Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who Are Bringing Down the Internet
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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.
often leave Digital Solutions in the care of his partner and disappear for a few days—either for sex trips to the Philippines and other locales or to compete in major poker tournaments. Brian played several times a year and on occasion walked off with more than $100,000. He won the April 2001 Limit Hold ’Em event at Jack Binion’s World Poker Open, getting four clubs among the five shared face-up cards to complete a queen-high flush on the final hand. A year and a half later, he won another limit
out that online casinos could probably operate safely in other countries while taking money from gamblers in the U.S., where most betting was prohibited. The same year she got the settlement money out of Warshavsky, Parasol set up her first online poker business, Starluck Casino, which would grow into the multibillion-dollar sensation PartyGaming Plc., the parent of PartyPoker. By 2001 Ruth Parasol’s Caribbean casinos said they were handling 3 million visitors a day. But the combined company
than running it for six months, once you know the identities of the main players.” That, sadly, is not the worst of it. Hacker CumbaJohnny had been helping run Shadowcrew, while his real-life alter ego, Albert Gonzalez, was helping the Secret Service track what happened there. But the same man had a third identity, “Segvec.” Federal agents knew Segvec was bad, they just didn’t know he was one of their own. In filings against e-Gold, they described customer Segvec as a known Ukrainian carder.
warehouse. 11 BEYOND CRIME BARRETT LYON AND ANDY CROCKER had done what no one thought possible, catching and jailing Russian hackers who were attacking Western targets for financial gain. Now Andy wanted to see how much further they could go. He didn’t see any way to cut off the cybercrime forums. But he had worked with good men at all levels of the MVD, and he had been impressed with the prosecutor and judge. Together, could they go after the kingpins? The only way to find out was
briefly sending world spam volume down 38 percent. Peer pressure could help the demand for accountability, possibly setting the stage for new legal requirements. “Embarrassing these guys is the future,” said a longtime Secret Service agent. “There has to be more due diligence from Internet service providers, some verification of information from their customers. We have the technology.” In some ways, the easiest part of the puzzle is how to best protect the victims, especially once