Tag Archives: credit card fraud

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.