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The Ransomware Hunting Team
Cover of The Ransomware Hunting Team
The Ransomware Hunting Team
A Band of Misfits' Improbable Crusade to Save the World from Cybercrime
Borrow Borrow

A real-life technological thriller about a band of eccentric misfits taking on the biggest cybersecurity threats of our time.
"What Michael Lewis did for baseball in Moneyball, Renee Dudley and Daniel Golden do brilliantly for the world of ransomware and hackers. Cinematic, big in scope, and meticulously reported, this book is impossible to put down." —Doug Stanton, New York Times bestselling author of In Harm's Way and Horse Soldiers
Scattered across the world, an elite team of code crackers is working tirelessly to thwart the defining cyber scourge of our time. You've probably never heard of them. But if you work for a school, a business, a hospital, or a municipal government, or simply cherish your digital data, you may be painfully familiar with the team's sworn enemy: ransomware. Again and again, an unlikely band of misfits, mostly self-taught and often struggling to make ends meet, have outwitted the underworld of hackers who lock computer networks and demand huge payments in return for the keys.
The Ransomware Hunting Team traces the adventures of these unassuming heroes and how they have used their skills to save millions of ransomware victims from paying billions of dollars to criminals. Working tirelessly from bedrooms and back offices, and refusing payment, they've rescued those whom the often hapless FBI has been unwilling or unable to help. Foremost among them is Michael Gillespie, a cancer survivor and cat lover who got his start cracking ransomware while working at a Nerds on Call store in the town of Normal, Illinois. Other teammates include the brilliant, reclusive Fabian Wosar, a high school dropout from Germany who enjoys bantering with the attackers he foils, and his protégé, the British computer science prodigy Sarah White. Together, they have established themselves as the most effective force against an escalating global threat. This book follows them as they put their health, personal relationships, and financial security on the line to navigate the technological and moral challenges of combating digital hostage taking.
Urgent, uplifting, and entertaining, Renee Dudley and Daniel Golden's The Ransomware Hunting Team is a real-life technological thriller that illuminates a dangerous new era of cybercrime.

A real-life technological thriller about a band of eccentric misfits taking on the biggest cybersecurity threats of our time.
"What Michael Lewis did for baseball in Moneyball, Renee Dudley and Daniel Golden do brilliantly for the world of ransomware and hackers. Cinematic, big in scope, and meticulously reported, this book is impossible to put down." —Doug Stanton, New York Times bestselling author of In Harm's Way and Horse Soldiers
Scattered across the world, an elite team of code crackers is working tirelessly to thwart the defining cyber scourge of our time. You've probably never heard of them. But if you work for a school, a business, a hospital, or a municipal government, or simply cherish your digital data, you may be painfully familiar with the team's sworn enemy: ransomware. Again and again, an unlikely band of misfits, mostly self-taught and often struggling to make ends meet, have outwitted the underworld of hackers who lock computer networks and demand huge payments in return for the keys.
The Ransomware Hunting Team traces the adventures of these unassuming heroes and how they have used their skills to save millions of ransomware victims from paying billions of dollars to criminals. Working tirelessly from bedrooms and back offices, and refusing payment, they've rescued those whom the often hapless FBI has been unwilling or unable to help. Foremost among them is Michael Gillespie, a cancer survivor and cat lover who got his start cracking ransomware while working at a Nerds on Call store in the town of Normal, Illinois. Other teammates include the brilliant, reclusive Fabian Wosar, a high school dropout from Germany who enjoys bantering with the attackers he foils, and his protégé, the British computer science prodigy Sarah White. Together, they have established themselves as the most effective force against an escalating global threat. This book follows them as they put their health, personal relationships, and financial security on the line to navigate the technological and moral challenges of combating digital hostage taking.
Urgent, uplifting, and entertaining, Renee Dudley and Daniel Golden's The Ransomware Hunting Team is a real-life technological thriller that illuminates a dangerous new era of cybercrime.

