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This Machine Kills Secrets: How WikiLeakers, Cypherpunks, and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World's Informatio n Hardcover – September 13, 2012
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“Greenberg masterfully portrays a new reality. Radical transparency for firms and governments is not just a decision but a technological fact of life.”
—Don Tapscott, bestselling author of The Naked Corporation and, most recently, Macrowikinomics
“A must-read for those seeking to understand the decades-long struggle between openness and secrecy, anonymity and attribution—and why that might be the most important struggle of the modern era. Meticulously researched, Greenberg provides first-hand accounts of the eccentric pioneers who are coding around censorship, repression, and even traditional law. He also captures the relentless distributed nature of the movement that’s powering it all.”
—Daniel Suarez, New York Times bestselling author of Daemon and Kill Decision
“Andy Greenberg shows us why cryptography has to be the marrow of the Internet. People who have no technical knowledge along with those who live and breathe bytes will gain a new vision of an invisible army of characters….This book will be one of the most important books of the decade.”
—Birgitta Jonsdottir, Member of the Icelandic Parliament and Chairperson of the International Modern Media Institution
“This is the story of a revolution in societal transparency. It’s an expose of the characters who have put secrets in peril. For those that seek transparency, it’s riveting tale. For those who must keep secrets, be warned: This book holds up a mirror to your worst fears.”
—Hugh Thompson, founder and CEO of People Security, Adjunct Professor, Computer Science, Columbia University
“Greenberg’s vivid storytelling makes the forces that culminated in Wikileaks — the people, the politics, and especially the technology — come alive.”
—Bruce Schneier, author of Liars and Outliers and Applied Cryptography
“Andy Greenberg tells a vivid story that weaves together compelling characters and powerful technology that could change politics more profoundly than any technology since the printing press. By the time I was finished, I was both inspired and terrified.”
—David Bacon, IBM, Watson Research Center
“Points to a future in which few corporate and government secrets are safe. This is the book you must read to understand the WikiLeaks phenomenon and the growing struggle over the most sensitive institutional secrets.”
— Stephen Solomon, Director of the Business and Economic Reporting Program, New York University Carter School of Journalism
"Computer hackers haven’t been made into heroes like this since Stieg Larsson created Lisbeth Salander—and luckily Greenberg shares a bit of Larsson’s flair for suspense, too." — SLATE
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. — PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY
While lawmakers and law enforcers struggle with the philosophy and practicality of these issues, the people Greenberg profiles have made up their minds, and they are a few steps ahead. If you’re wondering who they are and why they feel so strongly, look no further than this book. — NEW SCIENTIST
“…fascinating and well-researched.” –WALL STREET JOURNAL
“Forbes magazine journalist Andy Greenberg takes readers on a terrific and revealing — if considerably unsettling — investigation into the shadowy war rooms behind our computer screens.” –CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER
"A globe trotting exploration into the heart of the contentious world of brilliant, eccentric and erratic game changers who have taken the tools at hand and turned them into powerful weapons that can — and have in some cases — altered the course of history…Greenberg went looking for a story and nailed it." — PAPER MAGAZINE
"A series of moving and deeply complex portraits… In all, Greenberg has created a seriously riveting read." — CAPITAL NEW YORK
Gripping…For all the technical detail (which Greenberg excels at explaining), this book is still about human feats and failings, idealism, trust and betrayal. — IRISH TIMES
About 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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First of all, let me just say that this is an excellent read. It moves along quickly, like a novel, and Greenberg discusses many of the basic technological capabilities that were invented directly or inspired by the Cypherpunks. It also gives little character portraits developed mainly by direct interaction Greenberg had with some of the key players. Greenberg describes meetings with John Young, Tim May, Julian Assange and others. And those who subscribed to the Cypherpunks mailing list will recognize the characters he has captured in book form: John Young is a (necessarily) paranoid characters who truly believes in freeing information, particularly information owned by the public. Tim May is a cranky old crank who is nonetheless brilliant and has egged on or conceived of many of the key inventions spawned by Cypherpunk thinking. Julian Assange is the self-proclaimed Cypherpunk messiah who is nevertheless hell-bent on exposing some of the worst abuses of both Governments and large corporations. In my opinion, Greenberg captures some aspects of the people without ignoring their contributions.
Where the book falls short of it's very high potential is in the last couple of chapters. Basically, Greenberg ends up spending a lot of time of the gossipy side of how Wikileaks came apart. While some coverage of this part of recent history is probably merited (and showing how Assange may have partly contributed to Wikileaks' loss of clout), Greenberg should have continued the main anti-authoritarian themes developed in the early chapters and discussed (for instance) BITCOIN. Whether Bitcoin itself survives or not isn't relevant, but Bitcoin emodies many Cypherpunkly ideals, including anonymous cash and a decentralized coining mechanism. As such, it is the first of what will certainly be a series of digital forms of cash. Greenberg should have maintained his focus on the core themes of the Cypherpunks and strong crypto and then looked towards the future and (possibly) discussed which of the themes may continue to proliferate (eg, Collapse of governments due to anonymous crypto payments? Probably unlikely. Forcing nation-states to come to terms with far higher forms of transparency? Increasingly likely.)
In my opinion this book is informative, fun-to-read, and even somewhat important. If Greenberg fixes the descent into Gossip in a second edition, then this book could become of lasting relevance.
As a layman, when it comes to understanding the technology of crypto systems, I found several rather lengthy sections in which the author tried to explain and describe the intricacies of those systems difficult to follow without slowing down and carefully analyzing the text. And these section were to me tedious at times.
Nevertheless, I feel I gain quite a bit of understanding about the challenges of keeping one's information secret and devising an unbreakable code.
Overall I found the book essential reading to keep up with what is happening in the online and non-online world. Enough so that I bought a copy for a friend who is taking computing courses in college. I felt he would be vitally interested in the content, given his college emphasis, and that he needs to know that content.
With books of this sort, which are really current history, accounts of "What's going on right now, with details," I always appreciate so conclusions on where all this secrecy verses "national security" tug-of-war is going. What are the implications for the future? And, there is some of that, but I would of liked to have read more along that line.
PS Now that I've finished the book completely, I'm beginning to wonder "How much is true?" "Is it disinformation?" "What is the author's real intention?" "Can I trust it?" "Can I believe it?" "Is the book meant for me to ask myself all these questions?" So, in the end, I can say I liked it. I read it quickly, couldn't get through it fast enough. It was gripping, Compelling. Worth-while reading. But given the subject matter, I have to wonder about all the rest. And so will YOU!
Most recent customer reviews
1. I read it completely from start to end
2. I found it exremely informative