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

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  2,480 ratings  ·  241 reviews
Former hacker Kevin Poulsen has, over the past decade, built a reputation as one of the top investigative reporters on the cybercrime beat. In Kingpin, he 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.

The w
ebook, 432 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by Crown (first published January 1st 2011)
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Executive Summary: A fascinating and terrifying look at the darker underbelly of the internet and identity theft.

Full Review
I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about computers and the internet. Computer Security has never really been my thing though. Yet for whatever reason I find reading books about computer crime fascinating.

This book is no different. Kevin Poulsen has turned himself from one-time hacker into a leader in covering computer security. I occasionally read some of his articles
Nick Black
still too pissed off about my lost hour reviewing Hitch-22 to properly write; suffice to say that this is the best true hax0r crime book written as of April 2011 -- yes, i have read them all (previous title holder: The Hacker Crackdown. it pleases me to no longer need praise anything by confirmed mountebank Bruce Sterling, though he's been replaced by charlatan Kevin Poulsen....whom I think I must reassess).

so much nostalgia. i knew two characters, peripheral but named, personally, and half-expe
May 30, 2011 ♥Xeni♥ rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to ♥Xeni♥ by: Ala
Wow... what a powerful book! I noticed this on my friend's book update feed yesterday, searched around for an ebook, found one, started reading, and practically didn't even stop for much else. (Although there was a 16 hour break in between reading there :P)

Normally I don't like nonfiction books: they are dry, not engaging and just don't deal with subject matter in an interesting way that I can absorb readily. This book reads more like an action novel filled with tons of real life tidbits. I thi
Katherine Tomlinson
Poulsen’s name may be familiar to those who follow cyber-crime. He was a notorious hacker in his own right before serving time and emerging a WIRED correspondent. He knows the sub-culture of hacking, and that really makes this story feel “inside.” This is not the most “active” story, but it is one, like SOCIAL NETWORK, that takes us inside the minds of some brilliant people; introduces us to an intriguing world; and plays out cops and robbers in an entirely new way. And in a time of wikileaks, t ...more
Celeste Peterson
My mom passed this book to me, along with numerous others about computer espionage and hacking. This one was a quick and fascinating read - on that nearly made by blood boil to learn how easy software companies made it to hack our personal computers and gain our credit card numbers as far back as the 1980s. It details the effort of an amazing FBI man to bring down a brilliant cyber criminal Max "Vision" Butler, also known as Iceman online. It's a fascinating look at how mag-wipe credit cards wer ...more
This book explores part of the world of modern cybercriminals.

I tend to think of the "old school" of computer "criminals" as mostly people that were interested in technology, wanted to explore, and just didn't care laws -- but generally not interested in directly stealing money from people. At worst, they would profit by doing things that they didn't consider stealing: for example, taking over a radio station's phone lines to guarantee that they would win a call-in prize.

The newer versions of cy
Inside look at the cybercrime underworld, specifically carders (people who steal credit card information). Book is really well written and hard to put down, and additionally it actually manages to cover the technical parts in enough detail to be interesting without being boring. Book follows the life of Max Burton and how he came to rule the carding world. Interestingly, he started out with light stuff, got in trouble, and went white hat for a while. But when the FBI wanted him to inform on one ...more
On one hand you have a brilliant self taught programmer/hacker. On the other hand you have a relative child. And they are both the same person. At least that's how it appeared to me. Relatively few social skills and a need to prove himself, an absolutely brilliant flair for finding holes in computer security = lots of offended people and jail time. Still I quite enjoyed the story/history. In the end I was left wondering - obviously there were quite a few security holes out there in the emerging ...more
A fast paced, easy, and interesting look at one of the largest credit card thieves and credit card theft forum operators around. Gives a good overview of how credit card breaches have happened, what businesses need to do to help prevent them, and how the feds have set up some pretty complicated stings to take down some of the people who perpetrate them. It may help that I have a tech background, but I found the book easy to read and follow, the technical explanations very good, and the book over ...more
This book is a fascinating chronicle of the rise, fall, rise, fall, rise, and then final fall of hacker Max Vision. Even though this book is a true account of Max's exploits, it reads like a fictional story in large parts. It's just riveting stuff to learn how Max moved from being a young punk hacker, to running massive identity and credit card theft schemes. Poulsen's writing is very clear and easy to follow. He isn't trying to be Truman Copete here, he's just relaying the story as he knows it, ...more
Jamie Coldhill
Only the Paranoid survive.
Every system or even encryption has a security loophole, you just have to know how to find it, exploit it and cover your tracks.

