Cult of the Dead Cow
The shocking untold story of the elite secret society of hackers fighting to protect our privacy, our freedom -- even democracy itself Cult of the Dead Cow is the tale of the oldest, most respected, and most famous American hacking group of all time. Though until now it has remained mostly anonymous, its members invented the concept of hacktivism, released the top tool for testing password security, and created what was for years the best technique for controlling computers from afar, forcing giant companies to work harder to protect customers. They contributed to the development of Tor, the most important privacy tool on the net, and helped build cyberweapons that advanced US security without injuring anyone. With its origins in the earliest days of the Internet, the cDc is full of oddball characters -- activists, artists, even future politicians. Many of these hackers have become top executives and advisors walking the corridors of power in Washington and Silicon Valley. The most famous is former Texas Congressman and current presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, whose time in the cDc set him up to found a tech business, launch an alternative publication in El Paso, and make long-shot bets on unconventional campaigns.Today, the group and its followers are battling electoral misinformation, making personal data safer, and battling to keep technology a force for good instead of for surveillance and oppression. Cult of the Dead Cow shows how governments, corporations, and criminals came to hold immense power over individuals and how we can fight back against them.

Cult of the Dead Cow Details

TitleCult of the Dead Cow
Author
ReleaseJun 4th, 2019
PublisherPublicAffairs
ISBN-139781541762381
Rating
GenreNonfiction, History, Science, Technology, Computer Science, Computers

Cult of the Dead Cow Review

  • Chris
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 itself is a major feat considering the Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc) remains a highly secretive organization. While some of the members have been open about their experiences, including presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, others have preferred the anonymity an online persona provides (under secure circumstances, of course). So Menn does deserve credit for pulling plenty of materials, including interviews with members, into a compelling, often entertaining, and somewhat perplexing narrative.And what a story. Putting aside the often dubious legality of the cDc’s actions, their story starts with a group of bored teens in Texas during the mid-1980s and propels into a present where several members are professionals, working on cybersecurity— some in the Silicon Valley private sector and others for government entities. The path there is long and complex, but Menn successfully cultivates this story by sliding around tech-heavy jargon and focusing instead on the human idea of maturity— a gradual online process for the cDc.These moments click, from the Black Orifice Microsoft debacle in the ‘90s to frustrations with WikiLeaks during the 2016 election, the group showcases obvious growth and an enriched viewpoint. With such a solid throughline, ultimately, Menn has crafted an interesting examination of how hacking has progressed in its use for good.
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  • Sebastian Gebski
    January 1, 1970
    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 :( Autho 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 to exploit any thread that he could somehow (indirectly) link to CDC, but it's just annoying - not only because it's just too obvious, but also because he's just very speculative & doesn't bring many facts.Big disappointment, even embarrassment.1.5-1.7 stars.
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  • Casper Wood
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 depth and that may stand as the biggest point in favor and against the book.Names (both actual and of the hacker variety) abound and without your computer on your lap to continuously Google stuff that comes up, it got really challenging to keep track of all the players and their various contributions. The historical context of the group and their involvement in other high profile hacker groups, government agencies and non-profit groups was very interesting but it was a lot to parse.I'd recommend this book to IT/IS and information security experts and anyone with a genuine love for the history of the internet and all it's corresponding parts and pieces. It's a dense read but worthwhile, though definitely not for everyone. I don't think I'd recommend this to a casual reader.
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  • Rommel
    January 1, 1970
    El título no es nada presuntuoso. Las acciones tomadas por algunas personas en la escena de la seguridad informática ha cambiado el mundo como lo vivimos. Tanto así que puedo vincular esta reseña a las consecuencias de nuestro entorno digital: información personal y perfiles asociados, privacidad y transmisión de los datos, preservación de la información, espionaje, algoritmos de aprendizaje y lamentablemente, armamento tecnológico. Hemos visto los escándalos como el de Cambridge Analytica, a di El título no es nada presuntuoso. Las acciones tomadas por algunas personas en la escena de la seguridad informática ha cambiado el mundo como lo vivimos. Tanto así que puedo vincular esta reseña a las consecuencias de nuestro entorno digital: información personal y perfiles asociados, privacidad y transmisión de los datos, preservación de la información, espionaje, algoritmos de aprendizaje y lamentablemente, armamento tecnológico. Hemos visto los escándalos como el de Cambridge Analytica, a diario escuchamos que algún sitió fué vulnerado dejando al descubierto de cientos a miles de perfiles o bien, recibimos correos indeseados que buscan explotar alguna vulnerabilidad en nuestra computadora o móvil. Todo esto ha sido advertido por profesionales del computo desde hace años donde los miembros del cDc han jugado un papel esencial en esa historia. El libro es un excelente trabajo periodístico que relata los origenes y el paso del tiempo hasta nuestros días del grupo hacktivista cDc: Cult of the Dead Cow. Describe hechos históricos de los que sus miembros fueron directa o indirectamente protagonistas. Sobre todo, de aquellos que decidieron poner a la luz su pertenencia al grupo en la vida real (¿alejados del teclado?). Algunos tienen posiciones gerenciales altas en corporaciones que afectan la vida de millones tal como Facebook, Google o Yahoo. Incluso, un dato que estará sonando en los próximos años es acerca del político estadounidense Beto O'Rourke quien fué miembro del grupo.Un punto a resaltar (que me pareció excelente encontrar) es la reflexión ética que se presenta. El autor la hace notar desde la perspectiva de los miembros del grupo y los profesionales del cómputo. Sin embargo, hace un llamado personal a darle mayor importancia a nivel institucional.La razón de dar 3 estrellas (mas como un 3.5) es que me quedé ávido de escuchar mas historias relacionadas en el plano internacional . Si bien mencionan el caso de Pegasus (documentado por Aristegui quien también fue objetivo del espionaje por el gobierno mexicano) o bien la historia de FinFisher; a manera de supoción, creo que las relaciones del grupo fueron o son mucho mas extensas en el plano global.----- Este fue mi primer libro en formato de audio. Puede que algunos detalles los haya perdido por esta razón; sin embargo, disfruté bastante la narración y el epílogo es fundamental.
