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Book Review : Kingpin: The Hacker Who Took Over the Billion Dollar Cyber Crime Underground

9 Apr

This much niche book came in my purview when I started searching for hackers and books related to hackers, after I completed the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson. One of the characters in the three books is Lisbeth Salander, who is a top class computer hacker. The kind of hostile takeover of another person’s machine was her specialty.

As a kid I used to read a lot about hacking, did programming, wanted so much to be a hacker. I used to go to the cracks and hacks website every now and then, using my 56kbps modem internet connection that would drop off every now and then. The slow connection and the relatively low exposure to internet in India, and in the town I hail from, probably was the reason I was never able to know or learn more about hacking. It was most possible that if I had access to internet in my very early years as a kid, I would definitely have become at least an amateur hacker

This book gives a clearcut picture about the credit card frauds that haunted the US, Russia and the FBI in the 2000’s. Got to know about white hat hacking, black hat hacking, credit card frauds, loopholes, backdoor trojans and orifices. If you have studied computers anytime in your life, you would get these concepts and would get bored if you are a total non-nerd.

It is surprising that people exploited the technological disabilties of the computer systems in the early lifetime of the computer networks and internet, so easily. They actually built empires of fraudulent credit card, debit card and all type of identity selling.

The book also discusses about various websites like darkmarket.ws, cardersmarket.com that were pinnacles of these frauds. Global networks of swindlers and grifters on the internet who were scavengers and hunters for any unprotected identity lying around or an ope door to get inside on the computer networks. Hostile takeovers using backdoor trojans was such a prevalent event at that time. Remote control softwares and VNC softwares were flawed and could be used to get inside the computer.

There were many loopholes that were exploited by the hackers viz IE, VNC softwares, Point of Sale softwares, magstripe (the black strip on the card, which is easy to imitate), SQL injections etc.

This is story of Max Butler and similar other computer geeks who were addicted to hacking, but did not find the right "white" job for their skills. They had an inherent want to search for broken systems and try and fix them. The feeling of profiting from this came after they had to earn money but couldnt do it, or may be they were in love with hacking more than legitimate work

Max’s story of staying invisible behind his own computer and at the same time breaking into systems to flush out credit card identities and sell it out to the fraud CC market is unbelievable. You only see it in movies. What’s more interesting is to learn that running an underground cybercrime market is not so easy. Max did it, and also took over its competitors. He took down rival forums engaged in the same business.

When one programmer named Mark Zuckerberg was busy building a global socian network called Facebook, there was another master programmer and hacker called Max Butler who was builder and underground social network and forum to facilitate black trade. If you have noticed, a lot of banking security and online transaction related issues started getting addressed from 2008. There has been a tremendous shift in the amount of security that happen online these days, although the "swipe" based transactions at retail store still remain the same. The global effect of the fraud was realized by all the major banks who were affected by the cybercrime.

Kevil Poulsen has been very straight to the facts and using very simplistic vocab has put across facts and figures about the whole incident that took place over the span of around 7-8 years, including multiple imprisonments for Max Butler, and his rise and fall in the dark side

This book will remain one of my most cherished reads of all time.

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Book Review : Millenium Series by Steig Larsson

8 Apr

Finally finished with all the 3 books under the Millennium Series by Steig Larsson

In my previous post here I had quoted the first book in the series : The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The story surrounds a girl suffering from Aspergers syndrome, but is subjected to varying levels of mental, physical and sexual torture for all her child life. The surrounding conspiracy related to an underground spy, a fraud businessman, a new post editor and owner who is hell bent upon finding out truth, and a lot of other consipiracies that are entangled together.

First book deals with the discovery of the girl, Lisbeth Salander, when Blomkvist is on a mission to unravel the truth behind a mysterious disappearance of a girl, which in turn leads to events and findings that are truly mysterious.

The second book, The Girl who played with Fire, deals with the story of the girl, her sufferings and the major event that builts her criminal image in the media

The third and final book, The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest, deals with the search for truth and confrontation by Lisbeth of all the truths. Her fight fo survival and life and justice, where the other character play a major role.

You cannot keep the book down, its not just possible. In my case I would say I couldnt keep my iPhone down.

Steig Larsson has created the masterpiece in such an eloquent manner that with every page, you are presented with so minute details that you are watching a movie getting build inside your head, the characters seem to act in front of your eyes.

Technical aspects used in the book related to hacking, business, reporting, policework and psychology are synced with care to create non-incredible effect. Very logical and very connected from start till end, the book has all the aspects viz. mystery, murder, thriller, courtroom drama, detective work, sex, psychopaths, hacking etc

One of the best reads I had in years in fiction category

Book Review : March 19, 2011

19 Mar

Few book reviews I have been reading or completed last week

It Happened in India
by Kishore Biyani, Dipayan Kashyap

A very bold narrative about Kishore Biyani’s journey while building Pantaloons and Big Bazaar. Gives a clear picture about how the EDLP based model started and succeeded in India and how foreign brands could not really realize the Indian middle class psyche

One thing that struck me about Kishore Biyani is that despite all negative remarks he always made a point to spend money on marketing and branding, probably because his target was the middle class whose decisions are mostly taken not logically but on emotions, feelings and liking. Low price was always there to support that fact

This book was with me for almost 2.5 years, but never read it completely. Last week decided would finish it.

