Future Crimes

Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It

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One of the world’s leading authorities on global security, Marc Goodman takes readers deep into the digital underground to expose the alarming ways criminals, corporations, and even countries are using new and emerging technologies against you—and how this makes everyone more vulnerable than ever imagined. 



Technological advances have benefited our world in immeasurable ways, but there is an ominous flip side: our technology can be turned against us. Hackers can activate baby monitors to spy on families, thieves are analyzing social media posts to plot home invasions, and stalkers are exploiting the GPS on smart phones to track their victims’ every move. We all know today’s criminals can steal identities, drain online bank accounts, and wipe out computer servers, but that’s just the beginning. To date, no computer has been created that could not be hacked—a sobering fact given our radical dependence on these machines for everything from our nation’s power grid to air traffic control to financial services.

Yet, as ubiquitous as technology seems today, just over the horizon is a tidal wave of scientific progress that will leave our heads spinning. If today’s Internet is the size of a golf ball, tomorrow’s will be the size of the sun. Welcome to the Internet of Things, a living, breathing, global information grid where every physical object will be online. But with greater connections come greater risks. Implantable medical devices such as pacemakers can be hacked to deliver a lethal jolt of electricity and a car’s brakes can be disabled at high speed from miles away. Meanwhile, 3-D printers can produce AK-47s, bioterrorists can download the recipe for Spanish flu, and cartels are using fleets of drones to ferry drugs across borders.

With explosive insights based upon a career in law enforcement and counterterrorism, Marc Goodman takes readers on a vivid journey through the darkest recesses of the Internet. Reading like science fiction, but based in science fact, Future Crimes explores how bad actors are primed to hijack the technologies of tomorrow, including robotics, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. These fields hold the power to create a world of unprecedented abundance and prosperity. But the technological bedrock upon which we are building our common future is deeply unstable and, like a house of cards, can come crashing down at any moment.

Future Crimes provides a mind-blowing glimpse into the dark side of technological innovation and the unintended consequences of our connected world. Goodman offers a way out with clear steps we must take to survive the progress unfolding before us. Provocative, thrilling, and ultimately empowering, Future Crimes will serve as an urgent call to action that shows how we can take back control over our own devices and harness technology’s tremendous power for the betterment of humanity—before it’s too late.


“OMG, this is a wakeup call. The outlaws are running faster than the architects. Use this book to shake up the companies you buy from, the device makers, telecom carriers, and governments at all levels. Demand that they pay attention to the realities of our new world as outlined within this thorough and deep book. Marc Goodman will startle you with the ingenuity of the bad guys. I'm a technological optimist. Now I am an eyes-wide-open optimist.”
-- Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired Magazine and bestselling author of What Technology Wants

"The hacks and heists detailed in Future Crimes are the stuff of thrillers, but unfortunately, the world of cybercrime is all too real. There could be no more sure-footed or knowledgeable companion than Marc Goodman on this guided tour of the underworld of the Internet. Everyone  -- and the business world especially -- should heed his advice.”
— Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of Drive and To Sell is Human

“From black ops to rogue bots and everything in between, Future Crimes is a gripping must-read.  Marc Goodman takes readers on a brilliant, 'behind-the-screens' journey into the hidden world of 21st century criminal innovation, filled with one mind-boggling example after another of what’s coming next.  Future Crimes raises tough questions about the expanding role of technology in our lives and the importance of managing it for the benefit of all humanity.  Even better, Goodman offers practical solutions so that we not only survive progress, but thrive to an extent never previously imagined.”
--Peter H. Diamandis, New York Times bestselling author of Abundance; CEO, XPRIZE Foundation; Exec. Chairman, Singularity University

"Future Crimes reads like a collection of unusually inventive, terrifying plots conjured up by the world's most ingenious science fiction writer... except that almost every story in this goosebump-raising book is happening all around us right now. It's a masterful page-turner that warns of a hundred worst case scenarios you've never thought of, while also -- thank goodness -- offering bold and clever strategies to thwart them."
-- Jane McGonigal, New York Times bestselling author of Reality is Broken

