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

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

‘THIS MACHINE KILLS SECRETS: HOW WIKILEAKERS, CYPHERPUNKS, AND HACKTIVISTS AIM TO FREE THE WORLD’S INFORMATION’


JUMP TO SECTION:

OPENING LINE:

Can you keep a secret?


PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

Forbes journalist Andy Greenberg presents the first full account of the cypherpunks who aim to free the world’s institutional secrets.
Full Synopsis
The machine that kills secrets is a powerful cryptographic code that hides the identities of leakers and hacktivists as they spill the private files of government agencies and corporations bringing us into a new age of whistle blowing. With unrivaled access to figures like Julian Assange, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, and Jacob Applebaum, investigative journalist Andy Greenberg unveils the group that brought the world WikiLeaks, OpenLeaks, and BalkanLeaks.

This powerful 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. Never have the seemingly powerless had so much power to disembowel big corporations and big government.


THE PLOT:

‘This Machine Kills Secrets’ starts off by making a pretty obvious and yet still impressive point. It traces the history of leaking information from Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers all the way up to Wikileaks. It compares the methods used, the amount of information leaked and the amount of time it took to gather and produce all of that information. The unsurprising thing is that in this day and age, it is a lot easier to copy, store and disseminate massive volumes of information.
The book then chronicles how technology got us from point A to point B. It profiles some of the key figures in encryption and anonymity software. You may not be surprised to learn that some of the software used by hackers to keep themselves and their activities hidden online was funded in part by the U.S. Military itself, ehe same military that has found itself on the wrong end of Wikileaks information dumps on a few occasions.
‘This Machine Kills Secrets’ is a nice companion to ‘We are Anonymous’, and if you have read that book, you will find some of the same ground covered again here. They both contain a look inside the hacker subculture, but ‘This Machine’ goes further back into history, while ‘We are Anonymous’ focuses more on one particular group and their exploits.
Of course, the hacker world isn’t that much different from the real world. The book chronicles some of the infighting that has taken place in the Wikileaks/Openleaks communities over the years and some of the damage caused by that infighting. Private Bradley Manning, responsible for the leaked Iraq War material that made it on to Wikileaks, might have remained anonymous had he not bragged about his crime to the wrong person over Instant Messenger. This suggests that despite any technical advantages they may have over world authorities, they are still vulnerable to human nature.
I appreciate the fact that this is not just a U.S. centric book. The Internet truly is a global arena and this book will take you to Australia, Iceland, Germany and several other places in Europe. After reading ‘This Machine Kills Secrets’ and about some of the key people it profiles, you do detect a pattern in the way the people involved in the whistle blowing movement tend to think. They are united by certain core beliefs, but as I said above, they can be deeply divided by others, which makes it hard for them to present a truly centralized system for disseminating secret government, corporate or military information.


THE AUTHOR:

Andy Greenberg wrote about information and technology at ‘Forbes’ at the time of this book’s release. Now he writes about those same subjects for ‘Wired’. Greenberg obviously has a wealth of understanding concerning his subject but does his best to explain certain technical aspects of the story that might go over the heads of some readers.


THE NARRATION:

Chamberlain delivers a pretty straight performance. He doesn’t affect any accents for any of the international characters in the book, and other than that, there aren’t a lot of emotional scenes for him to have acted out.


THE PRODUCTION:

The download from Tantor.com contained 9 files. Each file was helpfully labeled with either the name of a part or chapter in the book. There are no music cues or other sound effects to be found anywhere on the track. The audio was clean and clear with no changes in volume level.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

It will be interesting to see how the war for secrecy plays out over the next few years. In the case of individuals, more and more people are sharing more and more of their personal information online through social media. But governments, the militaries of the world and large corporations aren’t likely to be any more transparent than in past histories.
I don’t believe that the future war will be over the secrets themselves as much as it will be over the machine. Just when it seems that hackers and whistle blowers develop one type of technology to stay hidden, someone else thinks of something to flush them out. Wikileaks may not have been permanently silenced by having their cash flow cut off, but it certainly did make a huge impact on the organization’s ability to earn capital. Money is still what makes the world go ’round, and unfortunately the secret keepers always seem to have more of it than groups like Cypherpunks and Wikileaks.
‘This Machine Kills Secrets’ covers all of the bases when it comes to the battle to “free” the world’s information. Everything from the history and motivations of some of the key players to the infighting that has splintered the movement and what might lie ahead in the future. This is a good read if you are one of those people, like myself, who finds the Internet and its true impact on the world a fascinating subject.


QUICK FACTS:

Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
This Macine Kills Secrets: How Wikileakers, Cypherpunks, and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World’s Information Andy Greenberg Mike Chamberlain Tantor Audio Science & Technology 09/17/2012 12 hours, 51 minutes 7.75/10

DISCLAIMER:

A copy of ‘THIS MACHINE KILLS SECRETS: HOW WIKILEAKERS, CYPHERPUNKS AND HACKTIVISTS AIM TO FREE THE WORLD’S INFORMATION’ was purchased from Tantor.com for review.

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