Book Review: Kingpin – by Kevin Poulsen

Kingpin – How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground.

This book by Kevin Poulsen, a former hacker turned journalist, is an astounding peek into the ugly underbelly of the Internet and computer crime. It reads like a novel and I had to remind myself repeatedly that I was actually reading a documentary. Some of the reviewers on Amazon actually complained about the lack of structure of the “novel” and how the main character, Max Butler, was not “well developed.”

I am a computer professional and I run a computer software company. After reading this book I ordered three hardcopy versions (the book isn’t even out yet in hardcopy). These will be mandatory reading for our Systems Administrator, our VP of Development and our Manager of Database Development – mainly the guys that deal with security of our systems. I also resolved to have all our security policies reviewed and I decided we’d need to have all-hands security briefings every couple of months.

After reading Kingpin, I am wondering if I should continue to pay with credit cards in restaurants. I will never think the same way about that wireless router on the shelf in my home office. I have resolved to work on my password strategy.

Poulsen does an excellent job telling the story of a handful of hackers and cyber criminals. He gets down to technical details and actual code a few times which might go over the heads of the average person, but it never gets so involved in technical detail that it gets in the way.

50 years ago crooks walked into banks and gas stations with guns to get their hands on cash. Now I know that there is an entire underground community, accessible directly on web site forums, who openly trade stolen credit card numbers, sell techniques on how to turn such numbers into cash and how to run entire businesses based on computer criminal activity.

The online world is not the same anymore after reading Kingpin. If you use credit cards, you need to read this book.

Rating: ***

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