Crime Dot Com | Geoff White

Summary of: Crime Dot Com: From Viruses to Vote Rigging, How Hacking Went Global
By: Geoff White


In Crime Dot Com: From Viruses to Vote Rigging, How Hacking Went Global, author Geoff White delves into the evolution of cybercrime, tracing its roots from the counterculture techies of the 1960s to the convergence of organized crime, hacktivist movements, and state-sponsored hacking today. The book explores how cybercriminals have exploited technology and global connectivity to launch ransomware campaigns, infiltrate personal accounts, and compromise critical infrastructure. Readers can expect to learn about the rise of the Dark Web, the use of cryptocurrencies, and the powerful tactics behind massive cyberattacks carried out by both non-state actors and state-sponsored hacking teams.

Rise of Cybercrime

Cybercrime has become a pervasive and significant threat, with hackers using tactics from organized crime, hacktivist movements, and state-sponsored hacking. These groups are responsible for online bank heists worth millions of dollars, data breaches, and cyberattacks on critical infrastructure. As a result, it’s difficult for anyone to stay protected. Cybercrime gangs traffic in stolen data and run extortion schemes while hacktivist movements aim to highlight perceived wrongdoing. State-sponsored hacking teams operate for intelligence and military purposes. The convergence of these groups has resulted in a surge in cybercrime, which is a major concern for everyone.

The Origin of Hacker Culture

The internet was once limited to those with computer skills. Before the World Wide Web, hackers tinkered with technology and congregated on bulletin board systems. Hacker culture was born from a combination of hippie counterculture, self-reliant lifestyles promoted by the Whole Earth Catalog, and the involvement of Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow. This countercultural perspective led to the formation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, aimed at protecting online space from censorship and government control. The group’s views were soon embraced by MIT’s technical perspective, leading to an anarchic and mocking sense of humor in hacker groups like the Cult of the Dead Cow.

The Rise of Cybercriminals

In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s fall, several engineering and technology graduates found themselves jobless and resorted to credit card fraud. As online retail sites like Amazon rose, and with them, cybercrime. Frauds gradually came together, forming criminal gangs. Although traditional criminal methods involved reselling products to cash in stolen card numbers, a software coder by the name of Evgeniy Bogachev revolutionized cybercrime by creating Zeus, a virus that targeted bank customers instead of bank computers. Customers’ monitors would display what appeared to be the bank’s website, but the virus withdrew funds from their accounts in the background and stole their passwords for future theft. This discovery led to more intense screening of American financial companies’ cards from the Eastern bloc. Through these events, card fraud became the backbone of a new criminal industry.

The Lucrative Evolution of Ransomware

Criminals used to rely on recruiting “money mules” to deposit portions of stolen funds, but this increased the risk of exposure. Now, they prefer to use ransomware, which demands a fee in bitcoins directly into cybercurrency wallets. Ransomware has become the zenith of cybercrime; one campaign alone brought in $325 million. Criminals also profit from stealing personal data, often from vulnerable call centers. Former call center employees used customer data to impersonate TalkTalk employees and swindle customers out of over £100,000. As our world becomes increasingly networked, humans remain the most vulnerable part of it.

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