Regus serviced office space, with a listing on Rightmove

              Rather oddly, there were several earlier requests to change the registered addresses to this Regus office, so not sure this is a good measure of which registered address is *the* registered address.

            5. CliveS
              Happy

              Re: "an offshore company"

              I believe the word you're looking for is "allegedly"...

        2. macjules Silver badge

          Re: "an offshore company"

          No, the "address" was 9 Bollin Mews in Prestbury, near Macclesfield which was then hurriedly changed to Fleet Street, London at around 3 pm yesterday. The telephone number 020 8123 1379 seems to be a Skype number and gets answered in California.

        3. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: "an offshore company"

          It also has a UK presence and has UK staff.

          Looks like El Reg readers have located the current "UK presence"; an accommodation address.

          However, as yet no UK staff have either come forward or been identified. Do El Reg readers have among their friends and contacts a Hacker House employee, who is currently avoiding the spotlight...

          1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

            "an accommodation address"

            Er, well yeah, it's called Hacker *House* ;) Lots of small biz is run out of people's home offices. That's basically what it was, a small infosec training outfit run out of a home office.

            I completely get why people see this as being a bit weird - not a terribly fixed address, etc. We're doing a piece today or for Monday on WTF's really going on.

            C.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: "an accommodation address"

              >That's basically what it was, a small infosec training outfit run out of a home office.

              Yes, it is hard to get a handle on just how small "The team of Hacker House" were.

              As you suggest it might just have been the co-founders wearing both the owner and employee hats.

              No problems with the home office and (typically) using the accountants "accomodation address" for official/public purposes - its what I use.

              1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

                "it might just have been the co-founders wearing both the owner and employee hats"

                I will say this: Matt at HH knows his stuff, he's even been quoted in El Reg a few times, and we know of people who have gone through HH's training. So it's a thing.

                C.

                1. ds6 Bronze badge
                  Alert

                  Re: "it might just have been the co-founders wearing both the owner and employee hats"

                  Real question at this point is whether the funding is still valid, then. I don't personally think so, as despite how good these lads are, it isn't going toward UK interests...

                  1. Roland6 Silver badge

                    Re: "it might just have been the co-founders wearing both the owner and employee hats"

                    >I don't personally think so, as despite how good these lads are, it isn't going toward UK interests...

                    Given what diodesign has disclosed, I suggest things aren't so clear cut. It will only be by examining the details of the funding and HH's UK expenditure will it be possible to make a judgement call on that.

                    Suspect the real question is whether HH would have received the funding without Boris's behind the scenes involvement in the award process. In my books - because I've been there, I see nothing fundamentally wrong with Boris either encouraging HH to bid or advising HH on what their funding bid needs to include to improve its chances of success. However, it is wrong if Boris also gets involved in the bid assessment and award process and thus influence the selection of bids that will receive funding.

                2. macjules Silver badge

                  Re: "it might just have been the co-founders wearing both the owner and employee hats"

                  Heard lots of good things about HH and Matt and, yes, he does indeed seem to know his stuff. Then problem is not actually about HH or Matt but more about whether they solicited funds from the Mayor of London via some sexual liaison between Johnson and Jennifer Acuri and under the pretence that this was grants. Important to remember that Johnson was, as mayor, head of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, a role equivalent to being police and crime commissioner for the capital, so any corruption allegations are going to be taken much more seriously.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where are they based?

      Maybe they've been hacked ?

    3. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Where are they based?

      (I think I) Saw something on Twitter yesterday where someone rang them up and asked the time during the call - then being told "5:30am", and reportedly consistent with California according to the poster

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Because of her personal relationship...

    Given the sleazy headlines that have come out of Westminster in previous decades, I think theres a juicy kiss-and-tell on its way!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Because of her personal relationship...

      Euuugh!

      You've put the image of kissing Boris in my mind!

      Pass the mindbleach.... :-/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Because of her personal relationship...

        It wasn't on the lips, if that helps?

    2. Mark 110

      Re: Because of her personal relationship...

      Boris's love life history seeems to involve, getting married, fucking other women then lying about it. And having the odd child that he denies existance of. Not a hundred percent sure why these women find him attractive but lets face it I would do Jo Brand for an £100k grant . . . .

    3. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Because of her personal relationship...

      Arcuri will probably make more money from that - and won't have to feign 'interest' in the PM.

  5. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Windows

    Why are we even...

    Pretending anymore that our elected leaders aren't corrupt upto the eyeballs.

