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If, then, I were asked for the most important advice I could give, that which I considered to be the most useful to the men of our century, I should simply say: in the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.

L. Tolstoy , Essays, Letters and Miscellanies - 1928 A.D.

Kingpin - by Kevin Poulsen

Date: 09/06/2013, 19:36

Category: technology

Revision: 1

I’ve read Kevin Poulsen’s book Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground in about 4 days. For me thats sort of a record. I’ve done it before, but not in years. I got totally drowned by the story of Max Butler a famous rogue hacker who literally hacked the planet.

Having taken a glimpse on Kevin Mitnick’s book The Art of Deception and now Poulsen’s book, makes it clear that living the life of a rogue hacker, in the real world, means having the life quality of a dog. So much wasted talent. It’s a pity.

A couple of things that stand out from the book made me an impression.

Firstly, the lack of a sort of perimeter defense from Max and others. That’s hard one, you never know when the police is after you.

Secondly, the low level of technical protection that even Max took. For example he used the same account to buy the domain for his carding forum and a domain to redirect trojans used in a bank attack. That’s not very smart if you’re trying to hide the illegal activities of the forum’s owner.

The notion that many criminals who use the web for illegal activities have a low computer level leaving traces everywhere was familiar.

I totally understood that when I got a little bit involved with the bitcoin community, they are not criminals, but the nature of bitcoin demands a level understanding of how computers, algorithms, data and networks operate. People were - and probably still are - storing thousands USD worth bitcoins in desktop computers used daily for downloading torrents, watching porn and even running on pirated Windows copies.

Thirdly, the number of snitches around. Rogue hackers are easy to turn. So anyone who got caught, was turned. In this environment, once the secret service is interested in you, it’s a matter of time to get you behind bars.

As a book it’s a lightweight reading, especially for those who know one thing or two about computers.