PULSE Presents: The Cult of the Dead Cow and the Rise of Hacktivism

November 20, 2019 12:10 PM - 1:10 PM

Join PULSE for a discussion with author Joseph Menn ("Cult of the Dead Cow: How the Original Hacking Supergroup Might Just Save the World") and Prof. Kristen Eichensehr. Lunch will be served for those who RSVP via MyLaw by November 15th.

​A wave of activism by rank and file technology workers in Silicon Valley and Seattle is tackling everything from climate change to treatment of contract workers to employer dealings with China and the Pentagon. While many of the issues and organizing tactics are new, some of the employees are drawing on principles first articulated by the inventors of hacktivism, a "white hat" hacking group called the Cult of the Dead Cow. Operating from 1984 until the present day, the Cult of the Dead Cow is the oldest surviving and most influential U.S. hacking band, Its roughly 50 lifetime members invented the modern hacking conference, forced Microsoft to take security seriously, founded a pioneering billion-dollar security company, and convinced DARPA to give its first grants to individuals. They didn't start out as saints. But their critical thinking, willingness to adapt to new fields and sense of moral imperatives provide a powerful model for a tech workforce that finds itself with beset by ethical dilemmas and in an  unprecedented position to do something about them.


Joseph Menn is the author of the new bestseller "Cult of the Dead Cow: How the Original Hacking Supergroup Might Just Save the World," which among other things revealed that presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke belonged to the oldest surviving and most influential group of US hackers. The New York Times Book Review called it "a hugely important piece of the puzzle for anyone who wants to understand the forces shaping the internet age.” He is an investigative reporter specializing in technology issues for Reuters, having previously worked at the Financial Times and the Los Angeles Times. Menn also wrote the 2010 bestseller "Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who Are Bringing Down the Internet," a real-life thriller that brought the modern face of cybercrime to a mainstream audience.

Kristen Eichensehr is an Assistant Professor at UCLA School of Law. She writes and teaches about cybersecurity, foreign relations, separation of powers, and national security law.