The Cuckoo’s Egg Book Review

Review By Zachariah Lenski

Cuckoo's Egg Book Image

The Cuckoo's Egg is an engrossing and gripping story about an astronomer's discovery of a hacker who obtains access to computer networks through holes within the system and simply guessing user passwords.

The protagonist of this story works as a system administrator at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory ensuring that all is running smoothly. As he audits the usage of lab computers that are leased out to students, he finds a 75-cent discrepancy which leads him on a search to identify who’s responsible. Digging deeper, he uncovers an intruder in the university system network with the intention of compromising the country's most influential government institutions. This leads Cliff Stoll, the author of this brilliant work on a quest to find out what exactly is behind this intricate espionage plot.

Throughout this read, Cliff elaborates a series of events that describe many of today’s computer security issues. He also gives an in-depth view on the origins of the internet and the Unix computer operating system. There’s so much that has changed since the 80’s but there’s a whole lot to learn from this book packed with several interesting events.

I find it interesting that the whole computer perpetration wasn’t treated as a serious crime and this is greatly evidenced by the FBI and CIA's handling of Cliff's plot to locate this intruder. Spoiler alert: they won’t pay attention to anything that doesn’t involve a million dollars. That doesn’t mean to say that it’s the same today.

Cybercriminals who are extra vigilant will go to great lengths to mask their identity. It’s obvious that this isn’t going to be an easy thing for Cliff since tracking someone who’s gained access to a computer network is simply difficult without their location. Note that this was at a time when technology was not as advanced as it is now.

Overall, the Cuckoo’s egg is a whole lot worth the read. I enjoyed how I was compelled to read the book to the very end due to the suspense that had been set up in the first chapters. It’s a great introduction to the world of cyber-security and computer espionage. Regardless of whether you like computers or not, this will surely be an exceptional read for all.