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

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

by Joseph Menn

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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.

 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781586489076
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 10/26/2010
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 470,606
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.30(h) x 0.79(d)

About 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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Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who Are Bringing Down the Internet 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
LarryHires More than 1 year ago
"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.
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
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.
tommysalami More than 1 year ago
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.
Groovybaby on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I never really had much intrest in how my computer works until a couple of years ago when particularly gross spam started showing up all over a board that I liked to visit. The spam was so persistant and insideous that the board owners finally gave up and just shut it down. Kind of a shame but not really a tragedy in the grand sceme of things and all the users went on with thier lives. After reading this book, I've learned a lot more all in one place about how spam works and just what the senders of it are after, it may appear to be increaded traffic to dubious web sites but it's really a short cut into your PC that they are fishing for and the program that got onto the board I liked most likely came from the PC of a completely innocent and fully unaware user's computer that basicly "coughed" while in session and gave the whole board a nasty cold. I really liked this book for the way that it documented past serious cyber crimes, how cyber criminals are not just Matthew Broderick styled sweet kids playing around to see what they can do but nasty folks with Mob and other "real" criminal organization connections. (Corrupt governments also have much to gain from spamming the bejeezus out of even the smallest web site if they feel the voices there are not in step with government policies. Bear in mind that EVERYTHING is computer based these days, you can not use electricity in your house and say with honesty that you don't use a computer. Even if you don't OWN a computer and never intend to, your bank does, your electric company does and so do, most terrifying of all, air traffic controllers. I am not an alarmist and have no intention of tossing my PC and that is also not the intention of this book, to get everyone so afraid that they stop using computers. I think the point of the book is that we all need to use our computers more, find out how they work so we can protect our friends, family and society as whole as we would by staying in bed and taking cough medicine while sick. Most well functioning memebers of society use the web an at least a weekly basis and most of us have not a clue as to how it works or what could go wrong with it, we're just happy that we can pay our bills, chat about rock bands and watch stupid videos on demand. As long as what we want to use our computer for works fine than we don't really look at it's other functions, and that ignorance can be very dangerous for ourselves, our friends and society as a whole. Using the computer often, keeping up with updates and virus scans can keep us from passing the nastiest viruses on to others. In the case of computer knowledge, we are at a stage where we just don't have the luxury to say "I don't need to know about that." The more this type of ignorance perpetuates, the happier the criminal element is. We all need to dig our heads out of the sand and start learning about the machines that run our lives lest someone else slips in and starts running them for us. Absolutely fascinating book full of international espionage, terrorism and men on the frontier of a new age in crime fighting. This book is not dumbed down but is written well enough that even someone with only basic common knowledge about thier PC, or someone who knows about thier computer but has little intrest in true crime can gain very useful information from it.
davidpwhelan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Fatal System Error" is an excellent non-technical introduction to cybercrime and a particular thread of this online activity that took place over the last decade.Anyone who spends any amount of time using the Internet is familiar with the themes Menn covers in this book: e-mail scams, viruses, hacking, identity theft. He tells the story of two individuals - one a technologist, the other a police officer - and their experiences identifying and developing a legal case against a Russian cyber theft ring. Menn also outlines U.S. and other national organized crime involvement and online gambling's contribution to cybercrime."Fatal System Error" is relatively light on technological detail - anyone interested in how botnets work, or better explanations of how the modular viruses emerging in the late 2000's operate, would be better off looking at other texts - but is a straightforward business read. The last two chapters are the best. The penultimate one deals with how the initially commercial cybercriminals are partnering with national governments to provide infrastructure for cyberwarfare, particularly on behalf of Russian and Chinese interests against their geopolitical opponents. The last chapter is a bit of a wrap-up but looks at some additional successes and how some groups are adapting to block the efforts of the cyber criminals and hackers.
carol223CS More than 1 year ago
Fatal Error Fatal Error is the fourth book in The Jess Kimball Series. This book follows Jess Kimball from a case she has been investigating in the United States to Italy. Jess is an Investigative reporter for Taboo Magazine. She is trying to stop two Italian Brothers who are targeting elderly people. Jess becomes the monkey in the middle between the American FBI , the Italian ROS and one of the brothers. Again this book is fast-paced, with interesting characters, plenty of suspense, thrills, chills and unexpected twists. Kudos to Diane Capri and Nigel Blackwell for two exciting, breathe taking reads. Thanks to the author for the eBook. My opinion is my own.
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