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

Joseph Menn
July 26, 2021
★★★ (-20.00%) 🛈

The Cult of the Dead Cow was an early hacker group, formed in the 1980s. This book tells its story over the years and where everyone ended up.

It’s…scattered. There are a lot of people, and the scope is large. The book is essentially trying to follow a fractured group of people over 40-some-odd years throughout dozens of events during the building of the greatest information system the world has ever known. That’s a lot.

I lost track of who was who, often. The original group breaks up into subgroups like L0pht, Ninja Strike Force, @stake, and something called the Hong Kong Blondes which might have been imaginary? I wasn’t sure. There were points in the middle of chapters where I was like…who is this person…and who cares?

Interestingly, the book starts with a political fundraiser for Texas congressman and eventual presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke in San Francisco. I didn’t understand what this had to do with anything. Then, in the very last chapter, it’s revealed that Beto was an early member of CDC. He was an old-school hacker back in the day.

(At least, I think this was a “big reveal” at the end. This might have come up earlier in the book? I couldn’t tell.)

The book was okay. I did some research on CDC, and the book isn’t overstating their importance. They were huge – they created L0phtcrak and BackOrfice and they invented the idea of a hackercon. They really did shine a spotlight on issues of computer security.

But it’s just a lot to cover in 200-some-odd pages, I guess. You could have broken off a tiny corner of CDC, written a book about just that, and perhaps been better off.

This is item #9 in a sequence of 533 items.

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