    Every other day there's a scandal like this and nothing ever seems to change. Those that should have been locked up for fraud, moral scandals, legal scandals, lying to Queen and Country. It goes on and on... And nothing ever seems to change.

    They all could get caught with their hands in the till and everyone will tisk and then look the other way like they've done with everything else up to this point. It's tiresome beyond rational

    </rant>

    1. sbt Silver badge
      Megaphone

      Don't give up; that serves their purpose

      I don't credit these leeches with the intelligence to strategise the collective disillusionment of the populace so their malfeasance can proceed unabated. But if we fall into their unwitting trap, the outcome is the same.

      Fight!

    2. Chris Parsons

      Re: Why are we even...

      Couldn't agree more. I find it worrying that people just shrug when it is mentioned our pm is a proven liar and philanderer.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Why are we even...

        Surely that only shows him to be fitted for the job of politician ?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why are we even...

      I should find it disturbing that "our elected leaders aren't corrupt upto the eyeballs", but I no longer do. Perhaps then, I should find it worrying that our elected leaders don't give a fuck about trying to cover their tracks? Because, really, they didn't try hard, or rather, not at all.

      1. Andrew Jones 2

        Re: Why are we even...

        It's like the Seaborne thing - you never hear about it anymore. It was quickly proven Seaborne couldn't possibly deliver on it's promises, and the fact the £13m contract to them was replaced with an £89m contract to DFDS and Brittany - who CAN provide the service - further shows that Seaborne could never have been real - and yet - no-one is interested, there is no investigation, no criminal proceedings.

        I find it seriously depressing that following on from that - Eurotunnel complained and threatened to sue because they were not even considered when the Government handed DFDS and Brittany the contract, so the Government paid them £33m to settle the case out of court. Now P&O are suing because we paid £33m to Eurotunnel.

        If the Government actually did any due diligence on any of this, and this is the result, that's actually as scary as the thought that they did no due diligence at all.

  6. Barrie Shepherd

    "I wondered if Hacker House was some government building"

    It is - Boris Johnson's safe house

    1. Benson's Cycle

      Let's hope Peter Guillam has reversed the switches to turn on the audio monitors, and someone has forwarded the tapes to Wikileaks.

  7. xeroks

    this thread maybe gives another view of what's been going on here:

    https://twitter.com/nicktolhurst/status/1176839648406122497

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Amongst the depressing tale of alleged sleaze, perhaps the most depressing news is that Boris Johnson can earn six figure sums for public speaking. Given his barely coherent performances in public - including his peroration to the UN on pink-eyed terminators and limbless chickens - it just shows how depressingly stupid his acolytes are - and how many of them are obviously in positions of power and influence. Mind you, if ever there were a time when a pink-eyed terminator would come in handy, it would be now.

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Not the he needs to. By about August this year he'd been personally given over half a million quid in donations. Check it youself:

        https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/financial-reporting/donations-and-loans/view-donations-and-loans

        1. Benson's Cycle

          Donations and income

          However, bungs in the form of pay for not very good speeches and frankly amateurish newspaper articles are legal, as is paying relatives to do "secretarial work" to maximise expenses.

  8. dnicholas Bronze badge

    They're called Hacker House ffs. Where's the due diligence

    1. dajames Silver badge

      They're called Hacker House ffs. Where's the due diligence

      I agree that there should be due dilligence -- but not that there should be any more (or less) due dilligence than if they were called (say) "Safe Castle" or "Reliable Manor". We ought to be able to see further than the name ...

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    Not clear if arcum or johnson is a "Friend with benefits"

    Presumably regarding the fast tracking of grants that is.

    Just saying.

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Not clear if arcum or johnson is a "Friend with benefits"

      Well as someone said of Clinton during one of the many scandals 'What's the point of being the most powerful man in the world if you can't screw the odd intern?'.

  10. IGotOut

    Were they seperated at birth?

    We just need Boris to adopt the orange sunbed look and it would be imposible to seperate them.

    Both corrupt, both think the law does not apply to them, both try to force their personal agendas through and both lie and decieve at every possible chance.

    1. LRanger
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Were they seperated at birth?

      Shouldn't that be 'spray booth'?

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Were they seperated at birth?

      I'm looking forward to seeing blojob adopt the orange jumpsuit look.

    3. Just Enough

      Re: Were they seperated at birth?

      They both have the same advisers, using the same play book.

      1/ Lie

      2/ If challenged, double down on lie.

