Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who Are Bringing Down the Internet [NOOK Book]

Overview

In 2004, a California computer whiz named Barrett Lyon uncovered the identity of a hacker running major assaults on business websites. Without fully grasping the repercussions, he set on an investigation that led him into the heart of the Russian mob. Cybercrime was evolving. No longer the domain of small-time thieves, it had been discovered by sophisticated gangs. They began by attacking corporate websites but increasingly stole financial data...

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Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who Are Bringing Down the Internet

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Overview

In 2004, a California computer whiz named Barrett Lyon uncovered the identity of a hacker running major assaults on business websites. Without fully grasping the repercussions, he set on an investigation that led him into the heart of the Russian mob. Cybercrime was evolving. No longer the domain of small-time thieves, it had been discovered by sophisticated gangs. They began by attacking corporate websites but increasingly stole financial data from consumers and defense secrets from governments.

While Barrett investigated the cutting edge of technology crime, the U.S. government struggled to catch up. Britain, however, was a different story. In the late 1990s, the Queen herself had declared safe e-commerce a national security priority. Agents from the London-based National Hi-Tech Crime Unit sought out Barrett and enlisted his help. They also sent detective Andrew Crocker, a Welsh former boxer, to Russia to track down and prosecute the hackers—and to find out who they worked for.

Fatal System Error penetrates both the Russian cyber-mob and the American mafia as the two fight over the Internet’s massive spoils. It takes readers into the murky hacker underground, traveling the globe from San Francisco to Costa Rica, London, and Russia. Using unprecedented access to mob businesses and Russian officials, it shows how top criminals earned protection from the Russian government—and how Barrett Lyon and Andrew Crocker got closer to the titans of the underground economy than any previous outsider. Together, their stories explain why cybercrime is much worse than you thought—and why the Internet might not survive.

 

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Richard A. Clarke, Counter-terror chief under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and author of Against All Enemies: Inside America 's War on Terror
Fatal System Error accurately reveals the secretive global cyber cartels and their hidden multi-billion dollar business, proving cybercrime does pay and pays well."

Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Co-Founder, Berkman Center for Internet & Society and author of The Future of the Internet—And How to Stop It
“Joseph Menn immerses us in the personalities and politics behind today's cybersecurity threats and countermeasures. This balanced, compelling account shows why the future of the Internet depends more on people of good will than on some technological magic bullet."

Vicky Raab, The New Yorker
“[Fatal System Error] kept me riveted to the couch all weekend”

Quentin Hardy, Forbes
“[A] well-reported book on some of the biggest (known) cybercrimes in the past decade… Menn's book could hardly be more timely.”

Network World
“As eye-popping as the book's portrayal of bookies and wise-guy swagger is… the second half of the book is even more mind-blowing.”

BBC Focus Magazine
“The issues raised are hugely important, and failure to deal with criminals behind so much online crime will be an embarrassment to governments worldwide.”

Business Week
“In profiling two eclectic cyber-crime fighters, Menn has crafted a fascinating high-tech whodunit that educates even as it entertains.”

The Guardian
“Menn spins racy tales of true-life cybercrime...The villains glory in handles such as ‘Bra1n’, and the heroes are portrayed respectively as Matthew Broderick from Wargames and Daniel Craig's Bond, but the narrative glitter is sprinkled on top of serious and thorough reporting. Menn concludes: ‘A number of enormously powerful national governments, especially those of Russia and China, have picked the blossoming of the internet age as the time to ally with organised crime.’” 

Richard Stiennon, founder of T-Harvest and former VP of Threat Research at Webroot Software
“Not since Cliff Stoll’s The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage has there been a book that delves as deeply into the workings of criminal hackers. This book will be widely read by law enforcement, policy makers, and IT security professionals. Like Stoll’s book I predict it will inspire a generation of technologists to join the battle against cyber criminals."

Register
“An informative and entertaining look at the roots of the burgeoning cybercrime economy and its links to government, featuring a rogue's gallery of international wrong 'uns…. It's one of the best descriptions of the formation of the underground economy I've read. It deserves to be read by those in the IT security industry, policy formation and with any interest in a hype-free expose of the true face of cybercrime.”

The Guardian
“Menn's book is riveting, as much for the terrifying detail it includes – both about gambling sites and the extent of botnet infection and the feckless lack of high-level international cooperation – especially by George Bush's administration – that allowed their architects to enrich themselves.”

Slashdot
"Fatal System Error is an enjoyable read on par [with] books such as The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage and Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick."

Processor
“Menn’s deconstruction of an especially sophisticated set of attacks, the victim’s countermeasures, and eventual criminal investigation of the web of attackers is a valuable wake-up call for IT pros that should serve to catalyze redoubled efforts to improve cybersecurity.”

Slashdot
Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who are Bringing Down the Internet
is the wake-up call that those in Washington, and those charged with IT need to wake up to. Unfortunately, it is likely those that truly need to read this book, will press the information security snooze button yet again.

Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2010
“[E]ven an unbiased observer would say that Fatal System Error is a compelling read, despite the fact that it’s nonfiction (or maybe because it’s nonfiction). It’s also a very frightening book.”