Assholes Finish First
by Max Tucker

The mere mention of the name of this book might raise eyebrows and that’s what exactly what reading this book does. The author Max Tucker claims that every incident in this book and the previous book "I hope they serve beer in hell" are real life incidents that happened with him, or to put in a better way, he did them

Rash, in your face, full of abuses and absolutely hillarious but still filled of crap stories, that actually make you laugh and think what kind of a person this guy is. He fully owns the books and incidents in it, and a guy needs balls to do them and them write a book on them

And to see why I read this book, you should read wikipedia page of Max Tucker and his success story. These books sold over a million copies.

If you want to read something crappy but still entertaining in your spare time, read this book

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larrson

Just started reading this book a few days back. Not just another mystery/crime book as per resources. The last book has been a bestseller and been transformed into a movie. Although I haven’t seen the movie, nor do I plan to, until I read all the three books in the Millennium Series by Steig Larrson

Stieg Larrson is into intricate detailing when it comes to characters and plots. He doesn’t leave any threads loose. I have never read his earlier creations, probably because I never knew about him till I started reading this book

“The Invisible CEO” Puts Together 10 Simple Processes for Success

15 Jun

image A.G. Krishnamurthy who is Founder, Chairman and MD of Mudra Communications and Founder of MICA, has come up with his new book “TEN MUCH”.  Picked up this book at Crosswords today and liked it a lot, completed it. Took me 3 hours to finish it, as against 2 which AGK says it should ideally take one to complete.

What’s special about the book? The book is about 10 simple processes rather 10 simple disciplines which AGK puts forward as something we all know about but sometimes just don’t get it right. He has tried to exemplify these 10 principles through various success stories – some known, some unknown – in very simple language which connects to you the moment you start reading through the prologue.

Simple basic processes need to be followed is the gist of the book. Dream Big, Be Positive, Master your trade, Be ethical, Believe in yourself and your team – are few of the basic processes he mentions. Not just talk, but do is the mantra.

TEN MUCH is a must read for budding entrepreneurs.

AGK’s previous works include Dhirubhaism, Against all odds and others.

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Super Freakonomics – Go Read It

22 Jan

image Just finished reading "Super Freakonomics"… Freaking awesome it is.. Absolutely entertaining,mind-boggling,insightful and full of information..

What a read it was, right from the first alphabet of the book till the last note. Riveting, absolutely informative. A person like me who likes to read out of the box things, this was an aphrodisiac. Lately I have taken a huge interest in economics and International business. This book literally adds a flavor to these interest levels.

The first one "Freakonomics" landed in my hands, when I was in TCS. I read  few chapters but could not complete it. And now post Super Freakonomics, I am sure I would complete it too.

If you think any of the following questions interest you even a bit, go and read this book.

  • Why walking drunk can be fatal as compared to driving drunk?
  • How is a street prostitute like a department store Santa?
  • What is a "PIMPACT"?
  • What the similarity between prostitution and real estate?
  • Why a May-birth in Uganda can have 20% increased chances of hearing or learning disabilities?
  • How a failed act of terrorism can still levy a huge tax on the common man?
  • What is relation between cognitive drift and death of patients?
  • Why chemotherapy may not be helping cancer patients at all?
  • Why people are altruistic and selfish at the same time?
  • Why the death rate post delivery was high in the doctors’ section in the General Hospital in Vienna as compared to the midwives’’ section?
  • Why "cheap fixes" or "jugaad" can be much more effective than solutions worth millions?
  • Why is ammonium nitrate so much of a vital chemical?
  • How pushing warm water down into the ocean will help reduce the formation of life threatening Hurricanes?
  • Why Co2 may not be the prime reason for the Global Warming?
  • How a hot air balloon and a long pipe hose can reduce the average temperature of Earth?
  • Why big-fat volcanic eruptions are good for the planet?
  • Who is "Nathan Myhrvold"?
  • How "Geo-engineering" may help reduce the threat of Global Warming?
  • Why "incentive" is the single most important factor that decides the behavior of a human irrespective of whether it is good or bad?
  • How a bunch of researchers taught a group of monkeys the value of money and how the first Monkey-trade happened?

Steven J. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have done a marvelous job with this book. Apologies for putting few points out of the book on the blog, although I haven’t quoted anything that takes away the sheen, it will only build curiosity. All credits to the original authors.

TRUTH is a loaded word

19 Oct

From “Personality Not Included” by Rohit Bhargava

 

Truth is a loaded word. Marketing is not about the search for truth, and we all know it. If it were, no one would believe that a bottle of water shipped halfway across the world with an image of a Swiss mountain on it was any more healthy than one bottled in a Coca-Cola plant in Connecticut. To compensate for having a less than interesting “truth” behind their products, brands often invent a truth. If I told you the number of times I have been in meetings where people debated whether we should use the word healthful or healthy to describe a product, you’d understand the pain involved in trying to find a truth. Maybe you feel it already.

 

I like this specifically, because it talks of the falseness of TRUTH in marketing and its so much TRUE…

Quite a pun of words, eh!

 

I am also looking forward to reading “The NEW NEW thing” by Michael Lewis. I borrowed it from my professor, but more of a friend Mr Pankaj Guglani, Founder, REDQUANTA.com

“Personality Not Included” by Rohit Bhargava

15 Jun

Came accross this book “Personality Not Included” by Rohit Bhargava while searching for SMM (Social Media Marketing)

This is his presentation about the making of the book.

Did you notice the simplisitic nature of this presentation and yet so powerful it is!!

I personally am looking forward to reading this book soon.

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