Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground

Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground

3.9 30
by Kevin Poulsen
     
 

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Former hacker Kevin Poulsen has, over the past decade, built a reputation as one of the top investigative reporters on the cybercrime beat. In Kingpin, he pours his unmatched access and expertise into book form for the first time, delivering a gripping cat-and-mouse narrative—and an unprecedented view into the twenty-first century’s signature form of… See more details below

Overview

Former hacker Kevin Poulsen has, over the past decade, built a reputation as one of the top investigative reporters on the cybercrime beat. In Kingpin, he pours his unmatched access and expertise into book form for the first time, delivering a gripping cat-and-mouse narrative—and an unprecedented view into the twenty-first century’s signature form of organized crime.
 
The word spread through the hacking underground like some unstoppable new virus: Someone—some brilliant, audacious crook—had just staged a hostile takeover of an online criminal network that siphoned billions of dollars from the US economy.
 
The FBI rushed to launch an ambitious undercover operation aimed at tracking down this new kingpin; other agencies around the world deployed dozens of moles and double agents. Together, the cybercops lured numerous unsuspecting hackers into their clutches. . . . Yet at every turn, their main quarry displayed an uncanny ability to sniff out their snitches and see through their plots.
 
The culprit they sought was the most unlikely of criminals: a brilliant programmer with a hippie ethic and a supervillain’s double identity. As prominent “white-hat” hacker Max “Vision” Butler, he was a celebrity throughout the programming world, even serving as a consultant to the FBI. But as the black-hat “Iceman,” he found in the world of data theft an irresistible opportunity to test his outsized abilities. He infiltrated thousands of computers around the country, sucking down millions of credit card numbers at will. He effortlessly hacked his fellow hackers, stealing their ill-gotten gains from under their noses. Together with a smooth-talking con artist, he ran a massive real-world crime ring.
 
And for years, he did it all with seeming impunity, even as countless rivals ran afoul of police.
 
Yet as he watched the fraudsters around him squabble, their ranks riddled with infiltrators, their methods inefficient, he began to see in their dysfunction the ultimate challenge: He would stage his coup and fix what was broken, run things as they should be run—even if it meant painting a bull’s-eye on his forehead.
 
Through the story of this criminal’s remarkable rise, and of law enforcement’s quest to track him down, Kingpin lays bare the workings of a silent crime wave still affecting millions of Americans. In these pages, we are ushered into vast online-fraud supermarkets stocked with credit card numbers, counterfeit checks, hacked bank accounts, dead drops, and fake passports. We learn the workings of the numerous hacks—browser exploits, phishing attacks, Trojan horses, and much more—these fraudsters use to ply their trade, and trace the complex routes by which they turn stolen data into millions of dollars. And thanks to Poulsen’s remarkable access to both cops and criminals, we step inside the quiet, desperate arms race that law enforcement continues to fight with these scammers today. 
 
Ultimately, Kingpin is a journey into an underworld of startling scope and power, one in which ordinary American teenagers work hand in hand with murderous Russian mobsters and where a simple Wi-Fi connection can unleash a torrent of gold worth millions.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a previous life, Poulsen served five years in prison for hacking. So the Wired senior editor and "Threat Level" blogger knows intimately the terrain he explores in this page-turning tale of the criminal exploits of a hacker of breathtaking ambition, Max Butler, who stole access to 1.8 million credit card accounts. Poulsen understands both the hows of hacking, which he explains clearly, as well as the whys, which include, but also can transcend, mere profit. Accordingly, his understanding of the hacking culture, and his extensive interviews with Butler, translates into a fascinating depiction of a cybercriminal underworld frightening in its complexity and its potential for harm, and a society shockingly vulnerable to cybercrime. The personalities, feuds, double dealing, and scams of the hackers are just one half of this lively story. The other half, told with equal verve, is law enforcement's efforts to find and convict Butler and his accomplices. (Butler is now serving a 13-year sentence and owes .5 million in restitution.) Poulsen renders the hacker world with such virtual reality that readers will have difficulty logging off until the very end. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"A compelling ride." —Kirkus
Kirkus Reviews

Max "Vision" Butler—currently in a federal penitentiary—once sat atop a billion-dollar criminal empire trafficking in stolen credit-card numbers. How he got there and how the authorities finally managed to topple him is a harrowing tale shot through with technology and tragedy.

Butler was a just another American outcast working in Boise, Idaho in the late 1980s when the Internet began to take off. An incredibly gifted computer geek, he caught the gathering cyber wave—and could have ridden it all the way to untold riches. All he had to do was play it straight and use his incredible programming prowess for good instead of evil. Alas, that's something Butler found harder to do than cracking computer codes. He tried for a while, even becoming a "white hat" cyber-security consultant, but something about the black-market world of online thievery always called him back. In this complex story full of multifaceted machinations both mortal and machine, Wired editor Poulsen successfully sifts through Butler's many sordid capers. While the author avoids alienating readers who don't know their bits from their bytes, he also provides enough jargon for technophiles. Even though readers may not exonerate Butler for swindling so many for so long, Poulsen makes them care enough about him to wonder why he kept doing it.

A compelling ride.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307588708
Publisher:
Crown/Archetype
Publication date:
02/22/2011
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
188,866
File size:
2 MB

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