      3/ If lie is obvious, say something else that's another lie to divert attention from first lie.

      4/ Goto 2

    4. Halfmad Silver badge

      Re: Were they seperated at birth?

      So most are behaving like ... politicians?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe they've been hacked

  12. SVV Silver badge

    took her on trade missions and helped secure a total of £126,000 in public funding

    Some people might think that needing a government grant to start up her business meant that she was on rather a low rung of the business success ladder, and therefore it was rather too early for her to be participating in trade missions. But that of course would require believing that her cybersavvy was the real reason she accompanied the unfaithful blob on them.

    1. mics39
      Unhappy

      Re: took her on trade missions and helped secure a total of £126,000 in public funding

      Nice preview of effects of Boris no deal and rapacious US business. Who knows, we might even reflect later on that this Arcuri was one of the insignificant scammers.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: took her on trade missions and helped secure a total of £126,000 in public funding

        A 'friend' is quoted in The Times as saying that the visits to her digs were innocent - she was teaching him about technology.... - the modern equivalent of French Lessons or Ugandan Dancing?

        That said he did make an arse of himself at the UN on 'technology' related futures.

    2. james_smith Bronze badge

      Re: took her on trade missions and helped secure a total of £126,000 in public funding

      Her business did not meet the criteria to go on those trade missions, but Boris personally interceded to get her on them.

  13. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Money and funny business

    I read that as "Monkey and funny business"

    "Monkey Business" was famously the name of a yacht that was on the T-shirt that Gary Hart was wearing...

    https://thehundreds.com/blogs/content/the-political-scandal-that-changed-everything-gary-hart-affair

  14. MatthewSt

    Could they not just use one of their own websites to find the addresses?

    https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09678695

  15. teebie

    "a former tech editor of the Daily Telegraph"

    A job that consists entirely of complaining about "Kids nowadays, with their boom boxes and hula hoops"

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Daily Telegraph

      Funny that the 'graph's Silicon Valley office is right next to El Reg's US base in San Francisco. Can even report we've been out drinking with them.

      They can't be much older than 35-ish, aren't a bunch of stereotypical Tele grumps, and yet suitably skeptical of American tech. No complaints here.

      C.

  16. Dave 15

    Based in the UK?

    When the idiot labour mayor of London bought thousands of Mercedes buses did anyone ask if Mercedes were based in the UK? What about all those BMW ministerial cars or police vehicles?

    Or for that matter the money poured into Microsoft to develop a software apprentice program when there was already a British company doing one?

    No, the truth here is that the establishment is smearing Johnson because they want to stop brexit, the people voted incorrectly because the people were too stupid, thick and misled to not believe the establishments assertions that being subjugated to Germany was in our best interests

    1. EnviableOne Silver badge

      Re: Based in the UK?

      the difference is:

      Mercedes have a good track record and are good at making busses and the bodies were added in NI.

      BMW have a good track record and are good are good at making Cars.

      Microsoft is possibly the largest software company in the world and probably did it for free the amount of cash HMG are throwing at them.

      None of them had personal relationships with cabinet members or the prime minister.

      Arcuri's Hacker House had no track record, infact it was dormant in 2016-17 and was only founded in 2015.

      it has yet to turn out anyone decent and got a grant that was ringfenced to UK based companies, even though it appears they only have a virtual UK presence.

      These "oversights" happened to co-incide with times when The Right Honourable Mr Boris Johnson was a known associate, spending evenings at the premises in which she resided.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Based in the UK?

      Yes, of course, how silly, they should have bought those buses from British Leyland!

      And as for "being subjugated to Germany", presumably you're all for the elimination of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from British politics then? Of course, you'd need a vague twinkling of historical knowledge to have a clue what I'm talking about, rather than spittle-flecked uninformed opinion, along with the mental capacity to understand irony, which I suspect you don't.

    3. cycl0ps

      Re: Based in the UK?

      When referring to the 'idiot mayor of London' I take it you mean Boris Johnson.... The previous one introduced intelligent policies like the Congestion Charge and the Bike Scheme. The Incredible Sulk just pranced around and father some more children, and not always with his wife.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Based in the UK?

        >When referring to the 'idiot mayor of London' I take it you mean Boris Johnson...

