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

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  919 ratings  ·  124 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 shadowy history from the cryptography revolution of the 1970s to Wikileaks founding hacker Julian Assange, Anonymous, and beyond.

WikiLeaks brought to light a new form of whistleblowing, using powerful cryptographic
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Dutton Adult (first published September 2012)
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4.02  · 
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 ·  919 ratings  ·  124 reviews

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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
Gary Greenberg
Jul 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Riveting journalistic story-telling into the history of cyber whistleblowing up to Assange's house arrest (2012).

The Good:
--5/5 writing style for the general public, approaching Matt Taibbi levels; the narrations in parallel was quite an enjoyable format and offered interesting comparisons.
--Delightful mix of history and intros to technical bits: Ellsberg/Pentagon Papers, Manning leak, encryption, private/public keys, mix network, cypherpunks, Tor (The Onion Router), Cablegate, Aaron Barr vs. A
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a comprehensive overview of the unauthorized (and often illegal) sharing and obtaining of information, with subjects ranging from Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers to the cypherpunks and crypto-anarchists of the incipient Internet to the rise and fall of WikiLeaks to Chelsea Manning's release of classified U.S. government information. In a journalistic style, Greenberg depicts both technical and ethical aspects of a decades-long debate over cryptography, government, and whistleblowin ...more
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it
A compelling look at the numerous different methods used to allow for people to anonymously release information. Got lost in all the details at times, but overall an interesting read.
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Interesting journalism piece on the history of WikiLeaks and the technologies around anonymous whistle-blowing in the technology age.
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting read, and now I'm sure I'm on some list somewhere for even saying I read this book, but then I was probably already on the list a other reasons. ;-)
As for the book, it was an interesting overview to the people who took Wiki Leaks from a fledgling website that no one heard during it s early years, to one that gets mentioned in the national/global press about once a month. Well, at least it use to get mentioned about once a month, these days its about once a quarter.
This book takes the
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A compelling narrative composed of succinct bios of the key actors in the cypherpunks movement attentive to their particular ethical dispositions on institutions of authority, privacy, and citizens’ rights - leaks dating from the release of the Pentagon Papers to Wikileaks’ Cablegate, and a brief mention of the (then) recent Snowden leaks in the book’s Afterword.

Although spying only a peek into this pervasive problem of privacy in the unavoidable Webs that are essential to the infrastructure of
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book started out extremely promising. It talked about Leakers, how leaks happen, and the hurdles to leaking. It breifly went over how much easier Bradley Manning leaked his trove of documents compared to Daniel Ellsberg, and the troubles that both of them faced. However, this book took a turn for the worst when it started talking about Julian Assange. The book put too much focus on him and very quickly got caught up in the nuances of WikiLeaks and the drama it faced. The book became very te ...more
Maha El Meseery
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
It describe the world of how WikiLeaks and the internet anonymity movement started. I found it informative with good narrative. It tells the story of Cypherpunks, hack geeks and how PGP, tor idea came to live. The ideas of several individual and their obsession with privacy, anonymity, and non censorship. What are the main idea about mixer algorithms to hide traffic and the multiple layer of encryption that Tor use. The story then move to Wikileak earlier days and Julian Assange early life. Late ...more
Dec 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm giving this book 3 stars because it's sorely in need of an updated afterward. The story and characters are all super interesting and it definitely gives some great insights into the cypherpunk movement and the motivations of the people around WikiLeaks. Unfortunately, the book was written pre-Snowden and an extra chapter detailing the fallout from his leaks and what's happened with the leaking community/environment in general over the past 5 years would have been really helpful. As the book ...more
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
If you want to know what the deal with hacktivists and how cyber security intersect then this is your book. The author goes into a mini biography about some of the most famous hacktivists, such as Julian Assange, and explains what they could do and why they do it. Even though this information is a little dated now it's still good to know stuff.
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
It had some interesting parts, but the irritating cadence of the audiobook reader, the overly-technical descriptions in some places, and the libertarian viewpoints of the hackers left me mostly underwhelmed.
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
i listened to in audio podcast. And it is hard to get through in audio because of all the tangents but it is masterfully written. great story telling. Lots of detail information. Simply explained even for non technological readers.
Avery N
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-rules
Fascinating and very readable. The world of computer science, cybersecurity, and leaks/hacking is brand new to me, but Greenberg does a phenomenal job of explaining things and putting them in context.
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, I loved this book. It pulled together many of the stories I already knew about Wikileaks, cypherpunks and Anonymous into a one cohesive tale about the paradox of anonymity as a prerequisite for transparency : ‘ man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he’ll tell you the truth’ (that’s an Oscar Wilde quote, used in the book, that so aptly captures much its essence).
Another favorite quote, by Joe Lieberman, re government overreaction to the threat of leaking:
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
Xing Chen
May 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 22, 2014 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.

Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 22, 2013 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 rated it it was amazing
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
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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.
“Vietnam had never been a true civil war. It was a war of conquest, initiated and perpetuated for more than two decades by the United States, fueled by presidential secrecy and lies. It was no catastrophic accident. As Ellsberg wrote, it was simply “a crime.” 0 likes
“The barriers to modern megaleakers like Manning have crumbled: They needn’t spend a year photocopying. They needn’t be Eagle Scouts or war heroes who penetrate the government’s most elite layer only to go rogue—just one of the millions of Americans with access to secret government documents or the many, many uncountable millions more with access to secret corporate information. And perhaps most important, they needn’t risk reprisal by exposing their identities to the journalists they hope will amplify their whistleblowing.” 0 likes
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