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The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy through the Maze of Computer Espionage by Clifford Stoll

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The book, The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy through the Maze of Computer Espionage is a 1990 novel written by Clifford Stoll. Published by arrangement with Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc, the main idea of the book is a first-person account of the hunt for a computer cracker who broke into a computer at the Lawrence Berkley National Library. Winding up on the front page of The New York Times, the astronomer trained and accidental computer expert, Cliff Stoll became an unexpected American hero. After catching his spy in 1989, Stoll been giving talks for the FBI, CIA, and NASA, as well as speaking to the US Senate and the World Economic Forum. Stoll is now making Klein Bottles for mathematics and rebuilds mechanical calculators, as well as being a family man. As a very realistic and interesting read, the book is definitely a read for those interested in the computer field. I find that an ordinary man found himself in an extraordinary situation, just by simply doing his job and finding a discrepancy, he was launched into intrigue.

Clifford Stoll (the author) recently transferred to the Berkley Labs computing division, located in California. Stoll was given the seemingly menial task of locating an obscure accounting error in an archaic mishmash of FORTRAN code. It was August 1986 and his supervisor Dave Cleveland, was the individual that brought the $0.75 error to Cliff’s attention to

resolve. At first it seemed to just be an unauthorized user, who had used up nine seconds of computer time and refused to pay for it. Further investigation led him to an outside hacker that gained access to Berkley computers, by sneaking through an obscure security breach and gained administrative privileges over...

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...arched.

Stoll finds out via the press that the hacker’s name is Markus Hess and he was selling printouts, passwords, and hacking methods to the KGB. Stoll later had to fly to Germany in order to testify against Hess.

What may have started as a seemingly boring and meaningless computer check up and accounting problem, turned into an investigation and search for a military spy for the KGB. It seems that the more that the technical revolution grows and gets relied on more, the level of security becomes necessary to grow past it. It seems to be an ongoing battle to protect and monitor information from possible threats and hackers.

This story is a great example of the necessity of security and protection when it comes to computers. It’s also a great example of an ordinary person, being put into extraordinary position and succeeding past their own expectations.

In this essay, the author

  • Introduces clifford stoll's book, the cuckoo’s egg: tracking a spy through the maze of computer espionage.
  • Narrates how clifford stoll recently transferred to the berkley labs computing division, located an obscure accounting error in an archaic mishmash of fortran code.
  • Narrates how stoll's investigation led him to an outside hacker that gained access to berkley computers by sneaking through an obscure security breach and gained administrative privileges.
  • Narrates how stoll thought he had foiled the hacker, but figured out that it was coming from germany.
  • Narrates how stoll and his department postpone the deadline until the new year, believing that he's getting closer to the hacker, using a trap called the sdinet.
  • Analyzes how the germans completed the trace, but didn't act on it, in order to catch the hacker off guard. german police seize documents at an apartment and a company they searched.
  • Describes how stoll discovers markus hess was a hacker selling printouts, passwords and hacking methods to the kgb. he later had to fly to germany to testify.
  • Opines that the technical revolution grows and gets relied on more, the level of security becomes necessary to grow past it.
  • Opines that this story is a great example of the necessity of security and protection when it comes to computers.
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