How hackers and hacking moved from being a target of the state to a key resource for the expression and deployment of state power.
In this book, Luca Follis and Adam Fish examine the entanglements between hackers and the state, showing how hackers and hacking moved from being a target of state law enforcement to a key resource for the expression and deployment of state power. Follis and Fish trace government efforts to control the power of the internet; the prosecution of hackers and leakers (including such well-known cases as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Anonymous); and the eventual rehabilitation of hackers who undertake “ethical hacking” for the state. Analyzing the evolution of the state's relationship to hacking, they argue that state-sponsored hacking ultimately corrodes the rule of law and offers unchecked advantage to those in power, clearing the way for more authoritarian rule.
Follis and Fish draw on a range of methodologies and disciplines, including ethnographic and digital archive methods from fields as diverse as anthropology, STS, and criminology. They propose a novel “boundary work” theoretical framework to articulate the relational approach to understanding state and hacker interactions advanced by the book. In the context of Russian bot armies, the rise of fake news, and algorithmic opacity, they describe the political impact of leaks and hacks, hacker partnerships with journalists in pursuit of transparency and accountability, the increasingly prominent use of extradition in hacking-related cases, and the privatization of hackers for hire.
Hacker States provides a detailed, engrossing, and extensively researched account covering the contradictions underlying the unprecedented surge in acts of hacking of the last decade. Luca Follis and Adam Fish juxtapose the use of similar tactics by different actors and institutions—hacktivists, security researchers, and government agencies—to trace transformations around political dissent, whistleblowing, and nation-state machinations. For those seeking to grasp the geopolitical significance of hacking, this book is indispensable reading.
Gabriella Coleman, Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill University; author of Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy
Follis and Fish take us on a journey into the state's own use of hacking, introducing us to today's whistleblowers and their commercial counterparts. The study reflects on the persecutions of 'boundary workers' who bounce between good and evil, and explores the informational gray zones between the deep state and the public interest. Which side are you on?
Geert Lovink, media theorist and internet critic, Institute of Network Cultures
Both intellectually sophisticated and delightful to read, Hacker States provides one of the most robust examinations of state power, technology, and hacking to date. It is a must-read for scholars and students alike.
Kevin F. Steinmetz, Associate Professor, Kansas State University; author of Hacked: A Radical Approach to Hacker Culture and Crime
Hackers were once rebels to any system and this brilliant book shows how governments have taken hacker-rebels and integrated many of them. In a world made more dangerous by increasing numbers of cyberattacks between states, Follis and Fish demonstrate insightfully how government hackers are central to the information state.
Tim Jordan, Professor of Digital Cultures, University of Sussex