Cult of the Dead Cow

Joseph Menn delivers a solid historical review of some of the major founders of the entire red team industry. Cult of the Dead Cow (CDC) was one of the most influential hacking groups of all time, with members such as Mudge, Weld Pond, and Psychedelic Warlord. The group still exists today, with mailing lists and forums, and is still influencing our industry direction and how we react to current events.

I wasn’t a big fan of the writing style of this book, but I’m not used to reading biographies about groups, told from mainly group members’ perspectives. The dates jumped around, the characters were constantly fluctuating and hard to keep track of. The coolest part of the book was just seeing so many of the industry talent that I already follow for hints and tricks, and now knowing how large of an impact they had back in the early computing era.

Probably the coolest tidbit that I picked out from the book (if you ignore the Beto O’Rourke thing) was that CDC and L0pht were instrumental in moving the government in the right direction for cyber security. Obviously the government has not done near enough, but before L0pht (founded by CDC members), the government was doing nothing to defend our intellectual borders.

Another awesomely insane thing was how Oxblood Ruffin delivered to the world hacktivism. To me, this has always been in my lexicon (at least since entering the information technology arena), but back in the 90’s it was just an idea, not a real term. Oxblood Ruffin also delivered the Hong Kong Blondes. According to the book, this may have been a completely fabricated group of hackers that Oxblood made up, or it may have been something completely legit. Only Oxblood and some other CDC members appear to really know the truth on that.

The book is great if you want to dive into some of the history of hacking and how the cybersecurity industry has grown. Back in the day everything was focused on delivering access, not restricting access; and today we still fight that same battle.