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 Hacette Audio
So. Freaking. Awesome.
Kayla. I identify with he/she/its paranoia
Her voice was so subdued that I wonder if she narrated this book out of some sort of contract necessity. She has a habit of ending every sentence by dropping her vocal tone which causes vocal fry (growling). Which would be fine ... if it weren't Every. Freaking. Sentence.
Great book, worth looking past my gripes with the narration.
I am currently a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
I believe the content of this book should be graded on a curve: how does one adequately capture the development of an organization that defines itself by its lack of organization? How does one make sense of a so-called "hacktavist" group that does not have a specific political agenda? Lastly, how does one try to capture the meaning of a cyber movement that is still in its infancy?
Despite these issues, author Parmy Olson does an adequate job of giving a coherent account Anonymous, LulzSec and related cyber groups. She focuses on a few central key figures like "Sebu", "Topiary" and "Kayla" and tries to show how these figures reflect different sides of Anonymous. For example, Sebu represents the political-minded hacktavist side, Topiary represents the "lulz" side and Kayla the hard-core hacker side. I think this strategy was effective since it gives the reader the sense that while Anonymous, LulzSec, etc are frequently talked about as a single entity within the media the motivations of the people who identify with these group vary wildly.
I have two criticisms of this audiobook. The first regards the content. I thought the author at times went off into unnecessary tangents, introducing periphery figures that didn't add much to the book, or quoted chat logs for longer than was needed. My second criticism regards the narration. I don't know who's idea it was to have the narrator use different accents for each speaker because they were annoying and even distracting at certain points (Barret Brown's Texas accent immediately comes to mind). If I had to it over again, I would have bought a paper or e-book version rather than get the audiobook.
Family father, neuroscientist, and non-fiction addict.
The hacker network known as anonymous has become very influential and receives much publicity in the world today. Yet people in general know very little about how Anonymous is actually organized or how many people are active in the network.
In this book, author Parmy Olson, takes us backstage and tells the story of ~5 core members of this renowned hacker network. Jake a.k.a. “Topiary”, a social outcast teenager on the Shetlands, was for some time the voice of the hacker network. Kayla, a highly skilled hacker whose identity still appears uncertain. Sabu, a mexican immigrant living in the US… among others. The their shared belief that the internet should be entirely free brought these people together and through their combined expertise they managed quite a lot of havoc in the real world. Together they brought down web pages belonging to the Church of Scientology as well as the Tunisian government. Other than high profile hacks such as these the members also did multiple hacks on social network sites which are actually kind of horrific. The book also describes how the members were identified and ultimately arrested. Still as anyone who has seen the news lately knows, anonymous did not disappear with these arrests. A strength and a weakness of their organisation is their lack of… organisation... The members do not know each other personally, they do not have a leader or a chairman steering the boat and anyone can perform a hack in the name of anonymous and thus move the agenda of the organisation.
What this book does particularly well is to give you insight into how anonymous is organized (and how it is not organized). You will learn about the types of attacks that are typically employed by the network as well as how they protect their real identities (though they were ultimately unsuccessful). The reader of this book will also learn how to protect one's identity online and how not to get fooled by social hackers. All in all, it is a very good and informative book and well worth a read if you are at all interested in anonymous or hackers in general.
Old & fat, but strong; American, Chinese, & Indian (sort of); Ph.D. in C.S.; strategy, economics & stability theory; trees & machining.
Obviously when dealing with shadowy organizations (or anti-organizations) there are some limits to knowledge. The act of looking intently may change the situation, or acquiring deep insights of murky situations may take so long that the situation changes during the process, only becoming clear in retrospect. However, this book is about as accurate and as informative as is possible for a book about Anonymous. This is the primary reason to read it. It’s a good introduction; a reasonably balanced, reasonable acute reporting.
The important takeaways from this book seem to be: 1) that as a cyber-army Anonymous is shockingly low tech and 2) the corollary that as a society we are shockingly vulnerable to low tech attacks.
Anonymous is mostly a large group of board rowdy teenagers with nothing better to do, who meet up on sexually explicit and gore oriented bulletin boards, like 4chan or B, and from time to tie sally forth to experience a bit of mayhem. Sure they are a few elite security exports who may (or may not) be leading them (the whole question of leadership is controversial). But even the elite hackers within Anonymous are rather underwhelming, compared to other cyber-war or cybercrime groups, like author of the Conficker Worm, which was a team of world class professionals.
If you’re a believer in Anonymous as a cause this is probably reassuring (these are pretty ordinary people), if you’re not a believer this is the doubling unsettling. It reveals the extent to which IT professionals at your work, at companies you buy from, in the government, and behind the medical, financial, personal and computer services you must use in modern life, are not really trying to deal with computer security. It seems that they are not striving to fix the problems, but merely striving to put on a good show in the hopes of deflecting blame for the problem. That is, their goal is not security, but rather security theater. And the police are so out classed (with a few exceptions) that it’s like hiring a bunch of 12 year old girls as bouncers at a Megadeath concert (if you’re lucky they might avoid becoming victims themselves).
As a society we don’t seem to yet ready to do anything about this situation. Sure Anonymous terrorizes some innocent people, but they are mostly terrorizing each other, and they do some good. The problems seem tolerable. But history suggest that this unstable. Over time either someone will figure how to use Anonymous (or similar organizations) as their personal armies. This is roughly the way nearly all of history’s most evil megalomaniacs rose to power. Or Anonymous will gradually become more and more evil, corrupted from within by its own power.
The situation today is troubling, but far from dire. The scary bit is the trajectory; and it’s very dire.
At first, the book was too much like a novel for me - talking about people's inner feelings and such - which is by my preferred kind of book. It seemed to fiction-like. Even though, I think most people enjoy that. I got used to it and found that the author did a good job of conveying the IRC goings-on in an engaging way.
Now, the performance by the narrator....eh. I don't like to give negative reviews but man, she did not-so-great accents and read things in a way that seemed kind of cliché. I did consider returning the book but listened through because the book itself was good. I won't listen to this reader again though.
The story could have been condensed to about half the length. Lots of filler dialog that doesn't add to the narrative. The reading was focused on too much voice acting which distracts from the story.
This book provides a great perspective into the inner workings of Lulzsec and other Anonymous related groups. By charting a through line, Parmy paints a compelling narrative about subterfuge and power.
There are a few mistakes, however, though most are small. A good example of this is a mention of hacker Geohotz -- Parmy credits him with hacking the PS2, but in actuality he hacked the PS3. Little things like this betray the author's authority in tech and the related material, making the reader question their understanding of the mechanical aspects of their subjects.
That being said the book is narrated excellently and is for the most part an enlightening, well researched read.
Just sublime. Was hoping it would include The thwarting of Karl Rove attempting to steal the 2012 election for Romney. Oh well that's for a future book.
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