An Inside Look Into Cyber-Crime Threats

Book Review

Welcome to the ACAMS Book Hook column!

In theme with the June-August 2014 Law Enforcement edition of ACAMS Today, this column focuses on the evolving trend of cyber-crime, specifically in mind of the recently well-publicized Target, Inc. credit card data breach in November/December 2013. The titles below are recommended reading as excellent primers for further insight on the emergence of computer-based bank theft and credit card fraud. The books provide background on many of the key names, places, and events and masterminds at or near the apex of what has become a multi-billion dollar global criminal enterprise where the crimes are many and the convictions—unfortunately thus far—too few. It is recommended that these works be read either in successive order or simultaneously, as you will discover the names, places and key events ultimately correspond and corroborate with one another.

DarkMarket: Cyberthieves, Cybercops and You, by Misha Glenny

An international analysis and recent history of the growth and impact of global computer crime with special focus on the European-based criminal enterprises and individuals that spawned and excelled at their chosen illicit profession. Misha Glenny, author of an earlier award-winning book on global organized criminal organizations, McMafia: A Journey Through the Criminal Underworld takes an expanded investigative look at organized crime, this time specifically targeting computer-based perpetrators and groups. As with McMafia, the author actively sought out and, wherever possible, interviewed both the individuals at the source of the crimes as well as law enforcement officials who were at the center of the task forces and investigations focused on identifying these thieves in the hopes of prosecuting them for their offenses. Though technically weighted in some instances, the book is a forerunner in its approach to the topic as Glenny attempts to describe the depth of the problem of cyber-crime as well as its threat to the modern financial infrastructure. Glenny is one of very few investigative writers able to get close enough to their quarry to net in-depth studies of their activities, impact on society, and law enforcement's efforts to stop them, all the while communicating the story from a global impact perspective.

Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion Dollar Cybercrime Underground, by Kevin Poulsen

A fast-paced behind-the-scenes read on the recent history, players, exploits and ultimate takedown of one of the most notorious criminal minds to emerge from the mysterious world of U.S.-based cyber-crime.  A must-read book to understanding how the emergence of the Internet, combined with lax security measures for protection of  U.S. consumers' credit card data and personal identifiable information (PII), have permitted the most unprecedented levels of financial crime to be committed against banks and consumers throughout the U.S. The author allows the reader to step into the mind of Max Butler, a tall, gangly misfit from rural Idaho who, through his passion for computers and technology became one of the world's most prolific known hackers, first as a "White Hat" good-guy helping firms defend themselves against computer-based attacks, but ultimately becoming an infamous "Black Hat" bad-guy through a series of his own mistakes, chance and circumstance. Other notable cyber-crime events mentioned include the 2007 TJ Maxx data breach perpetrated by Albert Gonzalez aka "Cumba Johnny," an FBI informant, who pulled off the largest consumer data breach in U.S. history setting the precedent for the 2009 Heartland Payment Systems and 2013 Target breaches. Once Max goes Black Hat as "Max Vision," he struggles to but ultimately does not turn back – that is until law enforcement, through a sole FBI agent's determination and sheer luck, stops him from taking over a great majority of the illicit global underground marketplace for credit card and PII data.

Contributed by: Brian Arrington, MBA, CAMS, communications director of the ACAMS Chicago Chapter, examiner with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA,

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views and directives of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago or the Federal Reserve System.

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