The week of August 10, 2014

Welcome to The Kernel

By Austin Powell

Anonymity is an illusion, one that’s quickly fading.

There are countless steps you can take to veil your identity online—for starters, accessing the Web through an anonymizing network and encrypting all forms of communication—and entities like Tor are developing impressive tools to take digital freedom and online privacy mainstream.

But if there’s one major takeaway from this inaugural edition of The Kernel, it’s that not even the most highly skilled hackers of Anonymous can remain truly anonymous forever.

Our cover story retraces the exhaustive efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to bring down Jeremy Hammond, a “flawed revolutionary,” marked at the time of his arrest as the agency’s most-wanted cybercriminal. Despite covering his tracks, using a number of aliases, and rarely mentioning details of his personal life, the bureau managed to piece together a profile of the hacker in a thrilling sting operation that took place both on- and offline.

The report touches on some of the most important topics of the Internet today: the daunting surveillance capabilities of federal authorities, cyberattacks, the broken state of computer crime laws, and the current government crackdown on hackers.

The rest of our first issue explores those concerns in a great detail: Director Viven Weisman discusses her forthcoming documentary, The Hacker Wars; House of Cards advisor Gregg Housh demystifies the life of a hacker; Patrick Howell O’Neill recounts how a teenager’s Xbox hack morphed into a global cyberweapon utilized in the Syrian uprising; and Greg Nojeim and Jake Laperruque break down the problems with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a little-known law that submits our private digital lives to the whims of law enforcement. We’re also thrilled to premiere a new comic series from unflinching political cartoonist Ted Rall, Technically Fair.

It’s an exciting first step for us and a potent dose of the comprehensive coverage you can expect from The Kernel on a weekly basis.

The Kernel originally launched in November 2011 under the direction of founder Milo Yiannopoulos. The U.K. tabloid turned heads—including ours—with its immersive reporting on the seedier corners of the Internet and its provocative analysis of the London tech scene. Daily Dot Media acquired The Kernel in late January.

The investigative spirit of The Kernel lives on in this new iteration—with an expanded focus and an issue-based format. Each week we’ll take an in-depth look at a complex topic at the forefront of modern Internet culture, from Bitcoin and drones to Weird Twitter and wearable tech.

We believe that every voice matters, so each issue will strive to include a spectrum of perspectives, considering the subject from a variety of angles.  They’ll be produced primarily by the Daily Dot’s staff and recurring contributors, an impressive group of roughly 50 writers, responsible for the most comprehensive Internet news coverage in the world. We will also recruit outside experts who can bring insight and authority to a given topic.

Whereas the Daily Dot moves at the pace of the Internet, breaking news and reporting from every corner of the Web, The Kernel provides an opportunity to slow down and more deeply consider the impact these technological innovations and communities are having on our daily lives.

We want to tell the stories that force the hard questions. The Kernel’s about starting conversations and, when necessary, challenging the ones already taking place.

The concept of The Kernel itself is an intentional throwback to the era of the Sunday magazine, a time when you could relax with a cup of coffee and consider the most pressing issues of the day.

So go ahead—kick your feet up and take a look. We’ll be here.


Photo via Flickr/CGPgrey (CC BY SA 2.0)