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  • Mona
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 flow. I was really interested in a topic (history of the oldest and well known hacker group in the US called CDC) but the form was just too dense for my taste. I command author for a great research though, there was a lot of work put into this book. 
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  • Tom Lawrence
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Billy
    January 1, 1970
    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 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.
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  • Ben Rothke
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 Down the Internet, which detailed the cyber gangs who operate on the Internet.When you have a fascinating story and a great storyteller, you know the output is going to be an engaging read, and Menn doesn’t disappoint here. He tells for the first time the full history of the legendary hacking group Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc). Formed in 1984, cDc was the most dominant and perhaps most important hacking group in history.The biggest revelation in the book is that one of the early cDc members was Democratic presidential contender Beto O’Rourke. He was known as Psychedelic Warlord during his cDc tenure. In an interview elsewhere, O’Rourke said that “part of my success was being exposed to people who thought differently and explored how things work”. That observation perfectly encapsulates what cDc was all about. O’Rourke also credited the group with influencing his thinking in a number of ways that he had brought to bear already.Menn details the rise and development of the group. From a software perspective, they created a number of first-generation security hacking tools. Their output included security tools including Back Orifice, BO2k, Whisker and many more.During its early years, the standard response by Microsoft was that vulnerabilities in Windows were theoretical and didn’t have real world consequences. To which the cDc often brought them to their knees with such claims, by showing them how these vulnerabilities were quite possible.When cDc released their Back Orifice tool in 1998, it enabled users to connect with a Microsoft Windows device remotely. While Back Orifice only ran on Windows 95 and 98; BO2k ran on Windows NT, 2000 and XP.In this fascinating read, Menn tells the story of the cDc, and how they were the consummate hacking group. Menn details the group’s development, and both the good times and bad times within the cDc. This included their mission, but also internal strife, kicking out a member for his maleficence, and more.cDc were the original hacktivist group and knew how to use the media to get their message across, most often against Microsoft. At the end of the day, the cDc was trying to make technology safer, and the world a better place.The cDc was also a launching pad for some of the smartest minds in the industry, and from there a number of information security software firms emanated. cDc members included Christien Rioux and Chris Wysopal who founded application security service provider Veracode, Peiter Zatko, better known as Mudge, founder of @stake; and Window Snyder, former CSO at Mozilla, and many others.In the early days of the cDc, their biggest moral issue was abusing long-distance phone calls. As they matured, they quickly became critical thinkers in an era where that skill was in short supply. They evolved and then led the development of internet security, and later went on to forge consensus on the issue of vulnerability disclosure. They showed the security software was an idea whose time had come. Menn details the tension within the group in how they had to deal with these and other issues, which at time caused conflict between the members.The book also tells the story of some of the firms that were spawned from cDc, mainly @stake and Vercode. When trying to get Adobe to deal with the many Flash security issues, Menn quotes Christien Rioux, who echoes the sentiments of many in the information security field when he said “I hate Adobe”.The story of the cDc is in part the story of the internet and internet security itself. Menn has written an engaging book that captures the esprit de corps of the group, the challenges they faced, and the inner workings of one of the most legendary, and productive hacking groups in history.
