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The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage Paperback – September 13, 2005
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"Fascinating...a nonfiction account that reads like a le Carré novel."
-- The Seattle Times
"Stoll's is the ever-appealing story of the little man bucking the system...great fun to read...lively and thoroughly absorbing."
-- The Philadelphia Inquirer
"The Cuckoo's Egg is 'reader friendly,' even for those who have only the vaguest familiarity with computers...a true spy thriller....The hunt is gripping."
-- Chicago Tribune
"As exciting as any action novel....A gripping spy thriller."
-- The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
When, to the delight of the baffled FBI, CIA, and NSA, Cliff Stoll nailed his spy, he wound up on the front page of The New York Times. The story, broken in 1989, quickly gathered headlines across the nation and Stoll became a genuine, if somewhat unlikely, American hero.
An astronomer by training and a computer expert by accident, Cliff Stoll has become a leading authority on computer security, an issue recognized everywhere as among the most important security problems of our times. He has given talks for the FBI, CIA, and NSA, and has appeared before the U.S. Senate. Stoll is an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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Anyway, a lot of sysadmins learn their trade because they are thrown into the fire without any prior experience, as happened to the author of this book, and it's entertaining to see him, a computer novice, teach himself what he needed to know to track down a hacker and to educate the U.S. military people in the process. I also found it interesting that, despite the fact that the author was basically a liberal, "anti-establishment", ex-hippie, he nonetheless felt such a sense of pride in his computer network that he was offended that a hacker should be in there mucking around, and this feeling of "ownership" and "responsibility" for his network spurred him on to try to catch the guy.
If you don't know anything about computers, you'll enjoy the book because, not only does the author explain concepts in layman terms, but as others have pointed out the book itself reads like a spy novel of sorts, and there's also quite a bit of humor thrown in, so it's quite entertaining overall.
*Note: Just a few weeks ago in 2017 Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting bureaus in the U.S., allowed a back door to their data and over 141 million records were stolen, including mine. Think your personal information is safe online? As long as businesses and government politicians continue to deny problems and under fund data security none of our personal information is safe.
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.