A complex, eye-opening account of cybercrime, one of the world’s fastest growing sectors of criminal activity.
Former BBC Central Europe correspondent Glenny (McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal World, 2008, etc.) draws on interviews, court records and website archives to craft this chronicle of a new and invisible form of crime made possible by the Internet. Unlike ordinary criminals, identity thieves, credit-card fraudsters and other cyber criminals engage in activities that are virtual, transnational and so technical in nature that they are difficult to prove in court. By 2004, with most countries and companies taking a haphazard approach to network security, sophisticated criminals were stealing millions from institutions worldwide. Glenny’s main focus is DarkMarket, which became the world’s top English-language cybercrime site, a digital “supermarket” that sold stolen identities and credit-card data that cost the banking industry tens of millions. Looking like any other message board, the site became the place where manufacturers of skimming machines (devices to read card data) could find a market, and where holders of credit-card databases could recruit people to extract cash from ATMs. Founded in 2005 by Renukanth Subramaniam, a Sri Lankan-born British citizen, the underground Internet forum was shut down in 2008 after FBI agent J. Keith Mularski infiltrated the group like a “cyber Donnie Brasco.” Disguised as hacker “Master Splynter,” the agent was so successful that he wound up running the server that hosted DarkMarket from his offices in the National Cyber Forensics Training Alliance in Pittsburgh. With a wealth of detail that occasionally slows the narrative, Glenny describes the global activities of hackers, cops, lawyers, thieves and others, all of whom try to maximize their effectiveness in a virtual world where anything goes. The subtitle of the book is misleading; there is little in the book about “you” the reader, except as an object to be bilked by online hoodlums. Since 2008, writes the author, cybercrime has gone deeper underground.