“As new loopholes open up in cyberspace, people inevitably find ways to flow through them. Future-proof yourself by reading this book.  No one has a better vantage point than Goodman, and you won't want to touch another keyboard until you know what's in these pages.”
-- David Eagleman, New York Times bestselling author of Incognito

"Future Crimes is the Must Read Book of the Year.  Endlessly fascinating, genuinely instructive, and truly frightening.  Be warned:  Once you pick it up, you won't put it down. Super cool and super interesting."
-- Christopher Reich, New York Times bestselling author

“Technology has always been a double edged sword – fire kept us warm and cooked our food but also burned down our villages.  Marc Goodman provides a deeply insightful view into our twenty-first century’s fires.  His philosophy matches my own: apply the promise of exponentially growing information technologies to overcome age old challenges of humankind while at the same time understand and contain the perils.  This book provides a compelling roadmap to do just that.”
 -- Ray Kurzweil, inventor, author and futurist

“Much has been discussed regarding today’s cybercrime threats as well as the cybercriminals’ modus operandi. What is lacking, however, is what we can do about them. Mr. Marc Goodman’s book Future Crimes brings our global dialogue on safety and security to the next level by exploring how potential criminals are exploiting new and emerging technologies for their nefarious purposes.  It provides a futuristic perspective grounded on current case studies. Future Crime is an essential read for law enforcers, corporations and the community alike. It offers answers beyond what comes next to what we can do, both individually and collectively, to secure ourselves and our communities.”
-- Khoo Boon Hui, former President of Interpol

"As with Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything and Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic, Future Crimes deserves a prominent place in our front-line library. Goodman takes us behind the computer screen to a dark world where Crime Inc. flourishes at our expense. When the criminal mind conceives “what if” it is only a matter of time before its dream becomes our nightmare. Goodman urges us to take responsibility for this new world we are speeding towards. If we don’t perhaps the greater crime will be ours."
-- Ed Burns, co-creator of The Wire

“This is a fantastic book and one that should be read by every cyber crime fighter.  Technology breeds crime. . . it always has and always will.  Unfortunately, there will always be people willing to use technology in a negative self serving way.  Your only defense is the most powerful tool available to you - education. Read Future Crimes and understand your risks and how to combat them.  The question I am most often asked in my lectures is ‘what’s the next big crime?’  The answer is in this book.”
-- Frank Abagnale, New York Times bestselling author of Catch Me If You Can and Stealing Your Life 

"Hacking robots and bad guys using AI and synthetic biology to carry out bad deeds may seem like science fiction, but that is the real world of Future Crimes that awaits us. Marc Goodman, one of the world’s leading experts on the field, takes the reader on a scary, but eye-opening tour of the next generation nexus of crime, technology, and security."
--PW Singer, New York Times bestselling author of Wired for War

"In this highly readable and exhaustive debut, [Marc Goodman] details the many ways in which hackers, organized criminals, terrorists and rogue governments are exploiting the vulnerability of our increasingly connected society... Goodman suggests solid actions to limit the impact of cybercrimes, ranging from increased technical literacy of the public to a massive government 'Manhattan Project' for cybersecurity to develop strategies against online threats. A powerful wake-up call to pay attention to our online lives."
--Kirkus starred review

"Marc Goodman is a go-to guide for all who want a good scaring about the dark side of technology."
-- New Scientist

"In the wake of North Korea's cyber-terrorist attack on Sony as well as numerous hacker break-ins throughout the corporate world, it's become increasingly obvious that neither governments nor corporations are prepared for the onslaught of problems...Goodman nails the issue and provides useful input on the changes needed to make our systems and infrastructure more secure."
-- Inc.com

"Utterly fascinating stuf... Goodman weds the joy of geeky technology with the tension of true crime. The future of crime prevention starts here."
-- NPR, San Francisco