Processor, May 7, 2010
“Menn’s deconstruction of an especially sophisticated set of attacks, the victim’s countermeasures, and eventual criminal investigation of the web of attackers is a valuable wake-up call for IT pros that should serve to catalyze redoubled efforts to improve cybersecurity.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781610390088
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 10/26/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 394,298
  • File size: 412 KB

Meet the Author

Joseph Menn covers cyber-security and other technology issues for the Financial Times, after a decade on the same beat for the Los Angeles Times. He is the author of 2003’s All the Rave: The Rise and Fall of Shawn Fanning’s Napster and a two-time finalist for the Gerald Loeb Award, the top prize in business reporting.
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Table of Contents

1 Wargames 3

2 HARDCORE vs. EXE 27

3 In Too Deep 37

4 The Turn 61

5 Crackdown 83

6 From Spam to Identity Theft 99

7 Whatever It Takes 121

8 The Day of Action 139

9 The Underground Economy 161

10 Trial 181

11 Beyond Crime 195

12 Fixing What's Fixable 225

Epilogue 243

Author's Note 247

Notes 251

Index 267

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 23 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 17, 2010

    Internet Crime and Warfare - A Primer

    "A lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than 1,000 men with guns." - Don Corleone in Mario Puzo's The Godfather. © 1983

    "A small force of hackers is stronger than multiple thousands of the current armed forces." - Russian Duma deputy Nikolai Kuryanovich cited in Fatal System Error. © 2010

    The first quote above is fiction. The second quote is not. As I read Kuryanovich's comment, the quote by the Godfather crossed my mind. Across the span of 27 years life was imitating art by insisting that stealing money or secrets by using the intellect was superior to stealing either one by using violence.

    This book bridges the gap between cyber crime and cyber warfare. The war underway is largely being fought out of sight, that is, until you become a victim of identity theft and have your bank account wiped out by unseen hackers or, heaven forbid, the electric grids of all of North America get shut down. Criminals basically want your money. Enemy countries want to destroy us. The most important cyber battles are therefore ideological. This is another example of life imitating art. In the movie, Alien vs. Predator, that battle between two other-worldly creatures takes place underground at the South Pole completely out of sight of most Humans. So it is with cyber battles. They, too, are mostly out of sight. But they are real and real people do get hurt in these battles. If hacking isn't brought under control soon, it may turn out that the population of the entire earth might become collateral damage. This book doesn't say that, but the implication is very strong.

    As with most conflicts, there are the "good guys" and "bad guys." The good guys singled out in this book are just three people although there are others. One good guy is Lyon Barrett, a self-taught American entrepreneur who spent a lot of his time fighting off bad guys who were making life impossible through Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against some of his clients some of which were also bad guys, mostly gambling companies operating in other countries. A second good guy is Andy Crocker of the UK's NHTCU (National Hi-Tech Crime Unit), who spent most of three years in Russia working with information uncovered by Barrett, and a third good guy is a Russian, Igor Yakovlev, in Russia's MVD (Russian Ministry of the Interior), Russia's equivalent of the FBI. The bad guys are too many to list here except for one, Ivan Maksakov.

    Barrett had uncovered the true identity of Maksakov, a feat almost unequaled in this cyber war. Maksakov was a reverse Barrett. The difference was that Maksakov was an enabler of DDoS attacks whereas Barrett was a defender against them for his clients. When Maksakov was caught, he appeared to be remorseful working with Yakovlev and Crocker to identify others involved in this extortion scheme, but at his trial with two other Russians he turned and pleaded not guilty surprising Crocker, Yakovlev, the whole prosecution team, and even the judge. Eventually, he was convicted and sentenced to several years in a Russian jail.

    Menn does address what can and must be done to stop this growing threat. One suggestion is that the Internet has to be scrapped and completely re-written with very different rules. Until then, we have to deal with the ongoing cyber threats to our way of life. We need to begin today. This is serious stuff. We cannot just turn off our computers and work without them. We are in too deep for that.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating, disturbing report on online crime

    The Internet has become the ultimate mob hangout, a dangerous venue where U.S. Mafiosi, vicious Russian gang members and illegal hackers from many nations, especially from Eastern Europe, ply their dirty deeds. Cybersecurity reporter Joseph Menn examines cybercrime, exposing the bad guys while telling exciting stories about two intrepid investigators - Barrett Lyon, a U.S.-based "white hat" security hacker, and Andy Crocker, a British cybersecurity agent - who have successfully waged war against cybercriminals. Menn's book is both fascinating and disturbing, with its discussion of "zombie armies" of computers, and its exotically named online desperadoes, like CumbaJohnny. getAbstract recommends this gripping saga to those who want to protect themselves from cybercrime. This outstanding book's only deficiency is, ironically, its remarkable, overwhelming abundance of complex detail. If you think you need a cast list, tech manual and dictionary of arcane online terms, never mind; just hang on for a scary, revealing ride.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good read, like a thriller, short, fizzles

    A good thriller style read about U.S. and Russian organized crime involvement with gambling, identity theft, DDOS attacks, and more. Not highly in depth, I wish it had profiled more than 2 white hats who hunt these guys down, or went into more detail on the American side, which sort of fizzles out.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2011

    rtg

    the commotup

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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