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The Cuckoo's Egg Audio, Cassette – Audiobook, August 1, 1990
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A sentimental favorite, The Cuckoo's Egg seems to have inspired a whole category of books exploring the quest to capture computer criminals. Still, even several years after its initial publication and after much imitation, the book remains a good read with an engaging story line and a critical outlook, as Clifford Stoll becomes, almost unwillingly, a one-man security force trying to track down faceless criminals who've invaded the university computer lab he stewards. What first appears as a 75-cent accounting error in a computer log is eventually revealed to be a ring of industrial espionage, primarily thanks to Stoll's persistence and intellectual tenacity. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Astrophysicist Stoll's pursuit of a hacker trying to access American computer networks led to the discovery of a West German spy ring. "A quest that reads with the tension and excitement of a fictional thriller," asserted PW . "Although best appreciated by the computer literate, even illiterates should be able to follow the technical complexities with little difficulty."
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
pretty interesting if you're curious about the mechanics of hacking networks and the
earliest days of the internet... back when it was the hobby of a handful of geeks
and not the omnipresent household fixture of today.
The author is a programmer and astronomer who is tasked with writing the occasional
useful app for his department and otherwise helping maintain the network. Having a curious
and dogged nature, he invests some hours looking into a minor accounting error
that eventually reveals the presence of a hacker on his system. He decides that simply
plugging the security hole won't be sufficient, as there are bound to be others and the hacker
will be a threat unless he's caught.
What follows is a detailed account of the months Mr. Stoll invested tracking this hacker as he
quietly jumps from one system to the next, probing for weaknesses and downloading
whatever sensitive or interesting info he can find.
The recurring theme of the story is our hero's frustration at the lack of cooperation
he gets from the government. Nobody wants to take responsibility for it.
Nobody seems to understand the magnitude of the threat.
The CIA, FBI, and military all take turns stonewalling him and refuse to keep him in the loop
when they finally decide to take action. But he methodically continues tracking
the hacker at some cost to his job and personal life.
Being a true story makes this very engaging, but those are not into computers and hacking
may find it a bit dry. There really isn't any James bond stuff, despite the promises of international
espionage, drugs and missile bases in the blurb. Everything away from the keyboard is domestic
scenery, not gunfights. But the meat of the book is spent at the computer and any enthusiast
will have no problem burning through the pages.
At the time the events depicted in this book were taking place, I was starting my career as an IT professional. My first assignment involved supporting a Bellcore (Bell Labs) developed application running on AT&T Unix (sorry Cliff, I'm a "heathen" though I appreciate BSD too!). I got to experience working with DEC PDP-11/70s, 11/34s, VAX 8650s, Decwriters, and RP06/RP8x DASD. Some of that stuff was considered dated at the time and by today's standards they are prehistoric. So, I can relate to Cliff's experience, except for the part of having to track down an international spy, LOL. I missed out on that, thank goodness!
I look at this book differently now than I did in 1989. Even if the reader doesn't care about the origins of the Internet or the finer points of Unix system administration and telecommunications, the depiction of the government's response to the situation is interesting and informative. Of note is the revelation that a particular agency was aware of existing security vulnerabilities but did nothing to address them because they were likely exploiting the vulnerabilities themselves.
This time around, I had more interest in the personal drama surrounding the incident. I could more easily identify with, and laugh at, some of the crazy personalities involved. And, I could empathize with Cliff over the disruption it was causing in his personal life. I also appreciate Cliff's commentary on the philosophy and ethics of computing and how a few bad apples can spoil it for everyone. These concepts are still relevant today despite advancements in technology. After all, the weakest link in the system is the same today as it was back then.
I would recommend this book to anyone getting started in Information Technology and to old school Unix guys and gals who have ever fixed a paper jam on a Decwriter.