Book Review: We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson

we are anonymousTitle: We are Anonymous
Author: Parmy Olsen
Genre: Non-Fiction
Published June 5th 2012 by Little, Brown and Company
Rating: 4 out of 5

My thoughts:
It’s a digital World.
Everything is online, including our private lives. In the news we hear about cyber attacks, about a site being DDos’d, sometimes our very own twitter and email accounts are hacked. In ‘We are Anonymous‘, we get to read about these very people who operate from behind the anonymity of the internet. In this book we learn how Anonymous, widely seen by the rest of the world as an organized group of hackers was formed, how it emerged from chanology and 4chan and evolved into what it is today.

The world has seen a lot of illegal activities from the Anonymous, including hacking of oppressive governments websites, Church of Scientology, PlayStation Websites and networks, Visa, MasterCard and PayPal for not supporting wikileaks and so on. After looking at this list, one might feel that all these technologically savvy people were some kind of samaritans who were trying to oppose those who curb freedom of speech. But the truth is, most of these are teenagers or young people who are looking for their next adrenaline rush. Most of them have never hacked a site before. All they have to do is download a free code, put in the website address and click on execute. It does the job for them. But these are people who have crossed the line between moral and immoral, between legal and illegal all in the name of a little kick. It gives them a head rush, a kind of power where you feel you can mess with anyone’s life if you want to, take down almost any organization, any government website. It’s an addiction, especially for people who don’t gel into the real world very well. The internet gives them a feeling of being powerful.

There is section in the book where a hacker describes how he hacked into people’s facebook accounts and blackmailed them. There is an incident where he blackmails one of the guys to show his objectionable picture/ video to his mother in the middle of the night or he would leak his private stuff to the world. It was filthy, creepy and twisted.

We also learn about Lulzsec which emerged as an offshoot of Anonymous, consisting of handful of people who wanted things a little more serious and organized. This book gives us the perspective of Jake Davis – aka Topiary who was also the mouthpiece of Lulsec. We follow the activities of Lulsec – their “work”, their personal lives, and ultimately how they were all eventually trapped by the FBI and by other similar organizations of other countries.

This book, although well written can get stuck in a loop at times. It’s the same story over and over – something happens in the real world, anonymous doesn’t like it and decides to hack something. The most interesting part however is in the later half of the book when the FBI is closing in on these people. Also the personal lives of these people are interesting. Someone who is not a little tech savvy might find it difficult to go through this book as it’s filled with technical jargon. The author does explain a lot of it but it might get a little too heavy if you know absolutely nothing of the tech world.

As the world is getting more digital everyday and with more of our private lives on the internet, we can be sure that even if all of these hackers are imprisoned and never are allowed to get on the world wide web again, a new breed of hackers will rise overnight. While we cannot do much ourselves, we can atleast make sure that our personal online space is protected. This was my biggest takeaway from the book.

This is not to say that the Internet is your enemy. It is your greatest ally and closest friend; its shops mean you don’t have to set foot outside your home, and its casinos allow you to lose your money at any hour of the day. Its many chat rooms ensure you no longer need to interact with any other members of your species directly, and detailed social networking conveniently maps your every move and thought. Your intimate relationships and darkest secrets belong to the horde, and they will never be forgotten. Your existence will forever be encoded into the infinite repertoire of beautiful, byte-sized sequences, safely housed in the cyber cloud for all to observe.
– Jake Davis (former member of Lulzsec)

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