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My brother Barnes

Feb 19, 2014 etc

Amberleigh Jack remembers her brother, the hacker Barnaby Jack, who died last year.


I sat at a bar with Barnaby years ago. We both had drinks in hand and I had tears in my eyes. It was a few weeks before he moved to California, the bar was crowded and, it seemed, everyone wanted a piece of him. It was often the case when he went out. He was always surrounded by people wanting to shake his hand, buy him a drink or just share a laugh and a good time.

Despite the people around us we’d managed to find a quiet spot at the end of the bar to talk. He put his arm around me, dragged me towards him and kissed me on the top of my head.

“Nobody and nothing will ever be as important as you and Mum,” he said. “No girlfriend, no job will ever come before you. I fucking love you.” By now his eyes were a bit red too.

“I’ll always be here for you, know matter what. You know that, right?” He pulled me in for another hug and laughed. “Shots?”

I used to think about that moment every time I missed him when he was away.

There’s no point in me writing about my brother, the hacker. Because while I always so proud of Barnaby’s accomplishments, and bragged about him to people every chance I got, I never understood exactly what he did. And besides, other people have talked about his work.

The Barnaby I know is the Barnaby I grew up with. My big brother.


It’s impossible to describe the bond between siblings, but he was my world. From the moment I was born until the day I lost him, he was there by my side. The hardest thing for me to comprehend over the past few months has been realising that regardless of who I meet in my life, I will never have the same relationship with anyone that I had with my brother.

Whether he was changing the face of the security world or annoying me while I was trying to work, I was so proud of Barnes. He was my best friend and no person could ever compare.

Parents are instinctively proud of their children. I think it’s the same with brothers and sisters. Whether he was changing the face of the security world or annoying me while I was trying to work, I was so proud of Barnes. He was my best friend and no person could ever compare.

My brother was cheeky. He was a ratbag. But what I remember is the way he was fiercely protective of his family and friends, and as sensitive as they come.

His love for animals was strong from when he was really young, and continued in later years. He even fell for a squirrel that made a home on his deck. He bought it a house, bags of food, flooded Facebook with pictures and named him Earl.

He wasn’t perfect. Barnes was selfish, but in endearingly so. He never learned to drive, so I’d be his chauffeur whenever he was home. He’d be on my case to take him for lunch or taxi him somewhere, and then, when I’d finally relent, stop what I was doing and agree to go, he would then take an hour to shower and do his hair.

As kids we never fought for long. He made growing up fun. There was always an adventure to be had,whether it was spending hours playing ‘Olympic High Jump’ over the couch to White Snake’s ‘Here I Go Again’, or dodging an angry ram that guarded an old hut we loved to play in as kids in Taupo.

He reminded me a couple of years ago that he would always make me set up the high jump, or any other game we played. He was inherently lazy and it used to drive Mum and Dad nuts that I’d always make excuses for him and do all the work on our adventures. It didn’t change in later years, either.

In LA a few years back I remember hating having to drive us through rush-hour traffic on a Friday evening, hunting for a hotel because he hadn’t bothered booking one. It’s one of my favourite memories now.

We had so many treasured conversations in the car and I wouldn’t give them up for anything.

Barnes never worried about sharing his life with me. People say it’s not that common for brother and sister to share so much, but to me it was natural. It had always been me and him against the world. We were a team. Even as kids he never made me feel like I was tagging along, and I always wanted to be involved. To the point where I ran face first into a swinging baseball bat just because I wanted to be right there with him.

It’s the little things I remember now. The way we’d always sit on his first day home on the deck, sharing beers, power ballads and stories for hours. Or how I’d be standing outside and he’d wander up and put his arm around me. “You good, Ambso?” Always just making sure.

The way he protected and loved. His cheeky sense of humour, and the way he worried about his family when he couldn’t be near us. The conversations about music, life and family. My best friend, the guy who had my back. I didn’t know him as a famous hacker. He was just my big brother. My best friend. That was more than enough.

I’m a journalist. From the moment I started writing, I wanted one day to write about him. I never thought it would be like this.

Donna Chisholm’s story on the life and death of Barnaby Jack is in the March 2014 Metro, on sale in store and on the iPad now.


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