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

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  738 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
At last, the first full account of the cypherpunks who aim to free the world's institutional secrets, by "Forbes "journalist Andy Greenberg who has traced their shadow history from the cryptography revolution of the 1970s to Wikileaks founding hacker Julian Assange, Anonymous, and beyond.
The machine that kills secrets is a powerful cryptographic code that hides the identi
ebook, 384 pages
Published September 1st 2012 by Dutton Books
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Gary Greenberg
Jul 02, 2012 Gary Greenberg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Because I know the author, I've read the book nearly through twice. As enjoyable as it was in the beginning biographies, I was delighted that the last 10% of the story gets MUCH more dramatic & compelling.

Despite the accurate & journalistic tone, Greenberg managed to gracefully incorporate foreshadowing & dark irony at the book's end. He deliberately shows that secrecy is even destructive to organizations dedicated to abolish it (when they insist on living in anonymity & deep sec
Clare O'Beara
This book was published in 2012 but still feels up to date in 2016. Andy Greenberg has created a masterful work of both journalism and storytelling. I found the book a complete pleasure to read.

The early part describes Ellsberg, the most prolific state leaker of the Kissinger era, who had to spend over a year bringing papers out of his office, photocopying them, returning them and removing sensitive details in the copies before parting with them. This is contrasted with the presumed copying and
Dec 03, 2012 Joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He had me at "lattice-based homomorphic cryptography." While this book exists because its author to a chance to interview Julian Assange just before he became a figure of international notoriety, it is not really a history of Wikileaks. Instead, it's looking at the relationship between anonymity and the exposure of sensitive information, an issue that has a surprisingly rich and fraught history in the technology world. When Greenberg first launches into an explanation of the math behind various ...more
Feb 02, 2013 VaultOfBooks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By Andy Greenberg. Grade: B+

WHAT IS THE MACHINE THAT KILLS SECRETS? WikiLeaks brought to light a new form of whistle-blowing, using powerful cryptographic code to hide leakers’ identities while they spill the private data of government agencies and corporations. But that 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 Wik
Feb 26, 2013 Parker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First thing out the gate: I'm not expert enough to comment on all of the facts presented in this book, and it's possible that some have been indulged or stretched a bit. It's well cited, and Greenberg's a good journalist, but you never know.

That said, this was one of the best paced and most exciting tech journalism books I remember reading. It really recalls the seminal Steven Levy stuff, like "Hackers" and "Crypto," but working with characters that many people will recognize from the news. (Or
Sep 26, 2012 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Suspenseful, inspiring, humorous, and overall just a fantastic job of journalistic storytelling. I started quite a few books related to questions of democracy and technology, and specifically hacker culture, all at the same time, and this one is easily the best. Greenberg takes technological and political issues of great complexity - not to mention delicate personal relationships, such as that between Julian Assange and former Wikileaks staffers - and provides the perfect amount of context, expl ...more
Jun 23, 2012 Justin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
Andy gives us a behind the scenes look at the implosion of wikileaks and the intriguing history of leaks and whistle-blowers. A must read for anyone interested in the darker side of the internet and how it can be used to spread transparency and chaos.
Ben Babcock
I read this book on my flight back to England (the second one, since I missed the first one by that much). The plane is one of those newer models that has entertainment units in the back of every seat, and to my surprise they had different movies on offer from those available when I flew back to Canada a few weeks ago. One of those movies was The Fifth Estate, which also tells the story of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. So this review will also be a bit of a review of that movie. But I’ll save yo ...more
Greenberg creates a series of intriguing character sketches which converge at various points throughout modern hacker history. This character-based approach to telling this very timely narrative is what makes it rich and engaging, and makes the current debate about the ethics of leaking so humanly complex. If you start this book ambivalent about how you feel about organizations like Wikileaks and Anonymous, this isn't likely to clarify anything for you. But it will reveal the many layers of mora ...more
Христо Блажев
Свобода, повече свобода, отколкото можем да понесем:
“Уикилийкс – машината, която убива тайни” е за света на освободената информация това, което е “Големият залог” на Майкъл Луис за кризата – книга за хората, не просто описание на задвижените и видимо невъзможните за спиране процеси. Анди Грийнбърг е талантлив публицист, който успява да движи паралелно действие за живота и активността на хора от различни точки на света, а понякога от съвсем различни времен
Mar 24, 2013 Kat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truly fantastic book by a thorough, careful and yet non-boring journalist who also happens to be a consummate storyteller. The absolutely spiffing quality of the editing on top of Greenberg's lively and inventive use of language makes it a good read even separate from the subject matter, but when you have even a passing interest in the themes of privacy, governmental transparency, institutionalised secret-keeping, anonymity, intellectual property or Internet security, this book is one you simply ...more
Greg Parrott
Interesting journalism piece on the history of WikiLeaks and the technologies around anonymous whistle-blowing in the technology age.
Feb 11, 2017 Kendra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Solidly researched. Densely written. Occasionally way, way too blithely male. As in, the author didn't have to include some of those lines about women, or at least he could have framed them in such a way as to highlight the still-rampant sexism running through the digital sphere...and the publishing industry.
Kimberly Eyre
Not as enjoyable to read as the Dark Net, but very informative.

