Issue Number Eight: Hacks, Leaks, and Breaches

Edited by: E. Gabriella Coleman and Christopher M. Kelty

February 2017: Hardly a day passes without news of a major hack, leak, or breach; with the scale of computer use and reliance on digital forms of data, no sector of society is immune to these data dumps, infiltrations, and floods. From the surveillance of dissidents to the hacking of elections to the weaponization of memes, hacking is changing in character, and it is changing the world. In this issue we ask whether hacking and hacks have crossed a techno-political threshold: how are hacks, leaks and breaches transforming our world, creating new collectives, and changing our understanding of security and politics. How has the relationship of hacking and hackers to their own collectives, to governments, and to the tools and techniques been transformed recently? What does it mean to be a hacker these days, and how does it differ from engineering, from “cyber-security,” from information warfare or from hacktivism?

Contributors: Claudio Guanieri, Nils Gilman, Jesse Goldhammer, Steve Weber, Finn Brunton, Matthew Jones, Molly Sauter, Rebecca Slayton, Matthew Goerzen, Adam Fish, Luca Follis, Mustafa Al-Bassam, Sarah Tochetti, Paula Bialski, E. Gabriella Coleman, Robert Tynes, Philip Di Salvo, Sarah Myers West, Ashley Gorham, Joan Donovan, Goetz Bachmann, Tor Ekeland, David Murakami-Wood, Kim Zetter. With science fiction by Cory Doctorow.

The Logic of Leaks, reconsidered

Are leaks fast and slow? Does their “illicit aura” matter? Naomi Colvin dives into the debate about leaking and the politics of journalism today.


Philip Di Salvo explores the trading zone between journalism and hacking.

The Illicit Aura of Information

Does the unfiltered, illicit status of a leak change the nature of information? Molly Sauter offers a consideration of the half-life of stolen data.

Refuse and Resist!

Joan Donovan dives into the dumpster of the Internet, and comes up holding some tasty ideas about what “doxing” means today and yesterday.

I am Not a Hacker

The term “hacker” is notoriously slippery. Paula Bialski dives into the practices and micropolitics of self-proclaimed non-hackers

When GhostSec Goes Hunting

GhostSec engaged in vigilante counter-terrorism against ISIS. Robert Tynes explores whether this makes them part of the state, part of civil society, or part of empire.

Survival of the Cryptic

Should we have privacy for the weak and transparency for the powerful? Sarah Myers West reminds us that we’ve been agonizing over this question since at least the 1990s, when the cypherpunks first started discussing it.

The Extortion Stack

Finn Brunton explores the dream of the perfect leak, and what a science fiction story can tell us about the state of truth today.

Can You Secure an Iron Cage?

Are bureaucracies defensible? Nils Gilman, Jesse Goldhammer, and Steven Weber explore the Office of Personnel Management hack, and what it tells us about the inherent vulnerabilities of bureaucratic organizations in a digital age.

Limn Number 8 is Underway

Check this space regularly for updates. We will be posting lots more here over the coming weeks in February and March!