Feeds

Cyber Alert: crime hits the net

The end of innocence

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Book review Cyber Alert sets out to explain how 'traditional' organised crime is waking up to the huge criminal potential of cyber space and how software manufactures and police are responding, after years of paying the issue insufficient attention.

Authors Peter Warren and Michael Streeter use the 260 page book to put a different aspects of cyber crime - ranging from the genesis of offences such as phone phreaking to the rise of botnets - under the microscope. The book's nine chapters feature examples from criminal cases and other real-world examples alongside interviews with industry experts, police investigators and cyber criminals themselves. The authors obviously carried out scores of interviews in compiling Cyber Alert and the book is stronger for it.

The book is written to be understood by the layman, though information security professionals will find much within its cover of interest. The prose style is lucid and the authors spin a good yarn that makes the book an easy read.

However there are some shortcomings which prevent us endorsing it wholeheartedly. The authors supply a clear overview on online paedophilia, detailing the latest techniques perverts are using to evade detection and how police are seeking to stay ahead of the game. They also have fresh insights on how well-known cases (such as Operation Cathedral) were cracked.

But the chapter on computer viruses is much less impressive. It simply documents a series of high profile outbreaks (the Morris Worm, Love Bug, NetSky etc) without any context or overview. There's been no attempt to interview virus writers - or anyone else apart from anti-virus vendors - and the chapter is the poorer for it.

Mystery science theatre

In the intro the authors say an intruder attacked 10 Downing Street in 1999 from a mobile phone located somewhere in Russia. This is exciting stuff, But they have little else to say on the possible motive or mechanism of this "mysterious and sophisticated" hacking attack.

The use of such unsourced, eye-catching anecdotes is rare. The book does a good job of explaining the transition of old-style hacking - where people simply wanted to explore systems - to criminality, and the risks that this has created for consumers and business. This forms one of the book's two central themes; the second is an account of the mobilisation of police and the IT industry in response to the migration of old-style crimes such extortion onto the net, via DDoS attacks against online bookies and the like.

Hacking is the 'OS of cybercrime'

CyberAlert also floats some interesting theories - such as the possibility that officers from the now defunct Russian Federal Government Communications Agency, SAPSI, moonlighted for organised crime groups and corrupt businesses to tap phones on their behalf. In Bulgaria, many hackers and virus writers in Bulgaria were trained by Durzhavna Sigurnost, the secret police; they have moved on to working for Russian gangs such as Solntsevo, according to Vladimir Golubev, a Ukrainian academic.

This 'cyber-criminal' is a highlights of the book, along withan extensive interview with a computer hacker called Fungus. The book concludes with some gloomy predictions for the future, particularly about the likelihood of increased fraud on the net. It makesrecommendations for an internet security "cyber manifesto".

Overall, CyberAlert is a worthwhile addition to the security canon. Recommended (with caveat over virus section). ®

Cyber Alert, by Peter Warren and Michael Streeter
Vision Paperbacks
Paperback - 262 pages
March 2005 - £10.99

Related stories

Mitnick sequel fails to hack it
Traces of Guilt: computer crime from the front line
eCrime cost UK.biz £2.4bn in 2004
Cyber cops foil £220m Sumitomo bank raid
Web paedophile jailed for four years

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Knock Knock tool makes a joke of Mac AV
Yes, we know Macs 'don't get viruses', but when they do this code'll spot 'em
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
BlackEnergy crimeware coursing through US control systems
US CERT says three flavours of control kit are under attack
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Getting ahead of the compliance curve
Learn about new services that make it easy to discover and manage certificates across the enterprise and how to get ahead of the compliance curve.