This is a highly readable account of a modern revolution, a story about people, technology and the evolution of a rebellion. I've studied revolutions, including the French, Russian, Chinese and Cuban revoultions, and this fits right into the mould of how such a movement is born and grows.
Trotsky would recognise the pattern, as we move from the first stirrings of anarchy, through the development of a common purpose and shared philosophy, to the formation of a secret cell of aggressive agents, leading to a crescendo of success that proves too momentous and ultimately leads to fatal splits in the core team.
Here the guiding philosophy is nothing more than "lulz" - slang for a great laugh at someone else's expense. In the hands of one hacker, a malicious prank may ensue. But when a raucous website gains a large and devoted following, the anonymous mob of hackers and slackers becomes "the hivemind" - a ravenous and merciless horde that can rip its prey to pieces over the web.
The story is fascinating, horrifying and funny, deeply delving into chatrooms and the personalities who find themselves at the forefront of the revolution. The reality of hactivism turns out to have been much more human and less coordinated than it appeared at the time, with many, perhaps all, of the characters really failing to grasp the seriousness of their actions until it ws too late.
I raced through this book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the bits of the internet that are much talked about but little explained, the phenomena that are blared out by news headlines but rarely shown in detail.
My only caveat is that this book, so accessible now to anyone who is even half up to speed with the internet, may be inaccessible in 10 years as the jargon moves on, and current concepts become ancient history. So read it now and expand your world. Do it for the lulz.
on 23 September 2013
Before I begin this review I think it is important to note that cyber-crime and the internet underworld is something that I have always found fascinating and I have a reasonable amount of technical knowledge. This book may not be for everyone.
I loved reading this e-book, I (excuse the cliche) couldn't put it down. It is well-written, well-paced, well-researched and well-explained where necessary providing you know your ISP from your URL. This is not a book for technophobes but then I do not think it would be one to hold their interest in the first place. The "characters" all of whom are real-life people and their multiple online personas and identities are well (I am lead to believe) accurately rendered. I found it remarkable how close I had in fact come to some of the activities taking place within the book and could perhaps have found myself in a similar situation had I taken a different path.
The tension that builds throughout the book is palpable despite the fact that deep in your heart (if you aren't already familiar with the story) you know where things will inevitably lead.
I would whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone with an interest of the "recent" history of the internet especially some of its seedier climes.
I only wish there could be a sequel (but that would mean wishing calamity on the lives of numerous individuals and I am not quite that sadistic)
on 18 August 2015
I found this book interesting. Without being hysterical or engaging in moral panic, this book introduces some of the more notorious and talented people involved in Anonymous at the time. It treats both the hackers and their victims with even handedness. On the one hand It highlights the complacency of the cyber industries, the absolute paranoid over reaction of some law enforcement agencies and a gleeful press while on the other hand treating the people involved in cyber mischief as human beings with feelings of their own. This is the strength of this book. Those involved are people not perpetrators. The book does not condone or minimise the damage done by internet imps but it does explain what they do and why they do it in real terms. It lack of hysteria or moral judgement takes the heat out of a vexing issue and allows for real contemplation of what is going on and why. Victim stories are told with truth and honesty. The cyber bully is not let off the hook. It does get a bit hard to keep track of the threads at times because of the vastness of the subject but II would recommend this book as a good introduction to cyber bullying, crime and the cyber imps who are at times adorable and horrible at the same moment, just like real people. It goes behind and beyond the typical rabble rousing press.
on 4 September 2013
Interesting look at the early days of Anonymous, and how it evolved from a message board called 4Chan, to the hive mind that we are familiar with today. Also gives a lot of background history on the founders of Lulzsec, one of the spin-offs from the movement and an analysis of the characters involved. Must read for those wishing to gain an understanding of the history and development of Anonymous and Lulzsec/Antisec.
In this book the author tracks the rise and fall of Anonymous, from its emergence from an anarchic web-based message board called 4Chan, through several spin-offs where members moved on from the original aims of creating spoofs and hacking the websites and databases of perceived ‘bad guys’, such as bankers and the Church of Scientology, just for ‘lulz’ – internet slang for a great laugh at some else’s expense – to more serious actions against sites of law enforcement agencies, national tax and health service records, and others, undertaken in the main just because they knew they had the skills to do so. This proved to be a huge mistake and a slippery slope that eventually led to jail and financial penalties for most of the prime movers. The whole movement has been described as a revolution, and it did have some aspects of this: starting with legitimate protest, leading to actions which were largely altruistic, with a common purpose; followed by divergences among its membership about the best course of action to pursue; then the formation of splinter groups turning viciously on one another; and ultimately the inevitable betrayals and collapse of the entire enterprise. The dark net may be the Wild West of the Internet, but the Anonymous world of hackers is up there with it.
The story is both fascinating and repellant. It is told in great detail and is clearly based on extensive research, face-to-face interviews etc. that give it a ring of authenticity. The author makes no attempt to take sides and make moral judgments, but simply reports the story factually. One might argue that it is too detailed and that there is much that may not be of interest to anyone not a regular internet user, and this may well be true. But without the detail it would be difficult to understand the many characters and their actions. How is it that so many young men (and they were mostly male), often teenagers, were attracted to an activity the goal of which quickly degenerated to become one of destruction, without any thought to the potential damage inflicted on both organisations and individuals. The author does address this question at the end of the book, but can offer only the usual answers about disaffected youth seeking an outlet to dispel boredom and the make their lives more interesting.
The prime movers in the movement had a deplorable lack of ethical standards. This is illustrated by their manipulation of vulnerable individuals just to humiliate them. More importantly, numerous naïve young people were encouraged to take part in illegal mass cyber attacks by assurances that they could never be caught because their identities were safe, when this could never be guaranteed and the potential penalties if caught could be very severe. Some are facing 10-year jail sentences and claims of hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the end of the book, one hacker ruefully admits that the police were often smarter than they were.
The book is well worth reading and could be recommended to many groups of people, all the way from those responsible for keeping national and private data secure, to those who might themselves be contemplating undertaking hacking.
on 8 January 2015
A really good read and an engaging book. Eye opening without being too techie and gives a very good overview of anonymous, the cliques and the darker under Belly that is around us all the time in the modern world.
A great perspective on what is really going on, bored kids and smart social engineers, manipulation, hive and mob mentality, going further into whether the laws and punishments really fit the crime.
A great intro to the world I want to know more about, not so much for myself, as for me to understand it better to share with my children, who face many challenges in the age of trolling, cyber bullying and just life 'online' in general.
Read it, you'll be stimulated and probably perturbed but that's a good thing, you need to know!
on 26 April 2015
This book is simply a brilliant exposition of the Anonymous phenomenon, by someone who had the inside track. It's fast-paced, well-written, and un-putdownable. And it conveys a deep understanding of the intricacies of the subject matter and the complexities of the various moralities within Anonymous. Highly recommended.
on 20 November 2014
Great book, and told in a very engaging manner. Parmy Olson has clearly done her research and writes with authority and provides a great deal of insight into the inner world of Anonymous and Lulzsec. What I really liked is that the author made this a story about the people, and essentially made it their story. This is a book about real people, who for a while were, literally, anonymous. Highly recommended.
on 20 February 2015
Great book providing a good insight into some of the characters in Anonymous. Well written and easy to understand it highlights some glaring issues in cybersecurity without scaremongering. Excellent.
on 6 April 2015
Everything happened as expected