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  • Released May 5th, 2010
    Size 141.0 MB
    Download americangreed-cybercrime.mp4

    American Greed Season 4, Episode 12 "Cybercrime" originally aired on May 5th, 2010. It covers a global economy of credit card fraud and identity theft. The majority of the episode documents the life and crimes of Max Ray Butler aka Max Vision and the work of various law enforcement agencies tasked with his capture.

    The episode begins with an interview of an anonymous identity theft victim whose credit history was ruined. Carding forums are revealed as global bazaars where personal information, credit card numbers as well as tips on committing identity theft crimes are traded among criminals. Max Butler is revealed as a godfather on the top of this criminal pyramid who ran one of these carder forums.

    In the exclusive interview for the American Greed, Max Butler described himself as a geek who in his teens used to hack into Boise State University computers just for fun. After a violent episode with his girlfriend, Max was convicted of assault and received a 5-year sentence. In 1995, he was released from prison and moved to San Francisco to build a new life. Max built a reputation as a white hat hacker and started a security consulting career even helping FBI during its investigations. However, driven by his ego, Max started breaking into systems without permission. As a result, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison in May 2001.

    After being released from prison in 2002, Max Butler found that he could no longer find employment. Trying to make money, he turned to his old prison buddy who in turn introduced him to Christopher Aragon, a former bank robber. Together they formed a partnership where Butler would obtain credit card numbers and Aragon would turn them into cash by purchasing goods and selling them online. Max would hack into banks, credit unions and even other carders' databases to obtain credit card numbers. It is interesting that Max would do the hacking using stolen wireless access with a high-powered directional antenna from frequently changing hotel rooms. Soon, Butler expanded his operation by opening a carders forum called CardersMarket where, using the handle iceman, Butler would manage others trading information. In order to attract more members, Max broke into several competing online forums and after carefully copying all of the users and data to CardersMarket wiped the competition's databases.

    At this point, the law enforcement has taken the online credit card trading seriously. National Cyber Forensics Training Alliance (NCFTA) was created specifically to fight it. In 2004, 28 carders were arrested as part of a federal dragnet called Operation Firewall. Furthermore FBI operated their own carder forum called DarkMarket where all of the illegal activity and its members were carefully monitored. Eventually FBI got a break in the investigation of iceman and the CardersMarket - one of the forum's oldest administrators, Jonathan Giannone aka Zebra, was arrested for credit card fraud. Jonathan lead the FBI to Chris Aragon who in turn led directly to Max Butler. Interestingly a CERT team was called to help with forensic acquisition of Butler's encrypted computers resulting in complete data recovery. On February 12th, 2010, Max Butler was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

    This American Greed episode does a great job covering the operation of carder forums and the life of Max Butler. The film benefited greatly from the research and narration by Kevin Poulsen who wrote a book on the subject - Kingpin. In fact, this episode can serve as a great visual companion to Poulsen's book.

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