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

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3.77  ·  Rating details ·  982 ratings  ·  129 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 inve
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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 t…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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Christopher
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 i
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Eric_W


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
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Casper
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 dept
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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 :( Author tries
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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.
jbs
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 produ ...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.
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, th ...more
Mona
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 flo
...more
Billy
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 book ...more
Stacy GeekRemixALot
Hmm ok, so this book has interesting topics, some of it I felt was reported in a pretty dry and straightforward way. Normally I appreciate the non-sensationalist approach, but there were long stretches of this audiobook where I sort of just zoned out and listened, much like I do with informational podcasts, where I just want to hear a voice saying interesting words and not really absorbing much of the info.

I am honestly not sure whether I can fault the author or narrator here, because this migh
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Ryan
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A good introduction (and really the definitive account) of the cDc, one of the more self-referential and entertaining hacker groups of the 90s (technically 1984-now, but seemed at peak in the late 90s). Interesting for a variety of reasons, particularly how accomplished some of their members are -- heads of security, research, etc. for both large enterprises and security companies, DARPA, and a Congressman (and later Senatorial and Presidential candidate). As someone who was never in cDc but was ...more
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
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Nick Black
a serviceable introduction to the major cDc members, and a nice "where are they now?" survey. by the end, you'll know Deth Veggie and Mudge and Dildog and the gang, if you didn't before. i find no fault with Menn's narration of those few events to which i bore witness. one star removed for the nauseating panegyric to noted gun thief Beto O' Rourke which concludes the book. at one point the author seems to blame computer security problems on...capitalism? well, yes, i suppose you've got to have c ...more
Clicky Steve
I remember Cult of the Dead cow as a mysterious hacker group from when I was a kid growing up in the 90s. I was always curious to know more about them, and so had to read this book. It charts their existence and individual career/personal developments over the years, linking the group in with current technological and political challenges. It is very well researched and filled with detail that tells the story of the members, but in the end I found it to be perhaps a tad too... descriptive, as at ...more
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.
Valerie
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Space Rogue
I wrote this long version a year ago after I posted the short version of my review of “Cult of the Dead Cow: How the Original Hacking Supergroup Might Just Save the World” by Joseph Menn receive a fair bit of criticism from some cDc members. I was called a troll, a self righteous prick, an asshole and other choice names. As a result I felt it necessary to detail my many issues with the book. So, here is the long version.


Books can be funny things. Anyone can write one. The author can put into it
...more
A.J.
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.
Patrick DiJusto
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
The Cult of the Dead Cow was a hacker group that started in the late 1980s at the height of BBS culture, before the internet went mainstream. Their text files on hacking and pretty much every other topic wer insane, informative, hilarious, and depending on your point of view, dangerous. I was very much into hacking and BBS culture at the same time, and I kept myself at an arm's distance from the CDC, because these guys were scary.

It was probably the biggest mistake of my life.

Members of The Cult
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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 situat ...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 Do
...more
Rogério Vicente
This book not only has amazing real stories and facts about the famous hacker group, but also lots of food for thought about how hacker groups like cDc, l0pht et al, actually had a vital role in the late 80s and early 90s, forcing giant companies like Microsoft to take security seriously, how security vulnerabilities should be disclosed, should hackers help people living under repressive regimes get access to tools that help them circumvent the controls in place, should governments be allowed to ...more
Dan Stern
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty entertaining and interesting background on a political figure. Could have gone more in depth in some areas.
Rodney
Jun 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Melanie
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book quickly went from a two-star to a four-star investigative reporting. If you're a general reader like me, the first three chapters don't make sense. It was a litany of events and names and don't make sense unless you're already an insider and this is another layer of insider information. The author forgot to include the analysis of why we have to care about these events and numerous people and their handles (a multitude listing of soft drug events and basic juvenile naughtiness)! Let me ...more
Michael Rodyushkin
This book was like Inception, the message behind it was deep but it was confusing throughout the whole thing. Throughout Cult of the Dead Cow: How the Original Hacking Supergroup Might Just Save the World by Joseph Menn, the author describes the evolution of a hacking group from a group of teenage strangers who are just trying to goof around to a political force that have affected the laws on the internet and privacy today. Furthermore, the author delves into the backstory behind each person in ...more
Elwin Kline
Jun 01, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tech
**WARNING: This book is highly politically charged and written by the author with a very clear political agenda.**

This is my first experience with this and I am highly disappointed. This could have been a much better book and would have deserved a much better rating, if the author didn't vomit his political views all over the pages within this book.

I first heard about cDc back in the late 90's when I was active on mIRC and really big into online gaming. cDc, myg0t, l0pht were also gamers back th
...more
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
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Joseph Menn’s fourth book, "Cult of the Dead Cow: How the Original Hacking Supergroup Might Just Save the World," was published in June 2019 by PublicAffairs and in paperback in June 2020. 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 reig ...more

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