Sun, 30 Mar 2014
Dark Market

Dark Market, by Misha Glenny.

I bought Dark Market a couple of years ago and am ashamed to say that I only just got around to reading it. I say ashamed because it was quite riveting as Glenny puts together a hike through some of the darker fringes of the internet.

The book covers the emergence of the online "carding" forums: web sites for the discussion and dissemination of the tools and knowledge to take part in crimes like credit card fraud, ATM and card skimming, phishing and botnets. This sort of criminal activity has a long history now but far from being the preserve of the amateur hacker nerd doing things for reputation or kicks, it has grown into a very major, global criminal enterprise. Think Mafia. Think professional criminals and some very nasty people, sometimes even affiliated with state or secret security services. Rich pickings are available and it's usually hard to investigate and hard to prosecute.

Of particular relevance just now, the book starts in a particular time and place: the mid nineties and Ukraine. With Russia, the post-Soviet Ukraine became a ground-zero for a massive amount of criminality, including internet fraud. Under the radar of most, a huge illegal industry grew in Ukraine and for many years the people involved seemed to be untouchable, protected by bribery and corruption. This stuff if far from being the preserve of script kiddies or amateurs laughing at authority.

An absorbing book. Well written and easy to read. Highly recommended.

Brian Krebs is mentioned in the book and has a very good web site if you're interested in this stuff :

Kreb's on Security.

Including a series all about ATM skimmers. Be careful out there!