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Cult of the Dead Cow: How the Original Hacking Supergroup Might Just Save the World

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  463 ratings  ·  73 reviews
The fast-paced, riveting story of the hacking collective that turned security technology into a force for good and is fighting back against corporations and countries that are going after our privacy, freedom and even our democracy itself.

Cult of the Dead Cow is the story of the oldest, most respected and most famous American hacking group of all time. Its members
Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by PublicAffairs
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E Vikander I have read the book and can say that there is very little in it about Beto. He is one of many CDC members mentioned.

There are many reasons to read…more
I have read the book and can say that there is very little in it about Beto. He is one of many CDC members mentioned.

There are many reasons to read this book, but if anyone buys it for this they will be greatly disappointed.(less)
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Start your review of Cult of the Dead Cow: How the Original Hacking Supergroup Might Just Save the World
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, netgalley
From exposing security issues during the early days of the Internet to quashing modern-day political misinformation, one group of hackers has been through it all: Cult of the Dead Cow. By latching onto their own branch of “hacktivism”, this group has morphed from an eclectic group of enthusiasts to a movement intent on fighting for greater online security.

Journalist Joseph Menn has pulled together perhaps the most encompassing looks at one the longest-serving hacker collectives. This in and of

Cult of the Dead Cow is the facetious name of an early group of hackers (white hat) that began as a computer bulletin board (BBS). Consisting originally of bored but talented teenagers who enjoyed reverse engineering phone systems and early computer software, they evolved into "hactivists" (hackers with a mission), many of whom went on the become influential and and important members of the establishment.

Menn follows the individual careers of cDc members who initially focused on security flaws
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Working in computer science and security, I'm always interested to hear some of the history that built up the industry I'm involved in. I was provided a copy of Cult of the Dead Cow by Joseph Menn by NetGalley and Perseus Books for review.

The book is a really great deep dive history of the hacker collected Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc) which has recently come back into focus with the presidential campaign of cDc member Beto O'Rourke. The coverage of the foundation and growth of cDc is truly in
Scott  Hitchcock
Disclaimer: I work in tech so this may be more interesting to me but if you want a really good view at how companies have avoided security in lieu of profit this is the history of the internet. Hackers often viewed as evil really spawned a lot of the improved security we are seeing today.
Sebastian Gebski
I was waiting for this book, not because recent career of R. O'Rourke , but because I remember CDC from the ol' good times ;P I've used BO & BO2k and I wanted to learn more about the group.

Unfortunately, I didn't.

There's very little revealed, clearly the group has kept its integrity & 95% of meaty facts are still kept very private. Contrary to my fears, this is not a panegyric ode to RO'R (which is covered rather briefly, but very positively), but there's almost no content in it :(
Rick Howard
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: csc-hacktivism
“The more powerful machines become, the sharper human ethics have to be. If the combination of mindless, profit-seeking algorithms, dedicated geopolitical adversaries, and corrupt US opportunists over the past few years have taught us anything, it is that serious applied thinking is a form of critical infrastructure. The best hackers are masters of applied thinking, and we cannot afford to ignore them. Likewise, they should not ignore us. We need more good in the world. If it can’t be lawful, ...more
Aug 31, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
CDC has reoriented themselves around kowtowing to the establishment national security apparatus, and has uncritically adopted requisite client worldview. This book is their official coming out party. China: bad. Russia: bad. Assange: bad. Snowden: bad. NSA: good. CIA: Good. Politicians who are bland centrist ciphers like Beto O'rourke: good. They've done this not to "make the world safe for democracy," but to line their pockets with the lucre that comes with peddling the snake oil security ...more
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating, in-depth analysis of the social groups of hackers who would go on to shape the field of cybersecurity and influence major tech companies. This book explores the ethical considerations of technology, as well issues of cybersecurity that frequently appear in today's news stories. Above all, it's a gripping and informative read on a field that is often portrayed as too technical for the average person to understand: Joseph Menn has done a fantastic job with the reporting in this ...more
Tom Kranz
Aug 19, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Inaccurate, poor pacing, and confused timelines and explanations. Mixed up the l0pht and CDC, glossed over some pretty major events and characters.
This isn't an accurate history, it's a story, and not a particular good one.
Overall this felt like a weak cash-in/tie-in of Beto O'Rourke's political ambitions.
You're much better off reading Bruce Sterling's "The Hacker Crackdown", which is more accurate, has better pacing and explanations, and is an infinitely better read.
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is not a book for everyone.

