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Crimeware: Understanding New Attacks and Defenses [Paperback]

Markus Jakobsson , Zulfikar Ramzan

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Book Description

April 6 2008 0321501950 978-0321501950 1

“This book is the most current and comprehensive analysis of the state of Internet security threats right now. The review of current issues and predictions about problems years away are critical for truly understanding crimeware. Every concerned person should have a copy and use it for reference.”

—Garth Bruen, Project KnujOn Designer


There’s a new breed of online predators—serious criminals intent on stealing big bucks and top-secret information—and their weapons of choice are a dangerous array of tools called “crimeware.” With an ever-growing number of companies, organizations, and individuals turning to the Internet to get things done, there’s an urgent need to understand and prevent these online threats.


Crimeware: Understanding New Attacks and Defenses will help security professionals, technical managers, students, and researchers understand and prevent specific crimeware threats. This book guides you through the essential security principles, techniques, and countermeasures to keep you one step ahead of the criminals, regardless of evolving technology and tactics. Security experts Markus Jakobsson and Zulfikar Ramzan have brought together chapter contributors who are among the best and the brightest in the security industry. Together, they will help you understand how crimeware works, how to identify it, and how to prevent future attacks before your company’s valuable information falls into the wrong hands. In self-contained chapters that go into varying degrees of depth, the book provides a thorough overview of crimeware, including not only concepts prevalent in the wild, but also ideas that so far have only been seen inside the laboratory.


With this book, you will 

  • Understand current and emerging security threats including rootkits, bot networks, spyware, adware, and click fraud
  • Recognize the interaction between various crimeware threats
  • Gain awareness of the social, political, and legal implications of these threats
  • Learn valuable countermeasures to stop crimeware in its tracks, now and in the future
  • Acquire insight into future security trends and threats, and create an effective defense plan

With contributions by Gary McGraw, Andrew Tanenbaum, Dave Cole, Oliver Friedrichs, Peter Ferrie, and others.

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Product Details

Product Description

About the Author

Markus Jakobsson, Ph.D., is currently principal scientist at Palo Alto Research Center and an adjunct associate professor at Indiana University. The coauthor of more than one hundred peer-reviewed articles and co-inventor of more than fifty patents, Markus studies the human factor of security and cryptographic protocols with an emphasis on privacy.


Zulfikar Ramzan, Ph.D., is currently a senior principal researcher with Symantec Security Response. Coauthor of more than fifty technical articles and one other book, Zulfikar is a frequent speaker on his areas of expertise: theoretical and practical aspects of information security and cryptography.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Traditionally, malware has been thought of as a purely technical threat, relying principally on technical vulnerabilities for infection. Its authors were motivated by intellectual curiosity and, sometimes, by competition with other malware authors.

This book draws attention to the fact that this is all history. Infection vectors of today take advantage of social context, employ deceit, and may use data-mining techniques to tailor attacks to the intended victims. Their goal is profit or political power. Malware has become crimeware. That is, malware has moved out of basements and college dorms, and is now a tool firmly placed in the hands of organized crime, terror organizations, and aggressive governments. This transformation comes at a time when society increasingly has come to depend on the Internet for its structure and stability, and it raises a worrisome question: What will happen next? This book tries to answer that question by a careful exposition of what crimeware is, how it behaves, and what trends are evident.

The book is written for readers from a wide array of backgrounds. Most sections and chapters start out describing a given angle from a bird’s-eye view, using language that makes the subject approachable to readers without deep technical knowledge. The chapters and sections then delve into more detail, often concluding with a degree of technical detail that may be of interest only to security researchers. It is up to you to decide when you understand enough of a given issue and are ready to turn to another chapter.

Recognizing that today’s professionals are often pressed for time, this book is written so that each chapter is relatively self-contained. Rather than having each chapter be sequentially dependent on preceding chapters, you can safely peruse a specific chapter of interest and skip back and forth as desired. Each chapter was contributed by a different set of authors, each of whom provides a different voice and unique perspective on the issue of crimeware.

This book is meant for anyone with an interest in crimeware, computer security, and eventually, the survivability of the Internet. It is not meant only for people with a technical background. Rather, it is also appropriate for makers of laws and policies, user interface designers, and companies concerned with user education. The book is not intended as a guide to securing one’s system, but rather as a guide to determining what the problem really is and what it will become.

Although we often use recent examples of attacks to highlight and explain issues of interest, focus here is on the underlying trends, principles, and techniques. When the next wave of attacks appears—undoubtedly using new technical vulnerabilities and new psychological twists—then the same principles will still hold. Thus, this book is meant to remain a useful reference for years to come, in a field characterized by change. We are proud to say that we think we have achieved this contradictory balance, and we hope that you will agree.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Academically solid, well researched, yet practical April 28 2008
By Stephen Northcutt - Published on
Crimeware by Jakobsson and Ramzan sets a new standard for security books. It is both eminently pragmatic and at the same time, a scholarly work. I thought I knew a bit about malware, but I learned tons from the book. I struggled a bit with 16.2 Crimeware-Resistant Authentication and encourage the authors to take another look at that when they do second edition and this book simply must have a second edition. It will also be interesting to see if the taxonomy, chapter 2 takes hold. It would seem like we need a bit more of a classification system than Joanna Rutkowska's type 1 - 3 for our community.

The book gets right down to it, most authors waste the first few chapters with background information. Now to be sure, this is background, but it is pretty deep background. My favorite chapter is 7, botnets, but 6.3 JavaScript is very well done and immediately useful information to know. For a high speed pass, chapter 8 rootkits will get you up to speed, but that needs a whole lot more material to really cover the topic.