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  • Rick Howard
    January 1, 1970
    “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 “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, then let it be chaotic.”- Cult of the Dead Cow, Joe Menn, 2019I first ran into Joe Menn after he published his book about the early days of cyber crimeAt first glance, “”Cult of the Dead Cow,” the book, is a remembrance of a fascinating time in cybersecurity history (Early 1980s to mid-2000s) when the world transitioned from dial-up modems to the beginnings of what the internet is today, when the term “hacker” identified clever techies that developed unusual and interesting solutions, and Gen Xers were old enough to see what their baby boomer parents did in the 1960s and were eager to see what they could do in the exponentially expanding digital age. If that was all the book was, it would be a worthwhile read. But the author, Joe Menn, has something bigger in mind. He has been covering cybersecurity as a journalist for many years and decided to use this history lesson as a call to arms directed at the Millennials (born between early 2000s and present day) to seek goodness in the world. He has noticed a lack of ethics in the rising class of leadership from the big technical giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the like. He fears he doesn’t see enough discussion of the moral issues that individual digital practitioners run into on a regular basis as they try to build and grow their organizations into highly successful companies. He uses the maturity journey of the infamous hactivist group called “The Cult of the Dead Cow” as a model to the next generation as a path to consider, a path that he says is not readily taken by many in the industry.The last sentence in the quote above refers to the role playing game called Dungeons and Dragons and a system within the game that shows where any particular character sits on a two-dimensional scale. The Y-Axis moves from Good to Neutral to Evil. The X-Axis moves from Lawful to Neutral to Chaotic. The alignment of any one character falls within the spectrum of that two-dimensional grid. For example, Captain America is the perfect example of Lawful Good while the Joker is the perfect example of Chaotic Evil. In the book, Menn weaves stories about members of the Cult of the Dead Cow group that fill the entire space of character alignment. He chronicles their actions that danced back and forth between lawful and chaotic, but for the most part, moral. He points to some of these first generation hactivists as the example that he would like the new millennials to emulate. And for that, I recommend this book for the Cybersecurity Canon Hall of Fame.Sources"Cult of the Dead Cow: How the Original Hacking Supergroup Might Just Save the World,” by Joseph Mean, Book Review by Rick Howard, Published by PublicAffairs, 4 June 2019, Last Visited 8 June 2019,https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4..."Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who are Bringing Down the Internet,” by Joseph Menn, Published by PublicAffairs, 26 January 2010, Last Visited 8 June 2019,https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7..."The Cybersecurity Canon: Fatal System Error,” by Rick Howard, The Cybersecurity Canon Project, 20 February 2014, , Last Visited 8 June 2019,https://blog.paloaltonetworks.com/201...
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  • E Vikander
    January 1, 1970
    “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 cyb “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 cyber environment. The most important aspect of the book is the way Menn grounds CDC’s tale through the lens of ethical actors trying to reconcile cyber-techno advances with their effects on society—something we as governments, corporations, and individuals have yet to reconcile. You don’t have to be a techie to enjoy or understand this book, Menn’s straight-forward style does not get bogged down in techno-jargon. Also, it’s not all about Beto, who is just one of many CDC members mentioned in this book. Menn uses members’ online identities. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was already reading some of them online without knowing their CDC affiliation or all the excellent work they had done in their past. What’s clear to me, after reading this book, is we need these creative, critical thinkers, these cyber giants even more now than ever.
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  • Rodney
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 the inside story of CDC and how its members influenced generations of hackers, technologists, outsiders, and even people in the mainstream. The CDC family tree is long, complex, and occasionally mysterious. The tree includes associates and affiliates such as L0pht, @stake, NSA, DARPA, and extremely controversial groups like Wikileaks and Ninja Strike Force. Meen uses original interviews and thorough research to connect all of these disparate pieces into an interesting and engaging history.Beto O'Rourke's involvement in the CDC was a total gift to the author. Even though O'Rourke was a smaller player in the CDC, he provided Joseph Meen with a timely hook to package this story and market it to the public. I doubt that this book about computer hackers who've committed many weird and ethically gray deeds would have gathered as much attention without the O'Rourke hook.
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  • Tim Jarrett
    January 1, 1970
    An engaging read. I know some of the principals of this book so was aware of some of the broad brushstrokes of the story. But it’s still fascinating to realize how closely woven together some of the threads in the history of computer security are: Trojans and Back Orifice and Veracode, SQL Slammer and @stake veterans, hacktivists and cDc media hackers and the 2016 election. Recommended, not as the most in depth history of the period, but as an entertaining roadmap to how it all fits together.
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  • Sean Lynn
    January 1, 1970
    Cult of the Dead Cow by Joseph Menn is about the eponymous hacker group that formed in the early 90s, whose members became incredibly influential on and offline. Online hacktavists, wikileaks members, cyber security experts, business and political advisers, and even a US presidential contender have had membership to this somewhat secretive organization. Cult of the Dead Cow is a very interesting look at the history and evolution of one of the first hacker collectives.
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  • John
    January 1, 1970
    Just laughably bad and boring. This may be the most boring book I’ve finished. Please read this book so I’m not the only one who wastes his life on this overlong below average Time article.
  • Matt Heavner
    January 1, 1970
    good history. A bit of "coat-tails" on Beto, but no major fault for that.
  • Thorn MotherIssues
    January 1, 1970
    Full disclosure: friend of a character
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