The topic is very interesting and author is more then capable to write about it but this is incredibly dense book. I am a big non fiction fan. The facts and good research are very important to me, but here I had a feeling as if I was reading a collection of bullet points in PowerPoint presentation. The amount of information that author complied in just one page without giving a reader moment to digest was overwhelming and made reading a struggle. There was no
Tadas Talaikis
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, activism
"Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for. I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto." Mentor's Last Words

"It was a time of moral reckoning. People realized the power that they had." MUCH @STAKE: THE BAND OF HACKERS THAT DEFINED AN ERA
Tom Lawrence
I found it engaging and interesting discussing the history of the group that I found very interesting when I was first starting my career in technology. Back in the 90's I attended a few 2600 meeting and the Cult of the Dead Cow and the "Back Orifice" tool was a frequent topic. Learning more about the background and the stories behind this group brought back some great memories about the early era of hacking.
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great history! Some I was there for (early DefCons and CDC launches), most not, but all rung true of that special time and place where we were all learning. Thank you for capturing this slice of awesome, before we forgot.
Jul 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was cool to learn about the CDC and their days on top during the NT/XP era. Through Back Orifice they were crucial toward Microsoft getting their stuff together an giving a damn about security. I appreciate their efforts.

I could have done without the political bias and Trump-bashing.
David Hixson
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a history of computer activism this was pretty good. The cDc was not the focus, so much as the through-line onto which the rest of the information was placed, but it worked out pretty well.

Nothing revolutionary, and at times it felt Homeric in terms of the listing of names and events, but it worked for the story the author wanted to share.
Eric Durant
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5. Great historic review of computer and information security from ~1970 through today, centered around the Cult of the Dead Cow with a focus on the actors and their principles. The early parts informed and entertained, and the end covering the last decade or so was outstanding, although the center part was a digressive slog. There are incisive insights and deep reporting here on what led to Beto O'Rourke's rise, Russian government tampering in US elections, and the security and privacy ...more
Ben Rothke
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s 2019 and there still has not been a movie made about hackers, that is historically accurate and demonstrative of what hackers truly do. Should someone make 'Cult of the Dead Cow: How the Original Hacking Supergroup Might Just Save the World'into a movie, and stay true to the story, it would make a most compelling, and possibly Oscar nominated movie.

Written by investigative reporter Joseph Menn, this is his follow-up to Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who are Bringing
Jun 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Cult of the Dead Cow (CDC), which originated in Lubbock, Texas during the late '80s, is one of the most influential hacker groups in the world. Long before the internet was accessible to most people, CDC, numerous other groups, and people were chatting and trading information, including completely dubious how-to files and illegal software, on computer bulletin board systems. The bulletin boards were pure anarchy and that chaos spilled out into the real world. It was good times.

Meen's book tells
Joel Bastos
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The rise of infosec, hacktivism and internet's first hackers.

This book made me reminisce about the time when the internet was not a commodity. So much so, I remember buying a second-hand PCMCIA card with a Prism chipset to ensure I could get kismet/aircrack running and capture some juicy IVs while wardriving with friends (for educational purposes, obviously).

The Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc) is one of the first hacker groups. A water hole of talent, in its ranks we can find some resounding names as
Justin Conder
Imagine for a moment reading a biography of Anakin Skywalker. Many of his early adventures helping people, and sometimes bending the rules to do so, are praised. But around the middle part of the story things get blurry. The author refers to a vague dark period in Anakin's life, mentions his severe physical impairments, touts his accomplishments in assisting with the construction of an enormous peace-keeping machine, and briskly concludes on how Anakin gave his life to destroy the evil Emperor ...more
Andrew Waite
The subject(s) of the book are fascinating, even as someone who works in the industry cDc helped establish there were still plenty of connections and ties between the protagonists that I wasn’t wholly aware of. Despite knowing of most of the personalities discussed, and in some cases having had short discussions online in various forms.

