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Book Review: “Social Engineer” by Ian Sutherland

Thanks for the wonderful review of Social Engineer, Dan.

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When Fiction Becomes Reality: Cutting Edge Thriller Predicts Webcam Spying Hack

The timeline:

  1. On August 7th, 2014 my debut novel Invasion of Privacy was published. A fiction thriller with a plot centred around webcams being hacked into remotely and, unknown to the webcam owners, their day-to-day lives are streamed live on the web to dramatic ends.
  2. On September 20th, 2014, six weeks later, The Mail on Sunday published an expose of “How ‘home hackers’ spy on you and your children…with YOUR webcam: The shocking evidence that shows how private lives are snooped on and streamed live on web.
  3. (UPDATED 6th NOVEMBER: An article appears on Network World with more facts and details about the webcam website exposed by The Mail on Sunday: Peeping into 73,000 unsecured security cameras thanks to default passwords)
  4. (UPDATED 19th NOVEMBER: Front page of Daily Mail: Russians spy on UK families via their webcams: Hackers use your computer to watch you at home then post photos online)
  5. (UPDATED 20th NOVEMBER: BBC News on tv and web: Breached webcam and baby monitor site flagged by watchdogs and ZD Net: Got a webcam? You might want to pick a stronger password right about now)
  6. (UPDATED 21st NOVEMBER: The Times: Russian hackers put UK webcam footage live on internet)

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5 Ways Computer Hackers Remain Anonymous

The hacker characters in my upcoming cybercrime thriller Invasion of Privacy are incredibly secretive of their real world identities. This is because they are engaging in illegal activities online or actions that would put their life at risk. One has set up an illegal money spinning website that hacks IP webcams in private homes and broadcasts the live feeds. Another exposes zero-day attacks used by Eastern European malware gangs and cannot afford for them to track him down in the real world. Another, works for . . . err sorry, too many plot spoilers, must stop there.

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IP Address Tracing is Not As Easy as Dan Brown Makes Out

Today, I’ve been reading Dan Brown’s latest thriller, Inferno. In the early part of the book the bad guys, trying to track down the hero whom they know is hiding somewhere in Florence, spot that he has just remotely accessed his email account based in the USA. They obtain the IP address of the computer used by the hero and somehow they magically work out the physical location where the computer is in Florence within seconds. No technical information is provided by Mr Brown as to how this is done. He makes the process of tracing real world locations from IP addresses appear very commonplace and incredibly easy.

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Is Your Cellphone Voicemail Still Wide Open?

There is a scene in my novel where I needed the protagonist, a computer hacker called Brody, to gain access to someone else’s mobile phone voicemail.  Like most people, I remember the July 2011 phone hacking scandal that brought down the News of the World.  So, at the time of writing the scene in the book, almost two years on from the scandal, and many years on from the actual phone hacking events, I naturally assumed that it would be much harder to hack into a UK mobile phone’s voicemail service.  That, in those two years, the UK mobile operators would have increased the security measures on our phones.  So I decided to check.  I wanted to make sure that the techniques Brody used were up-to-date and realistic.
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Anonymous Banking for Cybercriminals

Black hat hackers do what they do for a variety of reasons.  Some do it for the fun of the challenge.  Some to enhance their status amongst their peers.  Some to deliberately cause chaos.  And then there’s the majority, who do what they do to make money.  But if you’re a cybercriminal, how do you get paid for what you do?  After all, your anonymity is critical and every digital currency ever created – from government ones like US dollars or Euros, to PayPal to air miles or even supermarket points – are all regulated and centrally controlled.  And most important, they’re all traceable.
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Is Ethical Hacking Actually Ethical or even Legal?

There are three main generally accepted categories of hacker, each represented by a hat of a different colour: white, grey and black. All of them exploit weaknesses in computer systems and networks. The differences between them are their motivations. The most infamous are the black hat hackers, computer criminals epitomised by Hollywood, whose malicious activities serve their own ends ranging from financial gain to simply causing chaos. White hat hackers are usually those that carry out their craft with no apparent criminal intention in mind. And grey hats sit somewhere in the middle, often hacking into a system just to prove they can, but afterwards usually notifying the vendor or owner of the weakness.

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How to Practise Safe Java

While writing my novel Invasion of Privacy, where the main protagonist is a computer hacker, I discovered that hackers like Java. No, more than that, they love Java. And the reason is simple, its security is like Swiss Chess. Full of holes.
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