"[A] hair-raising exposè of cybercrime...Goodman’s breathless but lucid account is good at conveying the potential perils of emerging technologies in layman’s terms, and he sprinkles in deft narratives of the heists already enabled by them...A timely wake-up call."
-- Publishers Weekly


Connected, Dependent and Vulnerable
Technology…is a queer thing; it brings you great gifts with one hand and it stabs you in the back with the other.
Mat Honan’s life looked pretty good on-screen: in one tab of his browser were pictures of his new baby girl; in another streamed the
tweets from his thousands of Twitter followers. As a reporter for Wired magazine in San Francisco, he was living an urbane and connected life and was as up-to-date on technology as anyone. Still, he had no idea his entire digital world could be erased in just a few keystrokes. Then, one August day, it was. His photographs, e-mails, and much more all fell into the hands of a hacker. Stolen in just minutes by a teenager halfway around the world. Honan was an easy target. We all are.
Honan recalls the afternoon when everything fell apart. He was play- ing on the floor with his infant daughter when suddenly his iPhone pow- ered down. Perhaps the battery had died. He was expecting an important call, so he plugged the phone into the outlet and rebooted. Rather than the usual start-up screen and apps, he saw a large white Apple logo and a mul- tilingual welcome screen inviting him to set up his new phone. How odd.
Honan wasn’t especially worried: he backed up his iPhone every night. His next step was perfectly obvious—log in to iCloud and restore the phone and its data. Upon logging in to his Apple account, he was informed that his password, the one he was sure was correct, had been deemed wrong by the iCloud gods. Honan, an astute reporter for the world’s preeminent
technology magazine, had yet another trick up his sleeve. He would merely connect the iPhone to his laptop and restore his data from the hard drive on his local computer. What happened next made his heart sink.
As Honan powered up his Mac, he was greeted with a message from Apple’s calendar program advising him his Gmail password was incor- rect. Immediately thereafter, the face of his laptop—its beautiful screen— turned ashen gray and quit, as if it had died. The only thing visible on the screen was a prompt: please enter your four-digit password. Honan knew he had never set a password.
Honan ultimately learned that a hacker had gained access to his iCloud account, then used Apple’s handy “find my phone” feature to locate all of the electronic devices in Honan’s world. One by one, they were nuked. The hacker issued the “remote wipe” command, thereby erasing all of the data Honan had spent a lifetime accumulating. The first to fall was his iPhone, then his iPad. Last, but certainly not least, was his MacBook. In an instant, all of his data, including every baby picture he had taken during his daugh- ter’s first year of life, were destroyed. Gone too were the priceless photo- graphic memories of his relatives who had long since died, vanquished into the ether by parties unknown.
Next to be obliterated was Honan’s Google account. In the blink of an eye, the eight years of carefully curated Gmail messages were lost. Work conversations, notes, reminders, and memories wiped away with a click of a mouse. Finally, the hacker turned his intention to his ultimate target: Honan’s Twitter handle, @Mat. Not only was the account taken over, but the attacker used it to send racist and homophobic rants in Honan’s name to his thousands of followers.
In the aftermath of the online onslaught, Honan used his skills as an investigative reporter to piece together what had happened. He phoned Apple tech support in an effort to reclaim his iCloud account. After more than ninety minutes on the phone, Honan learned that “he” had just called thirty minutes prior to request his password be reset. As it turns out, the only information anybody needed to change Honan’s password was his billing address and the last four digits of his credit card number. Honan’s address was readily available on the Whois Internet domain record he had created when he built his personal Web site. Even if it hadn’t been, dozens of online services such as WhitePages.com and Spokeo would have pro- vided it for free.
To ascertain the last four digits of Honan’s credit card, the hacker guessed that Honan (like most of us) had an account on Amazon.com. He was correct. Armed with Honan’s full name and his e-mail and mailing addresses, the culprit contacted Amazon and successfully manipulated a customer service rep so as to gain access to the required last four credit card digits. Those simple steps and nothing more turned Honan’s life upside down. Although it didn’t happen in this case, the hacker could have just as easily used the very same information to access and pilfer Honan’s online bank and brokerage accounts.
