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Ghost Exodus documentario storia hacker

Ghost Exodus: the story of a hacker in a documentary that has a lot to teach

Olivia Terragni : 29 November 2023 07:00

Ghost Exodus through the exclusive documentary “How Hacking Ruined My Life: Ghost Exodus Story” produced by Silva Rindzevi and visible on the CyberNews Youtube channel, broke the silence to tell us the long road traveled and the consequences of what changed his life life forever, in a way that “you can’t just go back and fix everything.” He would like to do it. His story is also a warning: “prison is not made for hackers, we are not like other people”, above all we have much more to give than sitting in front of a computer screen for all our life.

“If I could hop in a time machine and go back in time to my younger self before I hacked the Carell Clinic it would literally be these these words: Give Up Hacking.”

Ghost Exodus

“Who cares about the suffering people are enduring?” once asked Jesse William McGraw, alias, Ghost Exodus, former leader of the hacker group called Electronik Tribulation Army (ETA), who in order to truly answer this question first ended up behind prison bars, after installing a malware in the infrastructure of the WB Carrell Memorial Clinic in Texas on a dozen servers, to control them remotely. Ghost Exodus was the first person – in recent US history – convicted of an attack on industrial control systems: “there was never a case like mine before, so it set a precedent of what would happen next to whoever did something like this” he explains.

Today Ghost Exodus, through the exclusive documentary “How Hacking Ruined My Life: Ghost Exodus Story” produced by Silva Rindzevi and visible CyberNews Youtube channel, broke the silence to tell us the long road traveled and who he was yesterday, who he is today and the consequences of what changed his life “in a way that you can’t just go back and fix everything”.

“Prison is not for hackers, we are not like other people”

In the documentary – released on 26 November 2023 – Ghost Exodus open up himself to the public. There is much to learn from his story: he tells us where he comes from, how he has been raised and by whom, who he was before, and what he is already doing to become the person who sees in his future.

Ghost Exodus documentario hacker

A leap in time, from a boy who, fascinated by technology and the spirit encapsulated in The Mentor’s Hacker Manifesto, used the internet as an escape from a world in which he did not feel connected and for which “accessing a computer system was like open a door to another dimension”, up to who, with today’s awareness, lays bare to to support responsible hacking.

“We exist without skin colour, without nationality, without religious bias… and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it’s for our own good, yet we’re the criminals. Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for”.

– The Hacker Manifesto
The Hacker Manifesto The Mentor

However, even Ghost Exodus, when he was a boy, with his group, fought for great ideals, tried to fight cyberbullying, paedophiles and problematic hacker groups: you fight for noble causes, but at a certain point, the cause is no longer the most important thing, because the ego takes almost everything. And this happened especially when the ETA group had to deal with an Anonymous group.

The problem is – he tells us – that as your power grows the boundary between what is right and what could be wrong becomes increasingly blurred. This creates consequences that cannot be erased, especially when you are dealing with cyber bullies and you think that ‘to defeat them, you have to become a bigger bully than the bully, in order to make them to cease and desist’. It becomes more and more an issue tied to ego rather than the mission, and at that point you can either save a person’s life or completely destroy it.

A reality that Ghost Exodus also fully explains to us in the contemporary world – highlighted in the Russian-Ukrainian and Israeli-Palestinian war – when the power of hackers, who commit acts of cyberwar on both sides, ultimately fight with their rivals to subdue and destroy them, distracting them from what they claim to defend, attacking targets – such as critical infrastructures – which not only put human lives in danger but make them sweeping away from the real goal, and that not makes them good or different but equal to all other bad ones. Almost as if freedom itself could be identified with that dark power that once tasted is difficult to tame with – like some form of addiction – until the real adversary becomes the player himself.

All this pushes you far away from the world of yesterday’s hackers, driven by curiosity and the desire to test the limits of programmable systems, including those of the society itself. Today, in fact, the word hacker seems to tell us about something else, and above all it is often, if not always, associated with those cyber criminals who compromise the security of networks for their own benefit. But a culture does not die, if anything, it changes and adapts, perhaps the way in which it organises itself also depends on the context it enters, maybe sometimes giving way to a myriad of hacker cultures.

“We were defined as tinkerers, programming wizards from MIT and Stanford University. Until that description broadened to encompass so much more”.

Ghost Exodus.

However, the hacker culture is not dead, many hackers still maintain their distinct image – an imaginary identity – that binds them, even if they never meet, committed somewhere – quoting Levy (1984) – to freely explore the higher and deeper potential of computer systems and make access to computers and information as free and open as possible.

No…, if anything, there is very little talk about it, and in this case I quote a thought written by David Foster Wallace – replacing the word heroism with the word hacker (I hope that he will forgive me): “Gentlemen, welcome to the world of reality—there is no audience. No one to applaud, to admire. No one to see you. Do you understand? Here is the truth—actual [Hackers receive] no ovation, entertains no one. No one queues up to see it [them]. No one is interested.”. And then I ask myself: the fault lies in the society itself? 

All this is told in the beautiful documentary by Silva Rindzevi, where a new Ghost Exodus, thanks to his backpack full of mistakes but also of dreams, tries to make today’s hackers responsible by advising them to act not in an emotional way but through reasoning first of all : “prison is not made for hackers, we are not like other people”, above all we have much more to give than sitting in front of a computer screen all our lives.

Finally, at the end whois today Ghost Exodus, what makes him feel truly free? What is the real meaning of being a hacker? Find out in the documentary, because Jesse William McGraw really has a lot to tell and teach.

Today Ghost Exodus is a writer for CyberNews. He also is the co-founder of W1nterSt0rm, an OSINT group committed to educating and combatting online sexual predators targeting children. He is a public speaker and helps shape hacktivists by teaching them how to have a hacktivist ethos while mitigating unethical sabotage. 

How Hacking Ruined My Life: Ghost Exodus Story

You can also read the story of Ghost Exodus and the Electronik Tribulation Army (ETA) group here: Ghost Exodus interview: the true story of the black hacker of the Electronik Tribulation Army.

Olivia Terragni
Author, former journalist, graduated in Economic History - Literature and Philosophy - and then in Architecture - great infrastructure - she deepened her studies in Network Economy and Information Economics, concluded with a Master in Cyber Security and Digital Forensics and a Master in Philosophy and Digital Governance. She is passionate about technological innovation and complex systems and their management in the field of security and their sustainability in international contexts. Criminalist. Optimistic sailor.