This Machine Kills Secrets: How WikiLeakers, Cypherpunks, and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World's Information

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Overview

At last, the first full account of the cypherpunks who aim to free the world’s institutional secrets, by Forbes journalist Andy Greenberg who has traced their shadowy history from the cryptography revolution of the 1970s to Wikileaks founding hacker Julian Assange, Anonymous, and beyond.

WikiLeaks brought to light a new form of whistleblowing, using powerful cryptographic code to hide leakers’ identities while they spill the private data of government agencies and corporations. ...

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Overview

At last, the first full account of the cypherpunks who aim to free the world’s institutional secrets, by Forbes journalist Andy Greenberg who has traced their shadowy history from the cryptography revolution of the 1970s to Wikileaks founding hacker Julian Assange, Anonymous, and beyond.

WikiLeaks brought to light a new form of whistleblowing, using powerful cryptographic code to hide leakers’ identities while they spill the private data of government agencies and corporations. But that technology has been evolving for decades in the hands of hackers and radical activists, from the libertarian enclaves of Northern California to Berlin to the Balkans. And the secret-killing machine continues to evolve beyond WikiLeaks, as a movement of hacktivists aims to obliterate the world’s institutional secrecy.

This is the story of the code and the characters—idealists, anarchists, extremists—who are transforming the next generation’s notion of what activism can be.

With unrivaled access to such major players as Julian Assange, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, and WikiLeaks’ shadowy engineer known as the Architect, never before interviewed, reporter Andy Greenberg unveils the world of politically-motivated hackers—who they are and how they operate.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
Greenberg…has produced an exhaustive prequel to the never-ending WikiLeaks saga. Unlike some recent books on the subject, this one adopts a decidedly historical perspective and situates the ideas behind WikiLeaks in the heady debates about computing, privacy and civil liberties that have dominated many an online conversation in the last three decades. And, as if this challenge were not grand enough, Greenberg also tries to explain the highly complex technologies that have made a project like WikiLeaks possible, introducing such hidden gems of geek cuisine as "salt hashing" and "onion routing." By and large, he succeeds, and the resulting dish is delicious and not at all too technical.
—Evgeny Morozov
Publishers Weekly
According to national security officials, the rise of the cypherpunks and other high-tech activists now pose the greatest threat to this country’s defense, a principal theme in this detailed look into superhackers by Greenberg, a staff writer for Forbes magazine. Greenberg includes a rogues’ list of the hackers and cypherpunks who have decided to reveal classified materials and confront the might of the U.S. government, including Pentagon Papers’ Daniel Ellsberg, leaker U.S. Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, code visionaries Tim May and Phil Zimmerman, cypherpunk cofounder Eric Hughes, and Wikileaks cofounder Julian Assange. Leaked secrets have covered such things as dark military secrets, Wall Street mishaps, personal moral defects, and executive coverups. While somewhat focusing on Assange and the inner workings of the secretive Wikileaks, he fully examines the historic development of cryptographic code and online whistle-blowing, along with the ongoing skirmish of NSA vs. the dedicated hackers over the years. With complete access to many of the key hackers and leakers, Greenberg delves eloquently into the magicians of the all-powerful technology that shatters the confidentiality of any and all state secrets while tapping into issues of personal privacy. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In the Sixties we marched. Now many young men and women fed up with the government, the military, and the corporations slip into whistleblower mode, anonymously uploading institutional secrets that they feel should be exposed. Think WikiLeaks, Anonymous, and OpenLeaks, and think about the long-term impact, as Forbes reporter Greenberg has us do here.
Kirkus Reviews
A wide-ranging look at politically motivated information leaks and the activists behind them. In late 2010, Forbes technology reporter Greenberg sat down with the notorious Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. The resulting interview has been viewed nearly 1 million times on the Forbes website and served as a launching pad for Greenberg's debut book. While the author scatters details of Assange and WikiLeaks throughout the book, Greenberg has larger aims: to catalogue "a revolutionary protest movement bent not on stealing information, but on building a tool that inexorably coaxes it out, a technology that slips inside of institutions and levels their defenses like a Trojan horse of cryptographic software and silicon." With this in mind, the author examines the lives and work of numerous cryptographers, hackers and whistleblowers--some well-known (e.g., Daniel Ellsberg, who first leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971) and some considerably less so (Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Icelandic activist and member of parliament who is behind a push for greater freedom of information there). However, the book bounces between these often-unrelated biographies so frequently that readers get only a vague sense of each person's character. A chapter on the hacker group Anonymous, for example, is based in large part on information from a defunct website and is especially hazy; readers will likely find better information in the recently published We Are Anonymous, by Parmy Olson, who, unlike Greenberg, actually interviewed Anonymous members. Overall, the book's biggest flaw is that its scope is simply too wide. Greenberg valiantly attempts to cover the big picture of information leaks around the globe, but due to the overwhelming cast of characters--as well as some rather dull descriptions of how online cryptography works--the book never fully coalesces. An ambitious overview that ultimately falls flat.
From the Publisher
"With complete access to many of the key hackers and leakers, Greenberg delves eloquently into the magicians of the all-powerful technology that shatters the confidentiality of any and all state secrets while tapping into issues of personal privacy." —-Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525953203
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 9/13/2012
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.08 (h) x 1.26 (d)

Meet the Author

ANDY GREENBERG is a staff writer for Forbes magazine, focusing on technology, information security and digital civil liberties. His Forbes story on WikiLeaks and the future of information leaks in late 2010 was the first magazine cover story to feature Julian Assange. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, filmmaker Malika Zouhali-Worrall.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2012

    Highly Recommended, Hellish

    Control of information flow is subterranean like that of water, gas, oil, finance, politics. Andy Greenberg has ventured into the strange caverns where a struggle to manage information is underway, mostly in secret, some disclosed and most of that propaganda for public manipulation. The primary weapon is encryption used to conceal and to deceive wielded by a remarkably few worlwide technical wizards barely understood and unmanageable by those who pay them. Closer to magic and sorcery than science and engineering, these artists of black arts battle with cryptography and crytanalysis, to hide and to expose. Every economic, social and political is affected -- unknowingly. Greenberg's book is a glimpse into a hell of pretense, deception, vainglory, treachery, braggardy. A very unsettling cast of characters are arrayed to convey the silent combat beneath the ground, the sea, into space and beyond. This might be seen as fictional but that would an i/o error.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2012

    Wake Up America! Bury the Secrets Killers

    Wonder who succeeded the Reds to undermine America? Not Russia, not China, not Iran. USA enemies are still inside the coutnry. Read this expose of the undercover agents using the Internet to overthrow the USA and its allies worldwide. By spreading secret code technology to hide the prolonged assautl on freedom. By
    leaking official secrets and by fostering suspicion of respected instituions of church, family, school and homeland. By planning assassination of leaders with anonymuos betting pools. These sickos, stateless commie Julian Assange their most infamous, are up to the age old tricks of openly preaching one thing to believers then doing tje godawful underground to takeover power. "Underground" about Assange, "Anonymous" by Parmy Olson, are other subversive tracts to teach youngsters to violate law and order. Wake up FBI! Wake Up People! These book names the names to bury with a stake in thier hearts for buring in hell for all eternity.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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