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CRACK99: The Takedown of a $100 Million…

CRACK99: The Takedown of a $100 Million Chinese Software Pirate

by David Locke Hall

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These are the kind of books I like to review – short, informative, a recap of news I missed, and a source for follow up reading.

And I don’t I have to pay for it. Because these books always seem a bit overpriced considering they are short and summarize a lot of news. This one’s fairly cheap though.

As our subject, Xiang Li, the man behind the titular software cracking site Crack99, might say, “The product is pretty. You be pleased. Go tell other people.”
As you would expect from a longtime Assistant US Attorney used to bringing juries to the desired conclusions, Hall recounts his case against Li convincingly and clearly.

He takes us through Homeland Security Investigations (HSI – Homeland Security’s investigative arm that finds it more amenable to pursue counterfeit purses than illegal aliens) showing him the childish looking Crack99 site.

The software it sold for one percent of retail were not versions of Microsoft Office or Adobe products. These programs were very expensive – tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars each – and used for very sophisticated engineering and manufacturing uses. Generally, for a lot of this stuff, you need to, as a mere prerequisite, be an engineer or physicist.

Hall takes us through the legal facts, questions, and obstacles to prosecuting someone running a software pirate site: establishing identity, location of the criminal, criminal intent, establishing whether selling pirated software – sans any physical product but just file transfers over the internet – is stealing. And, of course, there is the not trivial problem of physical getting the cuffs on Mr. Li and taking him back for trial in America.

Hall is a personable fellow who seems to have led an interesting life outside of being a lawyer and he drops in some “war stories” at the beginning of each chapter. That causes a bit of a problem on the concise narration front because one such story is actually a chapter on the arrest of an Iranian arms merchant, Amir Ardebili. (A story covered in John Shiffman’s Operation Shakespeare: The True Story of an Elite International Sting.) Granted, it’s there to show how you go about arresting international criminals on foreign soil and extradite them with the cooperation of other countries, but it’s also 32 pages out of a 290 page story.

Hall is hardly the first ex-public servant to use a book to push his ideas of reform. It’s hard to argue that Chinese industrial espionage goes hand in hand with their military spying and poses a very real threat to American economic and military (and, thus, national) security though Hall makes clear that he has no certain proof that Xiang Li had ties to the Chinese government. Hall wants more people in the US Department of Justice and military to follow his lead and prosecute these software pirates. ( )
  RandyStafford | Sep 29, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393249549, Hardcover)

The utterly gripping story of the most outrageous case of cyber piracy prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

A former U.S. 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, and for mere 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.

But 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 United States, buying more and more to appeal to the budding entrepreneur in the man they identified as Xiang Li. After winning his confidence, they lured him to Saipan―a U.S. commonwealth territory where Hall’s own father had stormed the beaches with the marines during World War II. There they set up an audacious sting that culminated in Xiang Li's capture and imprisonment. The value of the goods offered by CRACK99? A cool $100 million.

An eye-opening look at cybercrime and its chilling consequences for national security, CRACK99 reads like a caper that resonates with every amazing detail.


(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 30 Jul 2015 09:55:53 -0400)

The "story of the biggest software piracy case prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice"--Amazon.com.

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