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Cybercrime and the Darknet Paperback – 15 Jul 2017
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She objectively explores the ever growing "Dark Net" which is frighteningly so much larger than the internet most of us are aware of and use. She likens the everyday internet to the tip of an iceberg, thus the size of the "Dark Internet" is immense.
Yet in spite of repeated Newspaper Headlines reporting hacks and leaks, an alarming number of the general population are blissfully unaware of what it actually is and the threat it poses to law abiding citizens everywhere.
The book explains, very successfully, the structure of the "web" and defines technical jargon widely used in connection with the "Dark Net". Cath Senker also identifies the main areas of concern and what law enforcement and counter espionage authorities are doing to protect us.
The book is exceptionally well researched and boasts a superb Introduction which allows the reader to readily access any Chapter or section. Tap on a topic in the Introduction and hey presto you're there. You can easily flip from one topic to another. Cross-referencing is great. For a book which might be used for reference purposes ease of access is a Godsend.
The book looks at various dangers the "Dark Net" poses and yet maintains balance by examining some benefits arising from it.
Topics covered include the ready availability of drugs and prescribed medication at knockdown prices whilst maintaining anonymity from prosecution. The drawback is delivery: you might not receive what you paid for as the "Dark Net" is awash with criminals. "Bitcoins" had their origins in the Dark Net as a means of anonymous payment.
Particular dangers which are associated with the Dark Net such as Paedophilia, Bullying, Stalking and Grooming are also examined as are the counter measures being taken by various Government authorities. Identity fraudsters, spies and terrorists increasingly use the dark internet to further their criminal and terrorist objectives. Again the author updates us on the counter measures being taken.
Cath Senker reviews recent cases which have received headlines in the press and news media. Those in particular relating to the leaking of Top Secret documents and hacking of databases. Again she refreshingly summarises the facts of the cases and leaves it to ourselves to judge their justification.
Our human rights to freely access information are considered. However, those rights have to be weighed against the dangers from criminals and terrorists. Sometimes sacrifice is required for the greater good.
An excellent book for those who would like more information about the dangers posed by the World Wide Web and the battle by intelligence and crime agencies to protect us. I was much the wiser for reading it.
(My review was based on an eBook file provided to me free of charge by the publisher via NetGalley. My review is totally independent.)
The first half of the books takes the reader from early chapters on harassment and cyberbullying, about which most people surely have some familiarity now, through fraud, espionage, sabotage and terrorism – a journey of escalating scariness, yet one that is fascinating at the same time. But though there is lots to learn in this book about the facts of cybercrime – all clearly explained in accessible language – what was perhaps more compelling was the author’s engagement with the social and political contexts in which all this technological potential (and reality) exists. Senker discusses legality vs legitimacy (e.g. the use of social media in the Arab Spring), lays bare the contradiction of the differing ways in which state espionage and individual ‘leaking’ and whistleblowing are treated, highlights the issue of double standards as law enforcers adopt the methods of criminals and much more.
The result is that while the book does offer the reader a good grip on what the current landscape of cybercrime looks like, it also shows readers that to truly get to grips with cybercrime they need to know what shapes that landscape – and that this means engaging with the political and ethical dilemmas that go beyond the technical stuff itself.
All this is before we even get on to the final section on the so-called Darknet, the place renown for buying drugs and guns, child-abuse sites and all sorts of other shady dealings. Again, this is not a simple equation of ‘Darknet = bad place’ for Senker. The reader learns it is also a place where state surveillance for those of us with nothing to hide might prefer to hang out, where the vagaries of international currency markets can be avoided and where state abuses can be safely ‘outed’.
This is a great book for people who need or want to to get a good all-round understanding of this area. It offers neat case studies, doesn’t assume any prior knowledge and gently takes the reader into areas where they before may have feared to tread, while skilfully avoiding sensationalism. Importantly, it shows that knowing ‘what?’ is happening is only just the start of the subject and the far more interesting questions are ‘why?’ and ‘what next’?
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=== The Good Stuff ===
* Cath Senker writes well. The book uses easily understood terms, with jargon kept to a minimum. She assumes no real expertise from her reader, so anyone with an interest in the topic will be able to gain some understanding from the text.
* There is a nice mix of topics. The author presents everything from tech support scams to bitcoin registries. This allows the reader to develop a complete picture of just what sort of transactions and schemes are possible on today’s internet.
* The level of detail is sufficient to gain an understanding of technologies, but makes no attempt to provide a full understanding. As an example, in the discussion of Bitcoins (an online, virtual currency), Senker describes the “blockchain” database structure which allows a bitcoin registry to be literally everywhere and nowhere. She describes the advantages of this (hard to forge entries, safe from data loss or confiscation), and why it would be an attractive technology for this, or other, applications. But there is precious little detail on how the scheme actually works, or the details of implementing it.
=== The Not-So-Good Stuff ===
* I am an engineer, and a pretty tech-savvy guy, so I found the book a little bit frustrating. It didn’t tell me much I didn’t already know, and only served to whet my appetite for topics I found interesting.
* Some of the material, particularly the discussion of the “Dark Web” came across as a bit simplistic. While there are websites and browsers that are crafted with security and encryption in mind, there is no formal “dark web” designation to be put on these. To be fair, Senker does acknowledge the duality of legitimate websites needed the same levels of encryption as the darker side.
=== Summary ===
I found the book a little too simplistic for my tastes, but for anyone looking for a quick overview in the more secretive side of the internet, it is a good read. The text is easy to get through, and there is a lot of information presented on a broad range of topics. As a guideline, if you understand the function of proxy servers, or the advantages of end-to-end encryption, you are likely too advanced to really appreciate this book.
This book provided an introduction to part of what you can find on the “Deep Web”. If you don’t know anything about it, or just a few things, it will give you some starting points which you can use to then find out more. If you already know what there is to know, probably the book won’t be useful, though.
Divided in two parts, “Cybercrime” and “The Dark Net”, it introduces some of the basic ideas and concepts. What’s the Deep Web and what can you find it it. Who’s more likely to use the Tor browser and other tools to remain anonymous (not only criminals and terrorists: activist and people who fight for their rights do need a place where they can share information without being silenced by their governments). Examples of cybercrime: drug-selling websites, child sexual abuse, or simply places where you can buy regular items with Bitcoin. Interestingly, crime appears to be the least spread activity, and a lot of people who use the ‘Dark Web’ do so for reasons that do not go against the law. All in all, it’s a good reminder that a tool is never as good or as evil as the hand who wields it.
The book also provides examples of some of the most well-known leaks, uses of virus or worms, and DDoS attacks. Nothing new to me, but something that will be useful to neophytes, without drowning them under a deluge of information—and not as biased as one may have expected: all in all, the author tried to present various sides of the story, so to speak. (Of course, keep in mind that what’s in the book is only the tip of the iceberg: the most juicy bits are the ones you will -not- find in a book.)
I’m not rating it higher because in the end, it didn’t bring me a lot of information I didn’t already know. But I don’t doubt it will be more interesting for other readers.
Libro molto interessante che mette anche paura. Finalmente ho capito qualcosa di piú della dark net e cosa ci succede e ora mi piacerebbe proprio farci un giro, ma magari evito.