I just finished reading Andy Greenberg’s “THIS MACHINE KILLS SECRETS – How WIKILEAERS, CYPHERPUNKS, and HACTIVISTS aim to FREE the world’s INFORMATION”. Released in September 2012, this book attempts to document the history and ongoing story of the people and technology behind the world-wide leaker/hactivist movement. Greenberg has done a superb job here. I started working with computers in 1980 and I have lived through nearly all the years recounted in this book, yet I came away with a vastly improved understanding of this multifaceted movement and the political and technical issues surrounding it.
Logically, Greenberg begins with the epic leak of the Pentagon papers. He then moves on to illustrate how the leaker movement merged with the paranoid, the hackers, the cypherpunks and others to develop encryption and privacy technology that is now used by millions around the world. This isn’t a story just for the technologist however. Greenberg brings to life the many colorful personalities and conflicts that make the story read like a novel as opposed to a textbook. In the book you will learn about characters like Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Daniel Ellsberg, Phil Zimmerman, Jacob Applebaum, Jim Bell, John Young and a whole host of others you’ve likely never heard of before. All of them, and countless other unnamed and or pseudo-named persons have contributed to a technology base that can be used to protect personal privacy and anonymity, yet in the hands of a leaker, be used to expose the deepest secrets of the most powerful corporations and governments on the planet.
The most important reason to read this book is because this story is still being written and it affects all of us! The leakers, cypherpunks and hactivists just happen to be on the front lines of civilizations struggle to find the correct balance between the privacy, anonymity, openness and accountability. While some might detest the leaks and the leakers, we all know that without them government power and corporate greed can quickly run into foul territory. Indeed, it is the leaker that history often judges the patriot and the powerful secret keepers the oppressors. So, the next time you’re shopping on a secure link or browsing the web anonymously with Tor take a moment to say thanks to all the wikileakers, cypherpunks and hactivists out there who are hard at work making life better for you and more difficult for big brother! Enjoy the book!