        Who bought buses from a company that has now gone into administration.

        https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/video-news/borisbus-manufacturer-wrightbus-falls-into-administration-38533863.html

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    LOL

    If you really want to start looking at misspent public funds because of personal relationships, look no further than the attendance of one T Blair at the UK launch of Microsoft Windows (I think it was 2000) which has now been very carefully scrubbed from the Internet but which was at the time roundly (and correctly) criticised. From that point on, everything had to be Microsoft which only by the help of more intelligent people did not lead to complete disasters. AFAIK, a virtually identical plot is now playing out in a very important department of the Belgian government where a very high placed official insists it MUST all become Microsoft without a shred of formal evaluation of little trivial things like suitability for purpose, TCO or the cost of migration. The golf course sale is alive and well.

    There's more if it wasn't for the Official Secrets Act..

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Based in the US?

    So presumably there would be no trouble if Hacker House had been based on the European Mainland?

    And presumably this will lead to questions as to why practically all the equipment for our Armed Forces is made overseas - I believe considerably more than £126,000 has been spent on projects like the A400M Grizzly and F35 Lightning 2 and neither of those are made by companies with their Head Office in the UK (Airbus and Lockheed Martin respectively).

    Still, it's not like Boris has a wife who's made lots of money from Legal Aid while defending Human Rights cases against her own husband's government, is it?

  19. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Basic, but excellent value for money. I'll be back.

    Johnson only visited her flat to "understand tech" and "get educated",

    Presumably to 'get educated' about "Ugandan affairs"?

    If they weren't doing squishy things why doesn't he just say so, rather than refusing to answer.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
  20. Milton Silver badge

    Ugandan affairs

    Follow-up reporting claimed that a "friend" of Arcuri's said Johnson only visited her flat to "understand tech" and "get educated", with her stepfather stating: "No way would there have been a sexual relationship*¹."

    Private Eye will have to replace its codephrase "Ugandan discussions/affairs" with "understanding tech". In its next edition: "The tired and emotional Sir Hartley Redface denied having understood tech with entrepreneur Stormy Daniels"

    i must say, given the apparent frequency with which he understood tech, Boris The Sneaky Fuckin' Liar*² still seems remarkably clueless.

    Didn't Kissinger say "Power is the greatest aphrodisiac"? And if any sentient female would sleep with that repugnant horror, I wouldn't rule out Boris's chances. (And please, let's not even discuss whether he possessed sufficient integrity and honour not to cheat: the laughter may cause real harm.)

    A virtual pint for the first to name the movie.

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: Ugandan affairs

      *2 I thought it was 'Russian', not liar?

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Ugandan affairs

      i must say, given the apparent frequency with which he understood tech, Boris The Sneaky Fuckin' Liar*² still seems remarkably clueless.

      Miss will just have to keep him behind after class for some extra tuition

  21. Dabooka Silver badge

    Would you like to know more?

    Bit of a thread running on Twitter (which I won't link to as I get nagged), but looking for @nicktolhurst should bring it up.

    Even more than this than meets the eye, should it be accurate

  22. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    WTF SNAFUBAR ....

    Hacker House was promised £100,000 in January .... so far [end of September] it has received £47,000, with the remaining £53k frozen until further notice.

    Typical sub-prime UK government funding shit ....... with all manner of fingers stuck in the purse delaying and trying to take leading command and remote control of the action?

  23. Sulky

    AN education business that doesn't stand by the accuracy of what it teaches!

    Extract from Hacker House T&Cs: (I love the opening sentence)

    "The material provided through the Services is not intended to be advice and you should not rely on it. That material and the Services are provided without any guarantees, representations or warranties as to their accuracy or that the content is free from harmful material"

    But then our education system seems to run along the same lines.

    DPA referenced is 1998 albeit with a catch-all "and any superseding legislation"

  24. toffer99

    I have become resigned to the sleaziest politician of my long lifetime becoming Prime Minister.

    I think of it as a health problem -the boil on the flesh of the UK which is Boris Johnson must be lanced. If he takes the Tory Party with him, so much the better.

    From Matthew Parris' recent TIMES column: That he’s a habitual liar, a cheat, a conspirator with a criminal pal to have an offending journalist’s ribs broken, a cruel betrayer of the women he seduces, a politician who connived in a bid for a court order to suppress mention of a daughter he fathered, a do-nothing mayor of London and the worst foreign secretary in living memory . . . such truths are apparently already “priced in” to Mr Johnson.

  25. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Alert

    Follow the money

    "Jennifer Arcuri’s mystery £700,000 loan adds to pressure on Johnson"

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/28/boris-johnson-jennifer-arcuri-loan-hacker-house-grant

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