Of course, when you’re dealing with a secret group who until this point did not announce their real identities, or association with the group should not be
Jul 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the early BBS days it wasn't always easy to find like-minded individuals; and even if you could they were probably located all over the country, resulting in hideous long-distance bills unless you knew a trick or two.

The Cult of the Dead Cow was mainly a group of grey hat hackers who were pushing for any security at all on computers. Computer companies mainly ignored the notion that there should be any security at all on their machines, failing to face realities that still exist today.

Aleksandar Erkalovic
I consumed cDc texts while I was a teenager and I very much enjoyed first 2/3 of the book. It does not go much into the details sometimes but it does give very nice overview of the group. I liked it.

Last 1/3 is very political and the kind you would very much love if you were over-privileged white American who reads Huffington Post. In that case you would really love this book!

*Spoiler alert* In my case, when you are not American, you get kind of bored that book puts The Empire and it's
E Vikander
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Technology is deciding the fate of the world, and we are everywhere in its chains,” begins Menn’s story of the infamous Cult of the Dead Cow. Menn traces the evolution of this group, weaving a story about the strength of ideas and their profound impact on the cyber technology that we use today. It is immensely gratifying to learn of the many successes CDC’s members achieved. These are people who exemplify the value of critical thinking, the value of ideas, and the value of friendship in the ...more
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
High level review: The author is clearly a great researcher but really didn’t execute well on pulling it all together into something that was fluid and engaging.

Interesting history and collection of information about overall evolution of hackers and hacker culture, but the book sinks as it is weighted down by detailed minutiae / factual documentation. I don’t need to know the exact date and time of a every small hangout that happened in the 80s. At times this reads like a list of names and
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a great book written about a great time in my life. I was part of the culture but not a member of CDC. I grew up following many of these people.

It was great to read about how these players had a lot to do changing the industry I enjoy today. Mudge's accomplishments and his insight has threaded the needle regarding companies securing their software and hardware.

Beto O'Rourke, Presidential Contender In 2019, was also a member of CDC and it is good to see someone from my "world" running
Oct 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There’s an air of over grandiosity the telling of the CDC. Like most, my knowledge mostly comes from the “1 million dollars and a monster truck” BO2k antics, despite never having used the tool myself.

That said the Cult of the Dead cow ended up with a few unusually high profile members, mostly for starting out as chaotic neutral thus avoiding the legal and social pitfalls of the usual groups that attracted hackers. What really makes them notable is that they moved the needle towards chaotic good
Scott Martin
(Audiobook) (3.5 stars) While most of the headlines for this book came from the ties that Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke to this early hacker organization, this book is really a solid insight into a group of hackers who went from an early group to people who were/are among the leaders in cyber security consulting. Some went into legitimate jobs , and some went into darker places, but given the rise of cyber and its security concerns, this is a good back story about some of the best movers ...more
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other
I didn't know anything about the Cult of the Dead Cow before I started reading this book. I was expecting to hear about some unknown hackers and their stories in the 80s and that's about it. I was wrong, and I love this book.

I've learned about the origins of DEFCON, Microsoft insecure system and how they responded to security incidents, old hacker groups, Tor, Politics and more. I didn't know any of those because I was born in the '90s, of course I know what Tor is and that it origins from a US
K De
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joseph Menn does a quick survey of the hacking scene and writes quick sketches of the main persons who formed "The Cult of the Dead Cow". It is fast paced and shows how the internet was a tool for those who were not a part of the status quo but wanted something challenging. What is interesting is that cDc quickly became a white hat group that had a fluctuating number of members and as the people grew older they were co opted into larger organizations to protect those organizations. The questions ...more
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Joseph Menn’s fourth book, "Cult of the Dead Cow: How the Original Hacking Supergroup Might Just Save the World," will be published in June 2019 by PublicAffairs. It tells the story of the oldest, most respected and most famous American hacking group of all time. Its members invented the concept of hacktivism, released both the top tool for cracking passwords and the reigning technique for ...more