Home » Book Reviews » The Cuckoos Egg Book Review

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This is a real-life spy thriller centered on computer hacking and espionage on high-end military and research establishments in the US. We read about painstaking hours spent by the author, stalking an intruder through computer terminals and communication hardware and experiencing indifference from the FBI, the NSA, the CIA and the Air force and the Army even though it is these institutions’ computers which were detected by the author as having been compromised by the hacker. Finally, you read about repeated attempts by the author, tracking the hacker and failing to nail him due to the intruder logging off a little too soon before the international phone-tap could succeed. The events occur in the late 1980s and so I found all the technical details of the ‘security holes’ which were exploited by the hacker in Unix systems and VAX computers quite familiar and fascinating, having heard about issues like thing in college. What is really revelatory about these events was that it took the hacker mainly patience and not software wizardry to break into all these high security systems because most of these systems simply used obvious passwords or emailed passwords in clear text between systems and the systems administrators hardly monitoring any of the audit trails to see if unauthorized users have logged on to their systems. In many ways, it shows that the computer world in 1987 was a much more innocent one than it is today, with most systems being open and trusting so as to enable co-operation and inter-operability between institutions and individual scientists.

Dr.Clifford Stoll was an astrophysicist with the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL) and has the profile of the typical left-leaning Berkeley academic. As Systems manager, he stumbles on a small 75 cent accounting discrepancy in his systems and while tracking it down, finds himself zeroing in on a hacker who was prowling his systems as well as the nation’s military and research networks. The hacker takes him across the US, then under the Atlantic Ocean in the company of defense contractors and Universities and finally to the city of Hannover in Germany. The ‘chase’ ends in the discovery of a spy-ring in West Germany (this was before communism’s collapse in 1990) selling industrial and military secrets to the Soviet Intelligence in return for cocaine and much money. Dr.Stoll’s efforts end successfully in March 1989, after about an year of stalking the hacker.

This book is the true story of Markus Hess, a German citizen, is best known for his endeavors as a hacker in the late 1980s. Hess was recruited by the KGB to be an international spy with the objective of securing U.S. military information for the Soviets.

This book is a great true crime novel with a good very in-depth look into both the author’s life and the technology of the 1980’s. I give this book 5 stars it’s a great book with real life drama and facts. The book can be found on amazon in regular and ebook format.

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The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage

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