Monday, October 3, 2011

Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground by Kevin Poulsen

Reading time:7 hours
New knowledge 6/10
Need to pay attention 7/10
Emotional connection 3/10
Unquantifiable satisfaction 5/10
Overall 6/10

This non-fiction tale of one of the original hackers of the 1990s reads like a novel. The story centers around Max Ray Butler (whose Wikipedia biography doesn't do him justice) who grows up playing with computers and quickly turns to a life of crime when he realizes that it will give him reason and resources to live his passion.

Despite being a true story and thus occasionally venturing over into the technical side of hacker culture, this book is an easy read and does not require any advanced knowledge of computers. Instead of being a commentary on the hacker culture, it focuses on one man whose life was turned upside down by the advent of Internet and the various security features that were introduced into e-commerce in the last 20 years. It is a nice, albeit brief, history lesson for those who don't know much about the evolution of cybersecurity. The book covers all bases, flawlessly transitioning between Max's emotional state to a how-to in credit card fraud. The story is well-researched and put together from interviews with the man himself (who is now in prison for credit card fraud), correspondence, and friends' testimonials.


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