As this is an election year, and a crazy one at that, chapter 10 is a must read, it details a number of ways the election could be impacted, I think a bit about evoting machines might make a scary chapter even scarier. As soon as I finish this review, I need to send a note to a friend of mine concerned about click fraud, the authors do a great job on that in chapter 11.

And the best thing, the authors do not just tell you how bad things are, they spend a lot of time talking about defense. And if I can offer a thank you to the fifty or so researchers that helped with the book, thank you very much, the defensive information community is far better off for your efforts. A must own, must read, must read soon if there ever was such a thing. Order it now!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Broad, deep, and technically accurate, yet tedious at times April 26 2009
By Richard Bejtlich - Published on
Crimeware is a collection of chapters collectively written by 40-odd security researchers. Sometimes this approach is a formula for disaster, but here the end result is a solid book that covers a broad number of topics. Because each author or group of authors know their field well, they can delve fairly deeply when necessary, and their material is technically accurate. However, some of the chapters are boring and lifeless. This book blocked my reading queue for about 4 months, which is a sign I found the text unappealing. It took a flight from Amsterdam to convince me to finish it! Still, I agree with many of the other reviewers -- Crimeware is an impressive examination of malware, on a variety of fronts.

Chapter 8: Rootkits, by Prashant Pathak, was my favorite. I've read books on rootkits before, by Pathak's chapter presented the subject in a very understandable manner. His methodical and disciplined approach seemed very effective. He explained various approaches and terms, instead of assuming the reader knew what he was discussing already. I recommend reading chapter 8 before tackling other books on rootkits.

Chapter 1: Overview of Crimeware, by Aaron Emigh and Zulfikar Ramzan; Chapter 6: Crimeware in the Browser, by Dan Boneh, et al; and Chapter 7: Bot Networks, by James Hoagland, Zulfikar Ramzan, and Sourabh Satish addressed the core malware topics I would expect to appeal to the sorts of readers who frequent my blog. While several other chapters offered novel research, these three plus the rootkits chapter are probably most helpful to those defending networks.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book for knowing how the bad guys are working overtime April 15 2008
By Richard L. Russell - Published on
If you are looking for a book to show you what the bad guys are doing with computers to steal data or comprise systems then this is the book for you.

I really enjoyed chapter 7 on Bot Networks. Like most of the other chapters it covers the basics of the topic, then digs deeper into the workings of the subject. And if you really want deep detail the ending sections go into extremely deep details (the book says these sections may only be of interest to security researchers). Some of the ending sections were over my head. But, the ones I did understand opened my eyes to those topics in a different light.

This book will be on my reference shelf for quite sometime due to the detail and range of topics covered.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and thorough - Must Read Oct. 31 2008
By sixmonkeyjungle - Published on
There was a time when viruses and worms were written primarily for the purposes of creating chaos and getting 15 minutes of fame in the malware underworld. Script-kiddies could crank out exploits that spread like wildfire and interrupted computer and network productivity, but with little impact or implication beyond the annoyance factor in most cases.
That time is gone. It has been gone for a while now. Professional criminals and crime syndicates eventually figured out that these same attacks and exploits, if properly crafted, could represent a windfall of ill-gotten cash. Rather than trying to have the greatest impact and notoriety, today's attacks seek to find a balance between compromising as many machines as possible while also staying under the radar and remaining undetected by users or security software.

The authors of Crimeware: Understanding New Attacks and Defenses have put together a comprehensive and thorough guide to current malware- which they call crimeware- and how to defend against it. Rather than go on about the scope of the book, I will just list the chapters and let you judge for yourself.

1.Overview of Crimeware
2.A taxonomy of Coding Errors
3.Crimeware and Peer-to-Peer Networks
4.Crimeware in Small Devices
5.Crimeware in Firmware
6.Crimeware in the Browser
7.Bot Networks
9.Virtual Worlds and Fraud
10.Cyberware and Politics
11.Online Advertising Fraud
12.Crimeware Business Models
13.The Educational Aspect of Security
14.Surreptitious Code and the Law
15.Crimeware and Trusted Computing
16.Technical Defense Techniques
17.The Future of Crimeware

This book is not just another compendium of malware and defensive countermeasures. This book provides that, but goes beyond that to educate the reader and provide tremendous insight about how and why crimeware works.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book looking at both the current and future threats of malware. May 14 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on
First off, to be fair I should point out that I am a co-author of one of the chapters (Chapter 5), but I still read the remainder of the book like everyone else, and I don't receive any benefit from sales, so I think the review is fairly objective.

This is the first book to describe the mounting problem of crimeware in a manner that is both accessible to a general readership and helpful to the expert reader. Written by expert contributors in the field of security, it details how cyber crooks are launching attacks on businesses and society, and predicts the trends in Internet security. In contrast to most security books, this book covers not only technical aspects, but also social and legal aspects of security. The book has descriptions of the current and predicted threat pictures, and discussions of meaningful countermeasures, including possible educational campaigns to support other countermeasures. It is a book that is difficult to put down once you have started reading, at the same time as it is likely to remain a useful reference for quite a while.

As has been commented previously, each chapter is more or less self-contained, and so readers can skip to chapters of interest. Further, rather than just considering the technical problems and solutions of online crime, it considers the broader holistic problem of security and crime. I strongly recommend this book to those that want to understand the current and future online threats.

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