Pop culture has loved depictins of hackers and cybercrime for decades, but now that our tech has caught up with our past’s fiction, how do those stories play out in real life? The nonfiction deep-dive podcast Darknet Diaries aims to tell listeners exactly how:
Darknet Diaries is a podcast showcasing stories about hackers and cyber crime. Host Jack Rhysider takes you on a documentary style journey through data breaches, lack of online privacy, and major hacks. Hear personal stories from hackers, victims of online attacks, and experts in the field. Darknet Diaries simplifies hacking stories to entertain and inform both the average listener and security expert.
Darknet Diaries feels like a cross between a traditional true crime podcast, WYNC’s Note to Self, and a dash of Mr. Robot. True crime podcasts are a hard sell for me–it’s a genre I’ve just never meshed with–but the technological spin here is enticing. The pervasiveness of technology makes the subject matter feel both humble and astronomical; the tech discussed is often something people have heard of or even interact with on a daily basis, but the scope of each episode still feels massive. True crime podcasts appeal to the listener by suggesting the true crimes could happen to anyone, which often doesn’t feel successful to me. Being murdered in cold blood never feels realistic, regardless of how commonly murders happen. Being hacked because my router was set up poorly by a manufacturer, though? That seems realistic enough to send shivers down my spine. It’s this juxtaposition that makes Darknet Diaries‘s entertain and inform so successful: each episode is riveting while also feeling like a cautionary tale.
Darknet Diaries is also successful in its attempts to simplify the stories it tells. As someone whose background is in writing and literature, I’ll be real: I usually understand very little about the tech-heavy stories I enjoy so much. Maybe it’s an aesthetic joy I usually take in these works as someone who grew up in the cyberpunk-filled 90’s. Darknet Diaries is, thankfully, an exception to this rule. Though the stories are complex and intense, Rhysider’s narration easily walks the line between too minimal and too overbearing. The amount of explanation is just enough for any listener to dive in without feeling out of their depths in jargon. Each episode’s page on the Darknet Diaries website even has a list of references attached for those who want to do more research after listening.
While the stories behind each episode carry the show’s success, the production shouldn’t be ignored. Playing into that sleek aesthetic, this podcast’s edits are crisp and professional. Each episode reminded me a little of 99% Invisible in its production: the back-and-forth between the interviewees and Rhysider is rhythmic but subtle. There’s enough change to break up an monotony in voice and keep the listener actively focused, but not so much that Rhysider takes the focus away from the subject. While this usually helped by the bed music, a few episodes’ scores did wind up distracting me from their writing. This was a rare occurrence, though, and I’d much rather have sometimes-distracting music than none when it comes to an education-forward podcast.
For first listens, I’d highly recommend the podcast’s newest episode (as of writing) “Ep 13: Carna Botnet,” which raises questions about the ethics of gathering data even when the intentions are good; “Ep 5: #ASUSGATE,” which discusses an upsettingly common router vulnerability most consumers likely aren’t aware of; and “Ep 7: Manfred Part 1: Hacking Online Video Games for Fun” and “Ep 8: Manfred Part 2: Hacking Online Video Games for Profit,” which are about exactly what the titles suggest. Darknet Diaries is a must-listen for anyone who enjoys true crime, discussions of technology, or being informed about the realities of living in such a digital age.
You can find Darknet Diaries on any major podcatcher or on their website.