My notes, some of which is not directly quoted from the text.

Black Hats - hackers who engage in usually illegal tactics of intrusion or destructive hacking.

Communications Protocol - is a system of rules that allow two or more entities of a communications system to transmit information via any kind of variation of a physical quantity. These are the rules or standard that defines the syntax, semantics and synchronization of communic
May 18, 2014 Xing rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had loosely followed news media reports of the tornado surrounding WikiLeaks and its exposés. My main questions were: 1. WikiLeaks was allegedly run by a multi-member organisation. So why was Julian Assange being specifically targeted by the US government, when there were others involved? 2. Why had WikiLeaks decided to release unredacted State Department Cables, when it was obvious that the backlash would be severe and uncompromising? I watched the movie, The Fifth Estate, which answered the ...more
Jan 15, 2016 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 22, 2014 Walt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at the rise and fall of WikiLeaks and its copycats. The covers a lot more than just WikiLeaks. It also is about disclosing secrets since Daniel Ellsberg in the 1970s. But the pivot is WikiLeaks. Greenberg has an exceptional writing style that makes a complicated subject more accessible to lay audiences. His focus is on people rather than technology. Consequently, the book reads more like a series of biographies that eventually interconnect. The result is informative.

Charlene Lewis- Estornell
This journalistic style book takes an in-depth look at the secrets that the government keeps and the people who have tried to uncover and spill those secrets to the rest of the world. From Daniel Ellsberg who told the public about questionable practices and motives associated with the Vietnam war to the relationship forged by Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning and Julian Assange that brought about Wikileaks, to the birth of Anonymous-- these pages are filled with power struggles, good intentions gone ...more
Dec 22, 2013 Coyle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Despite the jacket blurb’s claim that This Machine Kills Secrets is the “story of a revolution dramatized in the movie The Fifth Estate,” it in fact offers a more expansive history of the technological side of the American quest for government transparency and accountability, including introductions to the major players in that quest. Far more is covered than Julian Assange and WikiLeaks; the book begins with Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s and ends with an afterword about ...more
Oct 05, 2012 Denise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My review from Woodridge Book Talk.

