A detailed account of the hacker collective Anonymous and its splinter group, LulzSec.
In 2008, the website Gawker published a leaked video of a wild-eyed Tom Cruise cheerleading for Scientology, a video the Church of Scientology had been trying to suppress. The church retaliated by issuing a copyright violation against YouTube, where the video had eventually ended up. When the news reached 4chan—a site originally for discussion of Japanese anime that spread to include other Internet subcultures—a user posted a suggestion to one of its message boards: Hack the Scientology website. “It’s time to use our resources to do something we believe is right,” the post read. The idea quickly gained traction, and a handful of users banded together to lead a nebulous group of hackers and Internet activists collectively known as Anonymous. They not only took down the Scientology website, but went on to attack other targets, including the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church and the Tunisian government. Eventually, a faction of Anonymous split off on its own, called LulzSec; rather than attacking oppressors of free expression, they attacked companies just for the sake of publicly embarrassing them for laughs, or “lulz” (a play on LOL, the internet abbreviation for “laugh(ing) out loud”). The events that Forbes London bureau chief Olson describes are captivating, such as the story of how Jennifer Emick, a former Anonymous supporter and “middle-aged mom from Michigan,” managed to track down and identify Hector Monsegur, one of Anonymous’ chief hackers. However, the book is choked by jargon (though Olson provides a much-needed glossary) and lengthy, tiresome descriptions of the group’s juvenile and petty squabbling, infighting and back-stabbing. The attention lavished on the minutiae of these relationships diminishes the impact of the narrative.
Certain to thrill 4chan readers, hackers and others on the Internet’s fringe, but may struggle to hold the interest of casual readers.