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About the Author-
  • Renee Dudley is a technology reporter at ProPublica. Previously, as an investigative reporter at Reuters, she was named a 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her work uncovering systematic cheating on college admissions tests. She started her career at daily newspapers in South Carolina and New England, and has won numerous journalism honors, including the Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2022

    ProPublica reporters Dudley and Golden, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and winner, respectively, visit a bunch of ordinary folks with extraordinary techie skills: they challenge hackers and criminal gangs worldwide who lock up computer systems and then seek to extort money from businesses, schools, hospitals, government agencies, and others. With a 200,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2022 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 22, 2022
    Journalists Dudley and Golden (Spy Schools) deliver an intriguing profile of volunteer tech experts who work to combat digital extortionists. The story centers on Illinois tech support professional Michael Gillespie, “the most prolific member of the Ransomware Hunting Team, an elite, invitation-only society of about a dozen tech wizards who are devoted to cracking ransomware.” The authors detail how gangs of hackers, many with ties to crime syndicates or hostile foreign governments, target vulnerable computer systems, introducing viruses that encrypt files, then demanding payment for a decryption key. The U.S. government’s response has been hampered, Dudley and Golden explain, by the rigid culture of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, where cooperation with outsiders is discouraged and cybercrime experts are often denigrated as the “Geek Squad.” However, in the aftermath of high-profile ransomware attacks such as the May 2021 Colonial Pipeline incident, which paralyzed fuel distribution on the East Coast, the government has coordinated more closely with recognized experts like Gillespie. Dudley and Golden render their subjects—some of whom endured poverty and bullying in their teens—with warmth and admiration while acknowledging that competition between hacker gangs and ransomware hunters has helped spur more sophisticated viruses and bigger paydays. Readers will put down this engrossing underdog story just long enough to back up their own files.

  • Kirkus

    September 1, 2022
    White and black hats collide, and, as ProPublica reporters Dudley and Golden reveal, the unseen war between them shapes and shakes the world. "The frequency and the impact of ransomware attacks are widely understated because many victims don't make them public or inform authorities," write the authors. Still, they note, the monetary value is colossal, and there is a broad range of victims to choose from. In the early days, through the machinations of a Harvard-educated ("and subsequently Harvard-disavowed") researcher in primatology, the demands were small: A virus he'd written would infect a computer, demand via an onscreen message that the user send $189 or $378 to Panama, and then restore access to the computer's files. This early hacker died young, but computer security is less advanced than many believe, and today ransomware bandits are busily infecting not just corporations, but also hospitals, schools, and even city governments, including that of Baltimore. Enter the Ransomware Hunting Team, an ad hoc band of self-anointed saviors from all over the world, who know their foe as if alter egos: mostly young and freelance, interested in money but also the thrill of the game, but who also, in places like Russia and North Korea, "appear...to be weapons in an undeclared cyberwar." As Dudley and Golden describe the titanic struggle, often waged with sympathy and respect for the bad-guy opponents' computer skills and vice versa, they observe that the corporate and governmental response has been less than stellar, with the FBI today just as unprepared for cyberwar as it was when Clifford Stoll published The Cuckoo's Egg in 1989, when black-hat computer mischief was a new thing. In some ways, this book is an update to that distinguished predecessor, though it also enters into the newer realms of the dark web, cryptocurrency, and high-level code-breaking. An accessible, tautly written account of cyberwarfare in real time.

    COPYRIGHT(2022) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    September 1, 2022
    Journalists Dudley and Golden (author of Spy Schools, 2017) explore with verve and fascinating detail the assorted group of unpaid, self-taught experts in the U.S. and Europe who make it their duty to protect the innocent from ransomware, which the authors define as "an unholy marriage of hacking and cryptography" and "kidnapping updated for the digital age." While creating vivid portraits of several brilliant, occasionally socially awkward members of the loosely organized team, they focus primarily on Michael Gillespie, one of the most talented of the group, who started reverse-engineering ransomware as a high-school student in Illinois. In addition to covering the lives and work of the team members, the authors trace the history of ransomware, which began in earnest in 2012, give examples of its impact, and discuss the reasons why large-scale organizations like the FBI have failed to deal with it effectively. Anyone with internet access should find this intriguing, and a little horrifying.

    COPYRIGHT(2022) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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The Ransomware Hunting Team
The Ransomware Hunting Team
A Band of Misfits' Improbable Crusade to Save the World from Cybercrime
Renee Dudley
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