Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground [NOOK Book]

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

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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

From Barnes & Noble

Gone are the days when hackers were pimply-faced nerds hanging out in their parents' basements. Today's hackers are often daring international cyber-thieves, pulling off multi-million rip-offs. Until his conviction in September, Max Butler (a.k.a. Max Ray Vision) was at the top of that ignominious heap, raking in more cash and credit card numbers than even he could process. Kevin Poulsen's Kingpin follows Max in his metamorphoses from a "white hat" software security designer into a stealthy syndicate head who engineered a hostile takeover of the hacker underground. Max's story serves as a total immersion tutorial on what these virtual backdoor bandits are doing to transform crime.

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] brisk and entertaining tale."--The New York Times

"Even though he has done jail time for his cyber crimes and credit card hacking, it’s hard not to like Max "Max Vision" Butler.... The capers of this misfit genius, and the FBI’s attempts to infiltrate credit card hacking rings, combine to make this a fast, fun read."--Newark Star-Ledger

“Hello, Hollywood, Kevin Poulsen has a tale for you. Deftly told.”—San Francisco Chronicle

"What will make this book endure is Poulsen's elegant elucidation of how the hacking world evolved from its pimply, ideological beginnings into a global criminal enterprise"--Atlantic.com

“Poulsen renders the hacker world with such virtual reality that readers will have difficulty logging off until the very end.”—Publishers Weekly
 
“The lead figures of KINGPIN are brilliant, crooked geeks and the sleazy women who love to help them steal. Their mortal enemies are a cyber-savvy swarm of undercover cops.  Kevin Poulsen gets so close to these paranoid, shadowy people that you can smell the sweat on the keyboards and hear the handcuffs clack shut. No other book can match this intimate, expert portrait of a truly modern criminal underworld.”--Bruce Sterling, Hugo Award-winning novelist and futurist
 
“An exciting crime thriller, a compelling psychological study, and one of the most accurate stories of hacker culture that I’ve ever read…Poulsen deftly explains the technology behind these ultramodern computer crimes and shows how they’re committed.”--Annalee Newitz, Editor in Chief of io9.com
 
“With the tense drama and future shock of a William Gibson novel, Kevin Poulsen spins a scary-true tale of the dark-side hacker underground and its most adept sorcerer.”--Steven Levy, author of Hackers and Crypto
 
"The most thorough portrait to date of a top modern U.S. cyber criminal and an engaging tale of cops against robbers against other robbers. No one writes with more authority than Kevin Poulsen about how hackers actually go about their business."--Joseph Menn, author of All the Rave and Fatal System Error
 
“Building on the best of the police procedural tradition, Kevin Poulsen lays out in clear language the technologies and methods employed by the criminals and crime fighters alike, all the while crafting a sympathetic character study of the conflicted gray hat, Max Vision, at the heart of it all.”--Jonathan Zittrain, Harvard professor and author of The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It
 
“A superb, insider tour of the dark Internet that lies below "the whitewashed, commercialized" world of the Web. Kevin Poulsen is one of the very few people who understands the territory: the scammers, the scammers of the scammers, and the law enforcement officers trying to catch them. KINGPIN describes a parallel business world, including "the underground's first hostile takeover," where characters who call themselves names like DarkCyd and Matrix and Ghost23 battle for control of digital scams. It is a fascinating, scary ride.”--Ellen Ullman, author of Close to the Machine and The Bug
 

From the Hardcover edition.

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 Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/22/2011
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 124,545
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

KEVIN POULSEN is a senior editor at Wired.com and a contributor to Wired magazine. He oversees cybercrime, privacy, and political coverage for Wired.com and edits the award-winning Threat Level blog (wired.com/threatlevel), which he founded in 2005.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Table of Contents

Cops and Carders ix

Prologue xi

1 The Key 1

2 Deadly Weapons 6

3 The Hungry Programmers 14

4 The White Hat 19

5 Cyberwar! 25

6 I Miss Crime 33

7 Max Vision 42

8 Welcome to America 49

9 Opportunities 54

10 Chris Aragon 64

11 Script's Twenty-Dollar Dumps 73

12 Free Amex! 80

13 Villa Siena 85

14 The Raid 91

15 UBuy WeRush 98

16 Operation Firewall 105

17 Pizza and Plastic 115

18 The Briefing 120

19 Carders Market 124

20 The Starlight Room 130

21 Master Splyntr 134

22 Enemies 139

23 Anglerphish 144

24 Exposure 150

25 Hostile Takeover 159

26 What's in Your Wallet? 170

27 Web War One 176

28 Carder Court 183

29 One Plat and Six Classics 189

30 Maksik 194

31 The Trial 201

32 The Mall 208

33 Exit Strategy 213

34 DarkMarket 224

35 Sentencing 229

36 Aftermath 234

Epilogue 241

Notes 243

Acknowledgments 265

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 29 )
Rating Distribution

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(10)

4 Star

(12)

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(4)

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(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 27, 2011

    great read - pricing is fixed now

    First book that I've read straight through in a long time. Well written, not too technical but still covers the general concepts. Focuses on the criminals and looks at the motivation of many of the main characters. Includes links for checking out more information (most of which is still around on the internet).

    Highly recommended.

    Oh, and I bought it for $12.99 from BN, so they've fixed the pricing. I agree with the others that a nook book should be about half the printed price.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2011

    Don't follow pricing strategy...

    Agree with other reviewers - very disappointing to see this priced the same as a hard-cover. If this becomes a trend, we may be witnessing the beginning of the end of e-books.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2011

    Pricing is Absurd

    Would happily pay $6-8 for this book in electronic form but will not be paying full price for it! Fortunately a quick search for "Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground.PDF" provided some interesting results. Just like the movie industry, looks like the publication industry didn't learn a single thing from what the music industry went through. Oh well, their loss losing a customer willing to pay reasonable prices but not willing to be taken advantage of.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2011

    Very interesting read if you're into crime and technology

    I really enjoyed reading this book, although it was almost a twin to another book of a similar theme, but this covered from the "bad guys" perspective rather than law enforcement. Overall it was a good read. I like how the chapters were kept short and to the point. They were addicting and almost movie like. I would recommend this to anyone interested in crime and technology and how the internet has changed the way criminals do business.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2011

    Reason?

    Is there a reason why the electronic version is the same price as the hardcover? I would very much like to buy this book, but I do not want to pay the hardcover price . . .

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Pricing is wrong.

    You cannot charge the same for an ebook as the hardcover. When this is priced more appropriately I'll buy it for sure.

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 4, 2011

    Not spending full price for e-book

    Not going to do it

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2011

    Wow

    I work with fraud at a bank and this book has brought the whole other side of fraudsters into a new light. It is written almost like a fiction novel, but with factual data. A great read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 21, 2013

    Great read. Poulsen does a great job presenting a highly techni

    Great read. Poulsen does a great job presenting a highly technical subject in a way that anyone can understand. It is well written and well researched.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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