This is not a book for the paranoid or Internet Newbie. It will most likely scare the be-jesus out of them with regard to shopping with a credit card, especially online.

Recent IT Issues within Australian regarding the National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank will leave you deeply suspicious after reading this book. Buy gold and hide it und
Tom Lee
4 stars for its descriptions of how hackers work, and of the techniques they use -- this book explains what SQL injection is, for instance, and manages to do it in just a couple of extremely clear paragraphs. Really a marvelous achievement from that perspective.

But as a psychological portrait of a hacker, I don't think it achieves the heights it's aiming for. I can relate to some of the obsessive traits that seem to have driven Max. But I don't understand them any better for having read this.
I would have loved to give it 4.5 star rating, very informative an interesting read, if you have ever wondered as I have how cyber crime works and what is actually done. Then this book is for you.

Thank you.
Tom Bisch
Great book about one of the first leaders in the modern day computer crime scene. I really appreciated how the author used language understandable by the general population instead of diving into the nitty-gritty technical details.

Despite the fact that Max Butler aka the hacker Iceman was actually the bad guy, I still wanted him to succeed. I marveled at Iceman's brilliant strategy in stealing valuable information while remaining anonymous to the FBI and cyber police detectives.

Unfortunately th
Jason Gall
Very good book for the casual reader and for the computer guru. Poulsen did a good job of explaining technical jargon that was needed to keep the story moving but didn't overwhelm users with techie acronyms or geek speak.
Poulsen also gives the reader a window into Max Vision's mind, his drive, sometimes his rage, but most importantly, his desire to win at all costs. His addiction to hacking was much like any narcotic and his ability to go on these long hacking sessions, almost like someone who
I read this book immediately after reading Kevin Mitnick's "Ghost In The Wires" and found it to be just as fast paced and entertaining. The biggest difference between this book and Mitnick's is that this one focuses on hacking for criminal purposes. It tells the story of Max Vision and his creation of Cardersmarket. It's a fascinating read. Max seems to be a volatile and complex person always torn between his desire to do good and his impulse to do bad which leads him to this gray area where he ...more
I found this book as I became interested again in the darkweb and its goings on. The book was published in 2011 and deals with the carding profession through the late 90's - early 00's. In that sense it lags the tor/silkroad/bitcoin market that exists today, rather showing its roots in sites like carders and early altcoins like e-gold. So a thoughtful read for anyone interested in where today's dark web has evolved from. Also, Poulsen's a snappy, unobtrusive writer, very much reminis ...more
Jonathan Lyng
quickly read book, documentary bordering on fiction or fiction bordering on documentary. A bit simplistic, not on the technicalities (which are very simplified of course: this isn't a how-to but a general public docuthriller, if you ask) but in the way Polsen tells what is going on in Max 's and his accomplices minds and treats the black hat/white hat duality. Those terms have a romantic weight and I understand the attraction to them but he ponders around for ages about something very simple.He ...more
Alex Lee
A great read all around, in no small part due to the fact that the events themselves are already riveting. This book provides a great insight into carder culture, and the early days of hacking (I say early because of the continual leaps in technological progress being made daily). Following the life of a notorious hacker who can't seem to decide whether he's playing for the feds or for the hacking community, author Poulsen manages to encapsulate all of the important details and facts eloquently, ...more
Rick Howard
See the Full review at my blog site:

