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

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  6,490 ratings  ·  390 reviews
The true story of Max Butler, the master hacker who ran a billion dollar cyber crime network.

The word spread through the hacking underground like some unstoppable new virus: an audacious crook had staged a hostile takeover of an online criminal network that siphoned billions of dollars from the US economy.

The culprit was a brilliant programmer with a hippie ethic and a sup
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by Crown
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Hackers by Steven LevyThe Cuckoo's Egg by Clifford StollGhost in the Wires by Kevin D. MitnickWe Are Anonymous by Parmy OlsonKingpin by Kevin Poulsen
Hacker nonfiction
56 books — 71 voters
Ready Player One by Ernest ClineSnow Crash by Neal StephensonDaemon by Daniel SuarezNeuromancer by William GibsonCryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
Hackers
133 books — 396 voters


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Rob
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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Nathaniel
Sep 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
It's a little weird to file a book on my "history" shelf when the primary subject of the book was born less than 10 years before me and is still 2 years away from finishing his prison sentence, but things change fast in the Internet Age, and this book is a great example of that.

It's the story of a Max Butler, the kind of person that makes people use words like "troubled." I really did recognize an awful lot of Max's high-school days from my own circle of friends. I was a tame kid, but there were
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Nick Black
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Nick by: Gary Warner
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
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Katherine Tomlinson
May 11, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jacques Bezuidenhout
This would be 3.5 Stars.

Although I really enjoyed the book, they seemed to have over simplified some things.

I'm not sure if it was the narrator or the biography form of the book, but the way it was told didn't quite grab and keep my attention, I found myself drifting away a lot.

Some things getting explained in the book like the Bind hack that didn't have a checksum and you could append extra bytes to the end of you post to run code, and the way they explained SQL injection was really well writte
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Greg
Jan 06, 2013 added it
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
Ron Quartel
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Good read. Gives you insight into how fragile the swipe system of credit cards is. The USA was the only country left using it - because the cost of changing the system his higher than the losses in fraud. Thank you American banks - please may I have another. The US has finally moved to chip and sign. Hopefully, they will move to chip and pin soon to help further protect its citizens from identity and financial theft. Then again - the US is still on Imperial measurements...
Jim Crocker
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a real compulsive non-stop read for me. I am fascinated by computer geeky stuff to begin with. However, Kevin Poulsen's writing is pretty smooth. The book focuses on the exploits of ace-hacker Max Vision. After serving nine years in prison, Max will be getting out just before Christmas 2018, which is right around the corner. Now maybe he's already out now. I don't know. But that was what I read in the book.

My opinion is that all these hackers have pretty much destroyed the Internet, whi
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Ryan Lackey
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great account of some of the carder underground, big carder sites, and scene drama. Particularly good because the author is from the underground and is now a journalist. Interesting too since I know a lot of the people and sites/systems involved.
Luis
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a quick read and it is really interesting to follow this guys story. Max Vision is fascinating to learn about, but equally interesting is learning about this huge intricate story that took place in our lives that we never knew anything about. I learned a ton about internet security through this book. It is a quick and interesting read.
Joe
Mar 26, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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Peter
Dec 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're interested in cyber crime, hacking, online and banking security, this is definitely an interesting read. It mostly tries to be a biography of one of the more prominent hackers who ended up organizing a large group of cyber criminals. So if you enjoy biographies, this is also a quite well written one in my opinion. However, if you're like me, who doesn't enjoy biographies much and is only moderately interested in cyber crime, then it's just a decent book that tells a decent story with s ...more
♥Xeni♥
May 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Celeste Peterson
Sep 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Doug
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Anthony
May 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Tom Lee
May 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Jamie Coldhill
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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Jacobi
Oct 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-read
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
Jeffrey
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cybersecurity
I really enjoyed this true crime book about the cat and mouse game of hackers who steal credit card numbers and resell them online. One thing I learned is that online companies do a better job of protecting your data. Most of the cards stolen were from brick and mortar stores with insecure point of sale machines.
Ralph
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
An engaging and very well written true story, Kingpin immerses the reader into the world of Max Butler, his associates and adversaries, white and black hat hacking, and the billion dollar credit card fraud perpetrated against the financial institutions. Author Kevin Poulsen knows well his subject area and draws the reader into an absolutely fascinating narrative.
Raymond
Mar 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Nathaniel Dean
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very important read about Max Butler, one of the major credit card scammers of the internet age. It goes into detail about how credit cards get stolen and how easy it is. It'll make you paranoid about using your non-chip and pin cards for sure.
Anthony Vicino
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating!
Dmytro Shteflyuk
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: security
Wow, what a ride. A terrifying story about the underworld, full of technical details, computer history and drama.
Tommy
Jul 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So far, this is my favorite hacker story of the summer. Well written with a good pace and character development.
Thomas
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Probably more interesting to those who have an interest in technology and its methods, but I found this to be a fascinating journey through the technology underworld.
Stephen
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
If Meyer Lanksy had gone straight, a contemporary of his noted, he could have rivaled Nelson Rockefeller. Maybe the same could be said for Max Butler, only a few years older than Mark Zuckerberg. Instead of becoming a billionaire, however, Butler’s genius and entrepreneurial risks landed him in prison for thirteen years with a $30 million dollar debt to pay off. Kingpin recounts his beginning as a teenager given to pranks, discovering the internet as a place with ample opportunities for play, an ...more
Vikram
Jan 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Kevin Poulsen’s biopic of Max Ray Butler, a computer hacker who gained notoriety after turning a small credit card fraud endeavor into a much larger operation highlights common credit card fraud techniques: skimming magnetic strips, stealing unencrypted credit card transaction data at the point of sale (restaurants had rarely encrypted their transactions and would store them in plain text files, making it easy for anyone to grab them and encode empty magnetic cards), and the marketplace of tradi ...more
Chad Warner
Mar 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chad by: Lynda.com
This biography follows the criminal exploits of Max Butler, who spent years stealing and selling credit card data. The book follows Max through several cat-and-mouse games as government agents worked to track and shut down credit card thieves. It was interesting to see the big picture of how the crimes were pulled off, but the way the book tells the stories isn't especially engaging.

The technical exploits are given only brief, high-level descriptions. I have an IT background and an interest in c
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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
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