We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency

We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency

‘WE ARE ANONYMOUS: INSIDE THE HACKER WORLD OF LULZSEC, ANONYMOUS AND THE GLOBAL CYBER INSURGENCY’


JUMP TO SECTION:

OPENING LINE:

We are Anonymous. We are Legion.

Finding a more fitting or truthful description could prove to be quite difficult.


PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

We Are Anonymous is a thrilling, exclusive expose of the hacker collectives Anonymous and LulzSec.
In late 2010, thousands of hacktivists joined a mass digital assault by Anonymous on the websites of VISA, MasterCard, and PayPal to protest their treatment of WikiLeaks. Splinter groups then infiltrated the networks of totalitarian governments in Libya and Tunisia, and an elite team of six people calling themselves LulzSec attacked the FBI, CIA, and Sony. They were flippant and taunting, grabbed headlines, and amassed more than a quarter of a million Twitter followers. The computer security world – and world at large – realized quickly that Anonymous and its splinter groups are something to treat with dead seriousness.
Through the stories of three key members, We Are Anonymous offers a gripping, adrenaline-fueled narrative in the style of The Accidental Billionaires, drawing upon hundreds of conversations with the members themselves, including exclusive interviews. By coming to know them – their childhoods, families, and personal demons – we come to know the human side of their virtual exploits, and why they’re so passionate about disrupting the Internet’s frontiers.
©2012 Parmy Olson (P)2012 Hachette Audio


THE PLOT:

This book tells the story of the hacktivist group Anonymous. Hacking, social engineering and other forms of cyber warfare have become more prominent over the past decade or so. This will likely only intensify as more and more of our daily lives are logged in online databases.
Anonymous has its roots in the website 4chan, but it has moved far beyond that. Due to the nature of what they are attempting to do and due to the paranoia that naturally develops, it is hard to find Anonymous in any one place for very long.
The book chronicles the history of the group from the first major attack it leveled against the church of Scientology and on to other targets such as: PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, Sony and HBGary.
Anonymous is not really different from movements that started in a physical place and time. There were divisions in philosophy over the direction the group should take with their hacks, splinter groups going off and doing their own thing and other things that you would expect to find plaguing a newly formed grassroots movement.
One of those splinter groups would come to be known as LulzSec and it is this group that is the primary focus of the narrator. We get to meet some of the leaders of the group, their back stories and find out what motivated them to attack agencies such as the FBI and CIA. In many ways the individuals profiled fit the stereotypical image of a computer hacker and in many ways they differed from it greatly. Ultimately, you get the sense that these are bright and intelligent people who needed an outlet for their creativity and felt as though they had something to prove.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the book was Chapter 25. In this chapter, two members of Anonymous who came to the group at different times and for different purposes met face to face. This was most interesting because it humanized both men more than anything else in the book. We got a look at their thought processes and world view. It was alternately moving, terrifying and even a little sorrowful.
If anything is going to doom the hacktivist movement, it will probably be paranoia and infighting. The organization has no leadership or central message. There is a lot of distrust in the hacker world, if this book is to be believed, and rightly so. That distrust could prevent the group or members of a subgroup from being more active and ambitious. The infighting could come over questions like “what is your definition of corruption”? When you have many different people from around the world with different life experiences, unanimity may be impossible.
The advantage a group like Anonymous has is that as members get older or get bored with their exploits, there will always be a younger generation ready to step in and fill the void. Really, as it says in the book, the only thing a hacker may really have to fear is someone else that possesses better technology.


THE AUTHOR:

Parmy Olson is a Forbes journalist who is known for covering the hacktivist movement and the activities of groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec. She does a thorough job of sequencing the events told in the book and trying to understand the motivations of her subjects.
If there is one problem that I have with the story, it is that it was sometimes difficult to keep the players straight. You had the main characters using multiple aliases and sometimes it was difficult to keep them straight. Add in minor players who fade in and out of the story and it was getting close to the point where I would have created a spreadsheet to keep everyone straight.
This does not mean that the story itself becomes hard to follow. The main focus of the narrative remains on hackers: Sabu, Kayla, Topiary and to a lesser degree T-Flow. Those are the main people you’ll have to keep track of and each of their multiple aliases is spelled out.
Even though there are a lot of technology terms that are found in the narrative, I don’t find it overwhelming for people unfamiliar with what those terms are meant to represent. As this is a longer book, it might have been helpful to remind those not technologically inclined of what a different term means when it is brought up again later in the text. Otherwise, each term was explained in a way that those unfamiliar with internet terminology could easily understand.


THE NARRATION:

Abby Craden was up to the challenge of narrating this book. She was named one of the best voices of 2012 by Audiofile Magazine and after listening to this performance, it was not hard to see why.
Her task was difficult for a couple of reasons. She was called upon to provide a wide range of accents for this performance. Perhaps my favorite was her southern accent for Shirley Phelps Roper, a representative of Westboro Baptist Church who fell victim to an Anonymous hack. She also had to read a lot of slang and technology based terminology. In the entire text of the book, there may have been one or two mispronunciations but nothing too distracting, and I’m someone who can be taken out of a read by an incorrect pronunciation.


THE PRODUCTION:

There is a musical number that opens and closes the audiobook. It is an instrumental with a feel of rock and roll. It plays as the narration starts but fades away shortly into the introduction of the book. No other effects are used. Each chapter is appropriately marked. The track is glitch free. Some might find the music a bit distracting, even if it only plays for a short time, otherwise it is difficult for me to find anything else to take issue with on this track.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

I believe the introductory quote I chose for this review is quite fitting. I do not think it will ever be possible to put an exact number on the individuals involved with Anonymous. Add in things like multiple aliases and virtual presences, and the organization, such that it can even be called one, has the ability to make itself seem as big or as small as it wishes.
For that reason, I found the FBI’s claims that the outting of Sabu would bring down Anonymous to be ridiculous. Cut off the head and the body will die is true in most cases but what if the body has no head?
I recommend this book to anyone interested in hacker culture, activism or sociology in general. A fair bit of warning though – As with many organizations and subcultures, the hackers in this book have their own way of speaking. As a result, this book is peppered with cursing and other language that one might find offensive. Listener discretion is advised.
The book clocks in at just over 14 hours. Once I started reading it though, I found that I had trouble putting it down, and finished it in less than 24 hours. That is a credit to both the engaging story, as told by Olson, and Abby Craden’s performance.


QUICK FACTS:

Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
We are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency Parmy Olson Abby Craden Hachette Audio History 06/05/2012 14 hours, 16 minutes 9/10

DISCLAIMER:

A copy of ‘We are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous and the Global Cyber Insurgency’ was purchased from Audible for review.

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