Château Sucker

In the rare-wine world, doubts are endemic; murkiness is built into a product that is concealed by tinted glass and banded wooden cases and opaque provenance and the fog of history. At the same time, the whole apparatus of the rare-wine market is about converting doubt into mystique. Most wealthy collectors want to spend big and drink famous labels, not necessarily ask questions or hear the answers. Guests at tastings don’t want to bite the hand that quenches them. Auctioneers may not want to risk losing consignments by nitpicking ambiguous bottles. Winemakers don’t like to talk about counterfeiting, for fear of the taint. Also, one thing not high on the FBI’s list of investigative priorities: billionaires getting snowed by wine forgers. It’s clear to everyone on this rarefied circuit that wine fraud is rampant. It’s also clear not many insiders feel an urgency to do anything about it.

Those Fabulous Confabs

Smart talk has never been such a valuable commodity. It’s spawned conferences like TED, Davos, and now a slew of upstart competitors. It has made the eighteen‑minute TED lecture a viral online phenomenon. But are we running out of things to say?

The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin

In November 1, 2008, a man named Satoshi Nakamoto posted a research paper to an obscure cryptography listserv describing his design for a new digital currency that he called bitcoin. None of the list’s veterans had heard of him, and what little information could be gleaned was murky and contradictory. In an online profile, he said he lived in Japan. His email address was from a free German service. Google searches for his name turned up no relevant information; it was clearly a pseudonym. But while Nakamoto himself may have been a puzzle, his creation cracked a problem that had stumped cryptographers for decades. The idea of digital money—convenient and untraceable, liberated from the oversight of governments and banks—had been a hot topic since the birth of the Internet.

How Two Scammers Built an Empire Hawking Sketchy Software

The story behind “scareware” — fake antivirus software designed to trick users into buying largely useless antivirus software that, once installed, does little more than try to scam more money out of its users. A manipulative scam for the people that fall for it, and a $180m a year profit machine for its creators.

Unlike other young Internet entrepreneurs who built big businesses at the start of the new millennium, the story of Sam Jain and Daniel Sundin hasn’t been told in fawning profiles or books or in movies directed by David Fincher. Yet in a perverse way, IMI could be considered one of the most remarkable startups of the past decade. This duo’s knack for social engineering has been as brilliant as anything Facebook ever rolled out, and IMI’s nimble, iterative approach to software development and marketing produced innovation on an almost weekly basis. The IMI story apparently isn’t one that its two founders are eager to tell, though; in fact, their whereabouts are unknown and both have warrants out for their arrest. But thanks to a series of lawsuits and criminal complaints filed over the past several years, combined with interviews with former company insiders, it’s possible to reconstruct a picture of how scareware gets made—and how it made multimillionaires out of two misanthropic hucksters.

The Geek-Kings of Smut

After once being the best thing that ever happened to porn, the Internet is now wreaking havoc: destroying some fortunes, making bigger ones, and serving as a stimulus plan, in more ways than one.

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