The teenager who eventually came forward to take credit for the attack—Phobia, as he was known in hacking circles—claimed he was out to expose the vast security vulnerabilities of the Internet services we’ve come to rely on every day. Point made. Honan created a new Twitter account to communicate with his attacker. Phobia, using the @Mat account, agreed to follow Honan’s new account, and now the two could direct message each other. Honan asked Phobia the single question that was burning on his mind: Why? Why would you do this to me? As it turns out, the near decade of lost data and memories was merely collateral damage.
Phobia’s reply was chilling: “I honestly didn’t have any heat towards you . . . I just liked your [Twitter] username.” That was it. That’s all it was ever about—a prized three-letter Twitter handle. A hacker thousands of miles away liked it and simply wanted it for himself.
The thought that somebody with no “heat” toward you can obliterate your digital life in a few keystrokes is absurd. When Honan’s story appeared on the cover of Wired in December 2012, it garnered considerable atten- tion . . . for a minute or two. A debate on how to better secure our every- day technologie ensued but, like so many Internet discussions, ultimately flamed out. Precious little has changed since Honan’s trials and tribula- tions. We are still every bit as vulnerable as Honan was then—and even more so as we ratchet up our dependency on hackable mobile and cloud- based applications.
As with most of us, Honan’s various accounts were linked to one another in a self-referential web of purported digital trust: the same credit card number on an Apple profile and an Amazon account; an iCloud e-mail address that points back to Gmail. Each had information in common, including log-on credentials, credit card numbers, and passwords with all the data connected back to the same person. Honan’s security protections amounted to nothing more than a digital Maginot Line—an overlapping house of cards that came tumbling down with the slightest pressure. All or most of the information needed to destroy his digital life, or yours, is readily available online to anybody who is the least bit devious or creative.
Progress and Peril in a Connected World
In a few years’ time, with very little self-reflection, we’ve sprinted headlong from merely searching Google to relying on it for directions, calendars, address books, video, entertainment, voice mail, and telephone calls. One billion of us have posted our most intimate details on Facebook and will- ingly provided social networking graphs of our friends, family, and co- workers. We’ve downloaded billions of apps, and we rely on them to help us accomplish everything from banking and cooking to archiving baby pictures. We connect to the Internet via our laptops, mobile phones, iPads, TiVos, cable boxes, PS3s, Blu-rays, Nintendos, HDTVs, Rokus, Xboxes, and Apple TVs.
The positive aspects of this technological evolution are manifest. Over the past hundred years, rapid advances in medical science mean that the average human life span has more than doubled and child mortality has plummeted by a factor of ten. Average per capita income adjusted for infla- tion around the world has tripled. Access to a high-quality education, so elusive to many for so long, is free today via Web sites such as the Khan Academy. And the mobile phone is singularly credited with leading to bil- lions upon billions of dollars in direct economic development in nations around the globe.
The interconnectivity the Internet provides through its fundamental architecture means that disparate peoples from around the world can be brought together as never before. A woman in Chicago can play Words with Friends with a total stranger in the Netherlands. A physician in Bangalore, India, can remotely read and interpret the X-ray results of a patient in Boca Raton, Florida. A farmer in South Africa can use his mobile phone to access the same crop data as a PhD candidate at MIT. This interconnect- edness is one of the Internet’s greatest strengths, and as it grows in size, so too does the global network’s power and utility. There is much to celebrate in our modern technological world.
While the advantages of the online world are well documented and frequently highlighted by those in the tech industry, there is also a down- side to all of this interconnectivity.
Our electrical grids, air traffic control networks, fire department dis- patch systems, and even the elevators at work are all critically dependent on computers. Each day, we plug more and more of our daily lives into the global information grid without pausing to ask what it all means. Mat Honan found out the hard way, as have thousands of others. But what should happen if and when the technological trappings of our modern society—the foundational tools upon which we are utterly dependent—all go away? What is humanity’s backup plan? In fact, none exists.