“Kevin Poulsen gets so close to these paranoid, shadowy people that you can smell the sweat on the keyboards and hear the handcuffs clack shut. No other book can match this intimate, expert portrait of a truly modern criminal underworld.” — Bruce Sterling, Hugo Award-winning novelist and futurist
How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground
By Kevin Poulsen
Kevin Poulsen’s KINGPIN (Crown Trade; February 22, 2011) is both a narrative and research triumph, launching readers headfirst into a feverish two-day hacking stint, in which Max “Vision” Butler crowned himself lord over a sprawling international underworld of thousands of professional computer intruders and credit card thieves. Founding editor of the award-winning Wired.com Threat Level blog, and widely recognized as one of the top reporters on the cybersecurity beat, Poulsen—who recently made world-wide headlines with his coverage of WikiLeaks—weaves a tale that is at once a nail-biting true crime narrative and a terrifying portrait of the new wave of hacking that is siphoning billions from the American economy.
At its core, KINGPIN is the story of the clash between two sides of one man. A superstar in ‘white hat’ hacking circles, Butler was responsible for numerous key security innovations, and even served as a consultant to the FBI. Yet behind closed doors, he used his vast talents in pursuit of criminal conquest, and under the handle “Iceman” became the head of a massive black market. A one-man crime wave, Butler showed an uncanny ability to break into the hardest of targets—and seemingly prescient skill at evading law-enforcement efforts aimed at taking him down, even as criminals around him were felled by sting operations and informants. Finally, thanks in great part to a years-long undercover operation led by FBI agent Keith Mularski—or, as the criminals knew him, “Master Splyntr”—Butler was caught, and given the longest prison sentence that had ever been handed out to a hacker.
Through the story of Butler’s remarkable rise, and of law enforcement’s quest to track him down, Poulsen lays bare the workings of this cybercrime underground still affecting millions of Americans—and brings us inside the ongoing struggles to fight this new criminal threat.
KINGPIN traces the genesis of this new generation of for-profit hackers wreaking havoc on the Internet today—a breed of professional computer outlaws far removed from the teenage pranksters commonly associated with the word ‘hacker’—and shows us how these fraudsters have quietly cobbled together a criminal network that today stretches from Seattle to St. Petersburg to Shanghai. Poulsen also ushers us into the vast online-fraud supermarkets these criminals have created, taking us to dark corners of the Internet stocked with credit card numbers, counterfeit checks, hacked bank accounts, dead drops, and fake passports.
Along the way, Poulsen also draws on his extensive technical expertise; a former hacker himself, he—like his subject Max Butler—was arrested in 1991 and received what was at the time the longest prison sentence ever handed out to a hacker. Bringing not only sterling reportorial access, but detailed knowledge of what makes this world tick, Poulsen pours his unmatched access and expertise into book form for the first time, delivering a gripping cat-and-mouse narrative—and an unprecedented view into the twenty-first century’s signature form of organized crime. KINGPIN is perhaps the first narrative to actually explain the workings of the cutting-edge hacks these fraudsters use to ply their trade—browser exploits, database attacks, Trojan horses, and much more—and to trace the complex routes by which they turn stolen data into millions of dollars.
Offering remarkable access to both cops and criminals and unmatched insight into a massive crime wave Americans know far too little about, KINGPIN is the rare page-turner that has the potential to ignite a national conversation.
KEVIN POULSEN is a senior editor at Wired.com and a contributor to Wired magazine. He oversees cybercrime, privacy, and political coverage for Wired.com and edits the award-winning Threat Level blog (wired.com/threatlevel), which he founded in 2005. He’s broken numerous national stories, including the FBI’s use of spyware in criminal and national security investigations; a hacker’s penetration of a Secret Service agent’s confidential files; and the arrest of an Army intelligence officer accused of leaking thousands of State Department documents to whistle-blowing website WikiLeak. In 2008, he won the Knight-Batten Award for Innovation in Journalism; in 2009 he was inducted into MIN’s Digital Hall of Fame for online journalism; and in 2010 was honored as a “Top Cyber Security Journalist” in a peer-voted award by the SANS Institute. He has appeared on CNN, CBS News, ABC World News, PBS NewsHour, CNBC, MSNBC, and BBC International, among others.
KINGPIN by Kevin Poulsen
On-sale: February 22, 2011; Hardcover; 288 pages ISBN: 978-0-307-58868-5; Price: $25.00
Also available as an eBook
For more information, please contact Dennelle Catlett at 212-782-9486 / firstname.lastname@example.org.