Archive for March, 2010

Mar 17 2010


Published by under Books,General

As if to re-enforce the message of the book “Fatal System Error”, this article appeared in my news reader yesterday. Seems that some guys in St. Petersburg, Russia broke into some stock trading accounts and then used them to ‘kite’ a few thinly traded stocks and make a ‘killing’ off of the stocks’ price moves.
St. Petersburg was highlighted as the home of a lot of corruption and of RBN (Russian Business Network) which apparently hosts a lot of shady and probably criminal web servers and provides them access to the Internet. Don’t know if RBN was involved, but it seems likely.

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Mar 15 2010

Fatal System Error

Published by under Books

by Joseph Menn

This book seems to be intended to get a reader concerned about crime involving the Internet and it probably will succeed at that task for most readers. Generally the crimes involved are not new, extortion, theft, but the involvement of the Internet introduces new characteristics and difficulties in finding and convicting the perpetrators.
The author is a reporter and the book reads like a very extended article built around the activities of two individuals who became involved in fighting Internet crime with some success. One an American entrepreneur and the other a British policeman. The story covers is some detail a number of related incidents and cases starting 6 to 8 years ago and general moves forward in time. In ends with some references to events in 2009. Along the way, there is a lot of criticism of some law enforcement agencies; especially the FBI.
The main pitch is to emphasize how difficult it is to prevent Internet based crimes due to the ability of criminals to cover their digital track and more importantly to blend into the relatively supportive Eastern European countries. Overall, the author makes the case that Russia in particular protects many of these criminals because of a combination of pervasive internal corruption and, more speculatively, because the perpetrators also serve Russian government agencies when asked.
The most attention is given to blackmail via ‘denial of service’ attacks (roughly preventing productive use of web sites by overwhelming them with trash traffic), but identity theft is also well covered.
The book provides a useful, non-technical description of the recent state of Internet crime with a useful description of the difficulties associated with international investigation and prosecution. A little dry.

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Mar 06 2010


Published by under Books

by William Boyd

An excellent mystery with an embedded spy story that drives most of the mystery. A well written entertaining book. The main characters are a woman who was a very minor ‘spy’ for the UK in WW II and her daughter who is a single mother, graduate student, and teacher of English as a second language to adults. The intertwined stories are the mother’s history in 1939 to 1941 and the disclosure of that story to her daughter in 1976. The revelation of the mother’s past and prior identity is a total surprise and shock to the daughter. The book is organized as the overlapping telling of these two stories and they come together very nicely.
Very enjoyable.

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