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Sysadmin book review: The Cuckoo's Egg

If you've ever wondered how hacking began and who the first hackers were, wonder no more. Take a look at The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage.
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The Cuckoo's Egg
Image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay

There is a difference between having access to information and having the savvy it takes to interpret it -- Clifford Stoll

In the beginning (back in the '80s), the global network was based on trust. It was a time of harmony, where innovation and discoveries happily coexisted. No one wanted to be labeled as a dictator by not allowing free access to their systems.

However, as always happens, someone realized the power of information and was corrupted by it. The good intentions of knowledge acquisition by the hacker community, enlightened beings admired by many, were gradually considered as dangerous.

Cliff Stoll, author of The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage, was an astronomer dedicated to the design of telescopic optics at the University of Berkeley. His computer knowledge earned him a position as an assistant systems administrator at the computer center of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory when he could no longer continue his work in astronomy in 1986.

After auditing the use of the lab computers, which were leased to the students, he found a difference of 75 cents. He began the challenge of finding the user who had not paid for his time of use. This challenge led him on a journey to come face to face with the intruder, whose objective was not to compromise the university system, but instead to compromise the most important government agencies in the country.

This is a classic story of spies during the Cold War, which actually did happen. It's a walk through the past that helps us to understand many of today's system security concerns.

In a more personal way, as a systems administrator and proud tech geek, I love this book about the dawn of Unix. It's a story about the first generation of hackers, giving us a vision of the birth of the operating system, its protocols, and the first significant events at the Internet level. It's great to read first hand how the scourge of the Morris worm was experienced. Cliff Stoll is a superstar of the development of the use of Unix and a great storyteller. I consider this book essential for understanding and raising awareness of the importance of the security of our managed systems and how to creatively use the tools that we have nearby.

Cliff Stoll's book is essential reading for today's sysadmin.

Plus: Other recommended resources

I hope you like it. Stay home and enjoy some good content.

The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage
326 pages.
4.23 stars on Goodreads.
Available where books are sold.

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Topics:   Book reviews   Sysadmin culture  
Author’s photo

Alex Callejas

Alex Callejas is a Senior Technical Support Engineer of Red Hat, based in Mexico City and an Enable SysAdmin contributor. With more than 10 years of experience as SysAdmin, he has strong expertise on Infrastructure Hardening and Automation. More about me

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