Mar 15 2010

Fatal System Error

Published by at 8:19 pm 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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