“This machine kills secrets” is a riff on Woody Guthrie’s slogan “this machine kills fascists.” Greenberg lays out how cryptography and anonymity are the machine that can help people leak secrets that those in power don’t want the public to know. The best example of this idea is Wikileaks where thousands of classified documents were posted for public consumption. Greenberg goes back to Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers where the leaking technology was not
David Roberts
Jun 07, 2014 David Roberts rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book I read to research this post was This Machine Kills Secrets which is one of the best books I have read connected to computing and which I bought from a local bookstore. This book is about the emergence of websites like Wikileaks and how hackers and cypherpunks have released lots of secret information into the public domain. Even the Russian Mafia haven't been safe from these disclosures which have been on a worldwide scale. Julian Assange one of the founders of Wikileaks is one of the b ...more
Can I even count that I read this book? I admit that I am feeling a little obsessed with reading as many books as I possibly can, especially these audio books on my ipod from Jerren, which I attempt to pay attention to while doing lots of brainless tasks at work. Hearing so much about computer encryption and technology was often above me and my mind would drift away. There was a lot of information about the relationships between the hackers and hacktivists, their life stories and why they were d ...more
Jan 15, 2013 Marty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This was a fascinating look at the personalities and social forces that brought us wikileaks and its various imitators. Through extensive interviews and close readings of archived chat logs, Greenberg reveals a transcontinental sub-culture of cypers and hactivists – many with troubled childhoods -- who have built the essential architecture for a self-replicating system of anonymous leak portals, and in so doing have called into question the very idea of institutional secrecy.

How did a rag-tag gr
Jan 03, 2015 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Short review: ignore the movie, read the book.

Longer review: This book really benefits from the author’s personal travels and one-on-one interviews with the multi-generational cast of characters involved (and the 20-plus-person descriptive list, at the beginning of the book, definitely aids in keeping track while reading). Greenberg obviously did a ton of research in order to write this overview of politically-informed cryptography and whistleblowing, covering the 1970s onward, and managed to ma
Jan 30, 2013 Maria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Greenberg starts out this entertaining read with a comparison of two whistleblowers: Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, and Bradley Manning, who leaked the State Department cables. He then moves on to compare and contrast various cryptographers, cypherpunks, and hackers whose anti-authoritarian goal has been to increase individual privacy on the Internet while at the same time exposing the secrets of governments and businesses, particularly those governments who claim to be democra ...more
Jul 17, 2013 Greg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Andy Greenberg is a world-class reporter and weaves a very engaging story that has deep implications for world society. The book tells the story of the cypher-punks who code the encryption and anonymity software that enables internet and computer network users to operate without connection or access to their real life personas. Whether this involves illegal markets, pirating media, malicious hacking or idealistic leaking, Greenberg examines the reasoning behind the tools and the reasoning behind ...more
Jud Barry
Feb 22, 2013 Jud Barry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book expecting to be defeated by techno-geek speak, but Greenberg had me riveted from the very start with his parallel retelling, in the first chapter, of Daniel Ellsberg's leaking of the Pentagon Papers and Bradley Manning's leak of State Dept. memos. The device works very well to show how much has changed in the world of institutional secrecy since the Internet came along.

To me the best part of the story is about the infancy of the Internet (it seems so long ago) and about how
Saifuddin Salim
Feb 01, 2016 Saifuddin Salim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is pretty a meaty book about information leaking. The book tells the story of the information leaking from the early days of leaking till the wikileaks era with such unbiased and clarity. The book tried to cut different section of the story in the chapter into parts that stagger with another story hence each chapter have 2 story that inter-fold in different era or timeline, that sometimes make me confused especially the early 2 chapter as there were no indication of timeline as to know which ...more
Wow! Just wow! What a book! Why the hell have I been reading fictional books? You mean there are people who do Hollywood kind of stuff in real life? What happened next? Where are they now? How long would it have taken to leak the 2.6TB of data contained in the Panama papers using 1960 technology? Just what am I willing to go through for a cause that I believe in? These are some of the nagging questions that I asked myself as I went through this nonfictional thriller. Believe me, I was entertaine ...more
Andrew Obrigewitsch
This book is 2.5 stars. It has a lot of very interesting information in it. But the author didn't do a good job at fact checking and took any things at what the hackers told him. Unfortunately there are two sides to every story.

While I think that posting leaked documents that show corrupt officials being criminal is quite valuable. There is another side to the hacker culture that is very destructive, and that is the side that doesn't respect copy write laws. I have friends that are musicians or
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ANDY GREENBERG is a staff writer for Forbes magazine, focusing on technology. He lives in New York City. His story on Julian Assange, based on one of only two extensive interviews Assange had given at the time, was on the cover of Forbes in the summer of 2010.
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