The Cuckoo's Egg

The Cuckoo's Egg

Tracking A Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage

Book - 1989
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Random House, Inc.
Before the Internet became widely known as a global tool for terrorists, one perceptive U.S. citizen recognized its ominous potential. Armed with clear evidence of computer espionage, he began a highly personal quest to expose a hidden network of spies that threatened national security. But would the authorities back him up? Cliff Stoll's dramatic firsthand account is "a computer-age detective story, instantly fascinating [and] astonishingly gripping" (Smithsonian).

Cliff Stoll was an astronomer turned systems manager at Lawrence Berkeley Lab when a 75-cent accounting error alerted him to the presence of an unauthorized user on his system. The hacker's code name was "Hunter"—a mysterious invader who managed to break into U.S. computer systems and steal sensitive military and security information. Stoll began a one-man hunt of his own: spying on the spy. It was a dangerous game of deception, broken codes, satellites, and missile bases—a one-man sting operation that finally gained the attention of the CIA . . . and ultimately trapped an international spy ring fueled by cash, cocaine, and the KGB.

Baker & Taylor
The first true account of computer espionage tells of a year-long single-handed hunt for a computer thief who sold information from American computer files to Soviet intelligence agents

Publisher: New York : Doubleday, 1989
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780385249461
Characteristics: vi, 326 p. : ill. ; 25 cm


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Mark_Daly Sep 02, 2013

For the casual reader, this title is billed as a true-life thriller. It unfolds like a police procedural. We follow amateur sleuth Stoll as he tracks an infiltrator through his university's computers, step by step. Perhaps too many steps -- while the early chapters are indeed suspenseful and puzzling, the tension slackens once the cat-and-mouse game becomes part of Stoll's regular work routine. The resolution of the mystery offers some surprises for patient readers. For the computer-savvy, Stoll's tale may inspire nostalgia for the days of UNIX and VAX line commands. There is lasting value here, however: the book provides a glimpse of the Internet's early history, and serves as a primer on how computer networks (and hackers) operate. Stoll also raises fundamental questions about security and community values that remain relevant today.

Oct 22, 2012

Cliff Stoll's real-life account in The Cuckoo's Egg belongs in a special category of "Obviously dated books that are still relevant." Computer technology has progressed an unimaginable amount in the past 25 years, and yet the human element here remains timeless. One can follow along easy enough even though the terminology is anachronistic. Some nice moments are the descriptions of what the infant internet looked like before it becomes the global behemoth we recognize today.

My only critique is that I feel the book runs too long by at least 100 pages. This story has a natural urgency that isn't helped by the unnecessary length.


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