CRACK99

Title:                      CRACK99

Author:                 David Locke Hall

Hall, David Locke (2015). CRACK99: The Takedown of A $100 Million Chinese Software Pirate. New York: W.W. Norton & Company

LCCN:    2015022463

HV6773.2 .H355 2015

Subjects

Date Posted:      January 25, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

The story of a case of cyber piracy prosecuted by the US Department of Justice provides eye-opening look at cybercrime and its consequences for national security.

A former US Navy intelligence officer, David Locke Hall, was a federal prosecutor when a bizarre-sounding website, CRACK99, came to his attention. It looked like Craigslist on acid, but what it sold was anything but amateurish: thousands of high-tech software products used largely by the military, for pennies on the dollar. Want to purchase satellite tracking software? No problem. Aerospace and aviation simulations? No problem. Communications systems designs? No problem. Software for Marine One, the presidential helicopter? No problem. With delivery times and customer service to rival the world’s most successful e-tailers, anybody, anywhere—including rogue regimes, terrorists, and countries forbidden from doing business with the United States—had access to these goods for any purpose whatsoever.

Who was behind CRACK99, and where were they? The Justice Department discouraged potentially costly, risky cases like this, preferring the low-hanging fruit that scored points from politicians and the public. But Hall and his colleagues were determined to find the culprit. They bought CRACK99’s products for delivery in the US, buying more and more to appeal to the budding entrepreneur—Xiang Li. After winning his confidence, they lured him to Saipan—a US commonwealth territory, where they set up a sting that culminated in Xiang Li’s capture and imprisonment. The value of the goods offered by CRACK99: $100 million.

[1] The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (21, 3, Fall/Winter 2015, pp. 133-134 ).

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