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Fatal System Error [Paperback]

Joseph Menn
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

24 Mar 2011
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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (24 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586489070
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586489076
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 813,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Richard A. Clarke, Counter-terror chief under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and author of Against All Enemies: Inside America 's War on Terror "Fatal System Error accurately reveals the secretive global cyber cartels and their hidden multi-billion dollar business, proving cybercrime does pay and pays well." Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Co-Founder, Berkman Center for Internet & Society and author of The Future of the Internet-And How to Stop It"Joseph Menn immerses us in the personalities and politics behind today's cybersecurity threats and countermeasures. This balanced, compelling account shows why the future of the Internet depends more on people of good will than on some technological magic bullet." Vicky Raab, The New Yorker "[Fatal System Error] kept me riveted to the couch all weekend" Quentin Hardy, Forbes "[A] well-reported book on some of the biggest (known) cybercrimes in the past decade... Menn's book could hardly be more timely." Network World "As eye-popping as the book's portrayal of bookies and wise-guy swagger is... the second half of the book is even more mind-blowing." BBC Focus Magazine "The issues raised are hugely important, and failure to deal with criminals behind so much online crime will be an embarrassment to governments worldwide." Business Week "In profiling two eclectic cyber-crime fighters, Menn has crafted a fascinating high-tech whodunit that educates even as it entertains." The Guardian "Menn spins racy tales of true-life cybercrime...The villains glory in handles such as 'Bra1n', and the heroes are portrayed respectively as Matthew Broderick from Wargames and Daniel Craig's Bond, but the narrative glitter is sprinkled on top of serious and thorough reporting. Menn concludes: 'A number of enormously powerful national governments, especially those of Russia and China, have picked the blossoming of the internet age as the time to ally with organised crime.'" Richard Stiennon, founder of T-Harvest and former VP of Threat Research at Webroot Software "Not since Cliff Stoll's The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage has there been a book that delves as deeply into the workings of criminal hackers. This book will be widely read by law enforcement, policy makers, and IT security professionals. Like Stoll's book I predict it will inspire a generation of technologists to join the battle against cyber criminals." Register"An informative and entertaining look at the roots of the burgeoning cybercrime economy and its links to government, featuring a rogue's gallery of international wrong 'uns... It's one of the best descriptions of the formation of the underground economy I've read. It deserves to be read by those in the IT security industry, policy formation and with any interest in a hype-free expose of the true face of cybercrime." The Guardian"Menn's book is riveting, as much for the terrifying detail it includes - both about gambling sites and the extent of botnet infection and the feckless lack of high-level international cooperation - especially by George Bush's administration - that allowed their architects to enrich themselves." Slashdot"Fatal System Error is an enjoyable read on par [with] books such as The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage and Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick." Processor "Menn's deconstruction of an especially sophisticated set of attacks, the victim's countermeasures, and eventual criminal investigation of the web of attackers is a valuable wake-up call for IT pros that should serve to catalyze redoubled efforts to improve cybersecurity." Slashdot Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who are Bringing Down the Internet is the wake-up call that those in Washington, and those charged with IT need to wake up to. Unfortunately, it is likely those that truly need to read this book, will press the information security snooze button yet again. Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2010 "[E]ven an unbiased observer would say that Fatal System Error is a compelling read, despite the fact that it's nonfiction (or maybe because it's nonfiction). It's also a very frightening book." Processor, May 7, 2010 "Menn's deconstruction of an especially sophisticated set of attacks, the victim's countermeasures, and eventual criminal investigation of the web of attackers is a valuable wake-up call for IT pros that should serve to catalyze redoubled efforts to improve cybersecurity."

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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but poor in Kindle format 30 Nov 2010
Format:Kindle Edition
This book was recommended by award-winning IT journalist Davey Winder, whose columns I have read for many years. It's very interesting but the writing was a little disappointing, it jumped around a lot in an attempt to keep things moving but just felt disjointed.

What bugged me most about the Kindle edition was the formatting. I imagine that the paper version includes footnotes within the text - the Kindle version does not. I got about 80% through and found the book ended and the remainder was made up of notes. Without much in the way of context, these were of minimal value.

Worse still was the index - it's just a list of entries without page numbers or hyperlinks. Completely useless.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Cyber Book 18 Jan 2012
I recommend this book to anyone interested in Cyber crime to read it. It will give you insight to the growing and trend of cyber crime.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but a bit of a plod 17 Feb 2011
Hmm - well it wasn't what I was expecting. It was a rather pedestrian tale - but nonetheless interesting for being a factual account. I was very interested as all the anti-hacker stuff was rather close to home - but the various strands of the story didn't quite gel that well. They tended to leap about a bit from time period to time period. All very frustrating as I guess the real world is - in reality months go by and nothing happens.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, disturbing report on online crime 3 May 2010
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
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.
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