100 episodes of What the Hack with Adam Levin

Well, we did it. We hit the hundred-episode mark. Several award nods later–including a Webby nomination–we thought it was time to take stock.

The main thing we learned is that it’s really hard to pick five favorite episodes when your colleagues have sharp elbows and similar taste. Another thing we discovered is how intensely we all felt about the Ed episode. (Facebook addiction is real(ly not very interesting).)

We are proud of this show and super grateful to have you as listeners. If you’re new to What the Hack, you might want to use the below lists as a guide. If you’ve been with us a long time (we’re talking to you Fumiko), we’d be curious to hear your top five. 

Adam’s picks:

  1. “Al Franken Holds a Mock Senate Hearing on Privacy with Siri and Alexa” – I loved this episode. It was a fun way to illustrate a very serious point – the amount of our personal information we willingly and knowingly provide to personal digital assistants is staggering. Senator Franken is a comedic genius. His impersonations of his colleagues were spot on. Laraine Newman was a fantastic Alexa and having Susan Bennett (the original voice of Siri) voicing Siri was epic.
  2. “Roy Wood Jr Exposes the Loch Ness Monster Gun Lobby Conspiracy” – This is one of my favorite episodes because I got to know the person beyond the comedian and Daily Show contributor. We learned about his family and how he came to be as intellectually curious as he is. His take on how disinformation and misinformation have become mainstream is fascinating.
  3. “Michelle Dennedy Is the Most Interesting Person in the World” – I was excited to have Michelle on our show because she is a legend in the privacy community. She takes complex issues and makes them accessible through her storytelling, intellect and wicked sense of humor.
  4. “Loki Gets Tricked”– I think the Loki episode is one of our most important because it took us through the emotional rollercoaster ride experienced by a victim of a catfishing scam when they are unknowingly used by a former lover as the lure and then threatened with physical harm when they learn of the betrayal and go to the authorities.
  5. “Amanda, Cyber Guy, and Catfish and Mister Fluffy” – I think we all had a hoot helping a fun loving, successful real estate professional who had recently reentered the dating scene figure out who and why someone shut down her Instagram account. Was it the not-so-former cyber guy, the casual lover or the new found foreign wine connoisseur?

Beau’s picks:

  1. “Roy Gets Hacked by an Evil Clown” – I’ve known Roy since 1987, so when I was nervous about booking our very first guest I knew he would be game and that he would be funny. I love this episode because I love Roy, but also because it highlights a tendency that I have when it comes to cybersecurity. Namely, I like to tempt fate. Even with all the dumb sound effects and our obvious newcomer status in this one, it’s a great episode.
  2. “Dan Ahdoot Gets Hacked by a Middle Schooler” – As the father of two xennials, I am no stranger to Disney shows, so it was fun to have “Falafel Phil” on the show in the person of the person who played him–fellow podcaster, comedian, foodie and Cobra Kai actor Dan Adhoot–who had a hilarious story about a middle schooler who took over Dan’s Twitter account and then declared himself the polymath’s cybersecurity guy.
  3. “Kate Meets a Stress Scammer on Reddit” – I liked this episode not only because Kate was a listener, but also because her story was equal parts riveting and inspiring. While the episode is ostensibly about stress vulnerability–we make bad decisions when under pressure–MIchelle’s personal story features the kind of grit that makes me want to work harder, and it was just a really good conversation.
  4. “Andy Pham Claws Back a Multi-Million Dollar Heist” – This was another episode that made my conscience scream, “You don’t work hard enough! Be like Andy!!!” I love meeting new people, and the show lets us really get to know people. So, what a pleasure when someone like Andy Pham comes along, and self-made real estate tycoon who went to great lengths to recapture a $5 million property that was stolen by an evil dentist.
  5. “Nicole Perlroth Says All the Things that Keep Adam Up at Night” – I don’t get to read as much as I’d like, but what a pleasure it was to dive into former New York Times reporter Nicole Perlroth’s page turner, This is How They Tell Me the World Ends. Nicole’s ability to talk about complex topics and zero-day exploits made for some really memorable tape, and I cannot recommend this episode enough if you want to pop the hood on not only how we get hacked, but how nation-states go about it.

Travis’s picks:

  1. “Ann Cavoukian Fights for Your Right to Privacy” – I’m a stickler for privacy, and Dr. Ann Cavoukian is a legendary figure in the field. It was a pleasure to find out that she was a witty and engaging guest as well. Hearing about her family history and how it played into her development of Privacy by Design was fascinating.
  2. “Noah Gets Hacked by a Ghanain Syndicate?” – I enjoyed having Noah on the show the first time around, but his story about finding himself in the crosshairs of a Ghanaian scam syndicate shortly afterwards made for a great second appearance on the show.
  3. “Media Matters CEO Angelo Carusone Gives Us a Masterclass in Misinformation” – I’m a fan of Media Matters for America and was thrilled to have their president talk with us about the work they do and how they work to stop misinformation campaigns in their tracks.. Mis- and disinformation are ultimately scams pulled on society, and Mr. Carusone helped provide us all with a better insight on how they spread.
  4. “Freewheeling with Cyber Red Queen Tarah Wheeler” – Want to keep secure on- and offline? Start with a checklist. As a pilot, poker player, and offensive security researcher, Tarah Wheeler helped us look at cybersecurity from new angles and perspectives.
  5. “Brett Johnson Is the Bad-Guy-Turned-Good-Guy We’ve Been Wanting to Meet” – If there’s one thing I’ve learned after 100 episodes, it’s that there’s a scammer lurking around every corner. Brett Johnson would know–he was one of the best. From Beanie Baby scams to sophisticated hacking campaigns, Johnson gave us a look at cybercrime from the (reformed) criminal’s point of view. Bonus points for conducting the interview accompanied by a Skeletor action figure.