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4.8 out of 5 stars
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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 13 November 2000
Spy stories are great fun. James Bond, Tom Clancy... And Now Cliff Stoll, with only one minor difference.
This one's true.
In the Eighties, Clifford Stoll ran out of money for his research into Astronomy at the University of Berkeley and was 'recycled' into the lab's computer division. A couple of days into his new job, his boss brought an interesting problem to his attention, their accounting software - logging, and charging for, time on the mainframe - was missing 75 cents. Would he like to look into it?
A year later Clifford Stoll had tracked a hacker across half the planet, through dozens of supposedly secure military and civillian networks, he'd interfaced with a dozen or more three-letter agencies (CIA, FBI, NSA, CID and more) and become one of the world's most respected experts in computer security.
I wish I had half the brains this man has. I'd reccomend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in the internet, computer security, networks and other computer related hardware. The book'll leave you feeling like an idiot, but you'll love every second.
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VINE VOICEon 27 April 2004
A friend lent me this book as we both work in the networking industry andhe was surpised I'd never read it. It took me a weekend to finish and Ifound it very interesting both for the story it told but also as a lookback to the origins of the internet and how its pitfuls have not reallychanged. Its the story of a university professor who becomes obsessedwith tracking down a hacker, even though he has limited knowledge ofhacking, or even computers. The hacking in this case is rather archaic asit involves dialing in via a modem connection to a unix box and thenexploiting weaknesses in unix to gain super user rights and create newaccounts to link to other computers. All this happens in the very earlydays of the internet and the connection of computers together. As thehacker is very interested in words like miltary, nuclear, secrets! theprofessor tries to alert the authorities none of whom seem clued up onhacking or on the implications of a global superhighway as we like to coinit now.
Although the OS etc.. are completely out of date the mindset of the hackerand the persuer, the dogged determination on both sides to obtain whatthey want out of a man made system was certainly a revelation to me andhighlights that in this domain although the systems have become moresophisticated the people have the same motivations. The sections onwanting to keep openess at the expense of security have unfortunatley beenlost on the interent as we all have to have firewalls and plough throughmountains of commerical websites generating annoying pop up menus. Ithought the most poignant moment in the book was when the author statesthat what saves networking in his time from being totally exposed tohacking is the fact that there are a diversity of operating systems, unix,vax, dos, apple and that if at any moment this changed the hackers wouldbe in paradise. Someone please send this book to Bill Gates. All in allalthough the technology is out of date, its a must and simple read ifyou're in networking and have never read it or just want to understandwhat hacking is all about.
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VINE VOICEon 11 September 2005
Despite the age of this book, the basic concepts of hackers, viruses and worms are surprisingly similar now to what they were in the late 1980's, the period when The Cuckoo's Egg is set. The big difference between then and now is the incredible lack of interest in computer espionage from the various US intelligence agencies which the author encountered.
The story of this book is largely Clifford Stoll's battle to get the FBI, CIA and numerous other agencies to recognise what was going on and act upon it. This despite the fact that the target of the hackers were predominantly military computers.
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on 9 May 2015
Stoll, a surplus astronomer transformed into reluctant IT systems manager at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, starts with his hunt for the source of a tiny discrepancy in the accounts for computer usage at the laboratory. It leads him down little protected pathways into many theoretically high security US government and military organisations and contractors' computer systems, beginning in 1986, and consuming his life over months. He encountered disbelief and obstruction by organisations such as the FBI, CIA and NSA, before the story reached its climax. There is systems information for the enthusiast, especially of GMU-Emacs, but without distracting the non-IT reader from the exciting narrative and the background of life in Berkeley in the 1980s.
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VINE VOICEon 18 September 2002
This book was worth every moment of the 3 odd hours I spent reading it (or more or less depending on your reading speed) and worth every penny you may spend on it (Lucky me, I got it as a present from an old friend!).
In my view, it is not a spy saga, as another reviewer refers to it. Instead it is a fascinating celebration of human curiosity. It is a gripping account of the dogged persistence in problem-solving, that separates an ordinary techie from a brilliant one.
Written in a simple style, it does not seek to alienate the non-techie reader, adding to its appeal. More intriguing is the fact that it is a real story from an era when the web was not as evolved as we know it now. In that it also becomes an interesting historical narrative of some of major technological developments in that era. To enjoy this book would take only some curiosity, that will take you through to the end of the story and some desire to see a challenge carried through to its deserved conclusion. Highly recommended.
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on 29 March 2015
One of those books you could sit down and read from end to end. Very well told and shows how infuriating it must have been that nobody really cared what was happening to their computers except Cliff Stoll.
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on 13 December 2006
This is a book about an academic chasing a hacker in the days when this was a rare and for the most part, irrelevant act in the eyes of the FBI etc.

It's set in 1986, so expect references to old machines such as VAXes and BSD vs AT&T Unix etc - great for us old geeks, otherwise a bit obscure.

Cliff Stoll does a passable job at explaining hacking and the ways in which hackers exploit loopholes (amazingly, the principles apply today).

It's interesting to read about the evolution of networks and how some characters in the book were spot on in predicting the future importance of the Internets size and social consequences.

Why only 3 stars? The book needs editing - Stoll uses the phrase "be serious" so much, it's irritating. It also manages to end each chapter with a hammy "but could I catch him?" or "as I was to find out" etc, like he was following some cheap writing course. The book could have been much briefer for a peppier story. An easy undemanding read.
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on 18 December 2011
Cliff tells an interesting story of an accounting error in the computers at Berkley University. His work to understand this uncovered a computer hacker with access to many other systems including the US military.

This account of the first ever ad hoc network monitoring, using printers connected to incoming modem lines, makes me realise how far we have come. While the technology has changed, the threat faced is still the same. Universities and Military organisations are still regularly attacked.

This book is a must read for anyone in the cyber defence industry, but also an enjoyable novel for anyone interested in espionage or computer warfare.

I have given this book 5 stars. Less for the writing ability and story (which are also great) but for the fact that this book will go down in history as THE book to read on network defence.
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on 6 September 2010
I bought this on a recommendation from a post on TechRepublic about top books every geek should own. This particular book caught my attention as it is a true story and was before the days of the internet as we currently know it.
The story is about Cliff, an Astronomer at Berkley who gets reassigned to the IT department instead of leaving after finishing a research project. A few days into his new role, he is tasked at investigating an accounting error of 75c on the mainframe billing system.
What should have been a straight forward task lead him to discover that the error was due to a hacker accessing the system remotely. Instead of closing the security hole, Cliff decides to watch what the hacker is doing and discovers that the hacker is not just some script kiddy have a bit of a poke about. What follows is a wild goose chase involving cross state line traces, the FBI, the CIA, the military defence network and KGB.
Although a book related to hackers and technology, it is about the journey and not about the technology involved and as such could be picked up by anyone.
I highly recommend this book.
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on 27 March 2004
I have just purchased this book s/hand on amazon uk, although I have read it several times. Stolle paints a wonderful picture of the laid back California lifestyle at berkley while gripping your interest with factual computer exploits and his attempts to get someone in authority to take notice of his discovery and help him catch the hackers.
This book is one you simply cant put down stolles easy way of writing makes you feel you are with him, wether he is cycling down the hill near the particle accelerators, camping out amongst the wires of the network waiting for the hacket to set off his pager or watching a free grateful dead concert. If you like computer hacking,security stories, computer history and the california lifestyle , get this book.
Also take a look at hackers by steven levy - the hackers refers not to the script kiddies of latter days, but the pioneers at MIT, messing aro0und with pdp,s or the california startups like apples jobs and wozniak and the software pioneers of the late 70s early 80s
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