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Showing posts from February, 2014

Book Review: Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who Are Bringing Down the Internet by Joseph Menn (2010)

Executive Summary

If you are interested in the evolution of cyber crime, Fatal System Error is a good first reference. The author, Joseph Menn, is able to capture the early years as the cyber criminal community was just beginning to productize its cyber business, to professionalize it so that it ran more like a business. He tells the story through two early cyber security practitioners: a very young Barrett Lyon—a cyber security services businessman who built one of the first denial of service protection companies called Prolexic Technologies—and Andy Cocker—at the time, an agent for the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit. Lyon gets sucked into protecting organized crime operations that dabbled in offshore gambling and pornography, and Cocker used old-fashioned police work to arrest some of the early cyber criminals when the FBI seemed completely impotent at the prospect. Menn also manages to sprinkle in a discussion of some of the most significant cyber security milestones between 1…

Book Review: Daemon (2006) and Freedom™ (2010) by Daniel Suarez

Executive Summary

If you appreciate hacking stories like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or gaming stories like Ready Player One or stories that combine both like Reamde, you will love Daniel Suarez’s Daemon and Freedom™ like I did. If you similarly like Michael Crichton books like Jurassic Park,State of Fear, Prey, and Disclosure, you will think that the always-intriguing author has returned from the grave. Suarez’s two books tell one long story and are loaded with seemingly futuristic ideas that are just years away form general deployment. Suarez introduces these new ideas from an old-school hacker perspective in an effort to reboot the world order. He and his key protagonist, the designer of the Daemon, think that all governments and their corporate overlords are too corrupt and that the only way to resolve the matter is to burn the world order to the ground and start over. The Daemon and its disciples infiltrate everything through the direct application of hacking, assassination, a…

Book Review: Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground by Kevin Poulsen (2011)

Executive Summary
Kingpin tells the story of the rise and fall of a hacker legend: Max Butler. Butler is most famous for his epic, hostile hacking takeover in August 2006 of four of the criminal underground’s prominent credit card forums. He is also tangentially associated with the TJX data breach of 2007. His downfall resulted from the famous FBI sting called Operation Firewall where agent Keith Mularski was able to infiltrate one of the four forums Butler had hacked: DarkMarket. But Butler’s transition from pure white-hat hacker into something gray—sometimes a white hat, sometimes a black hat—is a treatise on the cyber criminal world. The author of Kingpin, Kevin Poulsen, imbues the story with lush descriptions of how Butler hacked his way around the Internet and pulls the curtain back on how the cyber criminal world functions. In much the same way that Cuckoo's Egg reads like a spy novel, Kingpin reads like a crime novel. Cyber security professionals might know the highlights of…

Alan Turing and "The Imitation Game"

Executive Summary
The Alan Turing story is so fantastic that it was inevitable that somebody should make a movie about it. His life is both inspiring and terrifying. I am amazed at the paradigm-shifting insights Turing gave to the world in such a short time and appalled at what the world did to him because of ignorance and the need to keep secrets hidden from the world. I have a soft spot for genius scientists anyway, but because of his meteoric rise and subsequent spectacular crash to the ground, Alan Turing is one of my favorites. The movie, The Imitation Game, brings that story to the masses and Cumberbatch’s performance makes Turing accessible; makes him a hero. You should see this movie.

The Imitation Game is good and I am so happy that it is. The movie is a dramatization of my all-time favorite science hero: Alan Turing. I first discovered Turing’s story of world-changing achievement and heartbreaking tragedy when I read Neil Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon back in the late…