From Byron Acohido (of USA Today):
As many of you know, I have been working with Jon Swartz on a non-fiction techno thriller about Internet security and cyber crime. We’re in the home stretch, with publication set for April 2008.
Here’s a preview from their website:
On a frigid afternoon in December 2004, veteran Edmonton Police Detectives Al Vonkeman and Bob Gauthier hustled to the Beverly Motel, a dingy, cinder-block establishment, where rooms rent by the hour. They were chasing down a tip that someone in Room 24 was using the phone to access a dial-up Internet account linked to an email folder brimming with stolen identity data.
As Vonkeman and Gauthier prepared to burst in, the door to Room 24 opened and out strolled Biggie, a garrulous methamphetamine addict and trafficker they’d arrested numerous times, followed closely by Socrates, a gaunt 20-year-old computer nerd. Both were sky high on ice—crystal methamphetamine—but gave the officers no trouble. Inside Room 24 the detectives found meth pipes, stolen credit cards, notebooks with handwritten notations about fraudulent transactions, and print-outs of stolen identity data. The distinctive sickly aroma of recently-smoked ice pervaded the air.
“They were just starting to set-up,” recalls Vonkeman.
Biggie and Socrates were preparing to play bit parts in an international money laundering scam made possible by the financial services industry stampede to exploit the Internet’s convenience and global reach. The little operation in the motel room may have looked like small potatoes. But Vonkeman and Gauthier would later discover that the pair worked in concert with a loose confederation of hackers and scammers based in the U.S., Quebec, Romania and Bulgaria. The Edmonton addicts, in fact, comprised a prototypical cell of street operatives helping to carry out the final, riskiest step of online scams—extracting cash from hijacked accounts.
The set-up in Room 24 was not an isolated example. The Internet is rife with chat rooms where drug addicts and street toughs forge partnerships with Third World hackers and fraudsters. This teeming, mostly unseen, world of Internet crime points up a cataclysmic shift all too quietly reverberating through Western society. Here’s the dirty little secret about the digital age we live in: no one is safe from data theft and online financial fraud.