Kingpin tells the story of the rise and fall of a hacker legend: Max Butler. Butler is most famous for his epic, hostile hacking takeover in August 2006 of four of the criminal underground’s prominent credit card forums. He is also tangentially associated with the TJX data breach of 2007. His downfall resulted from the famous FBI undercover sting operation called Operation Firewall where agent Keith Mularski was able to
Breathtaking, yet meticulous!
The book uses Max Butler/Vision story to describe history of general recreational hacking from 90's and its transformation to true organized crime in 2000's, later focusing on credit card fraud as the main branch of cybercrime.
The book picks up its pace slowly, but as its subject gets narrow later on, the book reads almost like a criminal novel; yet it does not use cheap tricks like wild speculation and unfounded conclusions to keep reader's attention.
When it comes t
I'm giving this book the 5-star treatment simply because there's nothing negative I can say about it! I loved the whole investigative report form of the book. It shows there was a thoroughly detailed research effort behind it. Kevin Poulsen did his fair share of black-hat hacking back in the day, so he damn sure knows what he's talking about in the book, he knows how black-hat hackers think, what their motivations are and so forth, and it shows. The whole story of Max Butler aka Max Vision aka I ...more
Some non-fiction books tend to drag on without an end in sight,but since this subject appealed to my general interest in cyber-crime and it's counterpart cyber-security, I was attuned to keep reading even knowing many chapters would be speckled with hacker jargon and criminal backgrounds being described. Once you get through knowing the characters and the persons of interest in this book, the action does follow a climatic rise of one cyber-criminal who exploits flaws in phone systems, web server ...more
Sean Liddle
The pace of this book only started to pick up near the end but I liked that if I hadn't known anything about computers or the various hacks discussed, it would have been easy enough to pick up the different lingo and terminology used. For this, Kevin Poulsen has done laymen everywhere a great service.

However, the ordering of the book seemed haphazard at times and there were a few spelling and grammatical issues that due to the occasional slowdown in pace were made more prevalent and detracted fr
Jun 29, 2011 Brian rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: Nick Black
Shelves: hackerspotting
(3.5) Very interesting topic, not that well written

But at least it's short and he didn't draw it out too much. Lots of goods on cybercriminals, stealing credit card info, identities etc. and big window on the black market in which these good are bought and sold regularly. I have to guess that there's a big bias in the main players covered in the book toward those who were caught and turned on their colleagues, as I got the impression that nearly everyone involved snitched on someone else (except
Wade Brooks
If you want to know the current state of hacking, cyber crime and identity theft this is a good read about Max Butler, aka Max Vision, aka Iceman. This is a biography and real life thriller loaded with twists and turns. As would be expected in a cyberspace business it is a no-honor-amongst-thieves story set in the high profile identity theft business. Max Butler ran Carders Market an underground online auction house brokering billions of dollars in stolen credit card data internationally.
Adam Robinson
I've been waiting on this one to come out on audio book. I'm a fan of Wired so knowing this came from one of the main editors was a selling point for me. In the end though this one is just fine. It's not bad but it's not as gripping at Mitnick's autobiography in Ghost in the Wires or the new Countdown to Zero Day. This book focuses more on the individual scamming hacker world and credit card hacking in particular. For that it was very informative and interesting. And I never felt bored with it, ...more
I will not loose a lot of words about this book, since this is probably something most of you have no real interest in.

This is the true story of the Hacker Max Butler and how he took over the "carding" scene (trading of stolen / fake credit cards, IDs, and so on). It is, as I said, based on a real story, so that makes it less of a thriller and more of a "history book", although said history is only a few years old.

I, as a computer science student with an interest in computer security, found this
A good read that is fast paced and riveting due this being a true event with locales in my own backyards of San Francisco and Los Angeles. The book chronicles the life of a hacker from his well-intentioned beginnings to becoming the underground's digital mastermind.

Growing up in the age of the Internet makes this story ever more so real. Poulsen elaborates on events in the recent years that make us sit back and think, "Wow, he did that?". Indeed, Max did. Max's early beginnings were chaotic and
Amar Pai
Not bad, but I'd wait for the paperback. Nothing really revelatory if you're interested in the hacker underground. I've seen better dark side articles from Wired, e.g. "The Shadow Internet". To be fair, the carding specific stuff in Kingpin was pretty interesting, and I hadn't seen it written about at length anywhere else. (though I had read about the TJ Maxx breach on slashdot.) Suffice to say after reading this book you will get the jimblies every time you swipe your card at a gas station or a ...more
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Mr. Poulson is a former hacker turned technology journalist, focusing on computer security.

From Wikipedia:

"Poulsen has reinvented himself as a journalist since his release from prison, and sought to distance himself from his criminal past.

Poulsen served in a number of journalistic capacities at California-based security research firm SecurityFocus, where he began writing security and hacking news
More about Kevin Poulsen...
Kingpin: The true story of Max Butler, the master hacker who ran a billion dollar cyber crime network

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