Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage, by Cliff Stoll

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Today, these accelerators are obsolete—their mega-electron volt energies long surpassed by giga-electron volt particle colliders. They're no longer winning Nobel prizes, but physicists and graduate students still wait six months for time on an accelerator beamline. After all, our accelerators are fine for studying exotic nuclear particles and searching out new forms of matter, with esoteric names like quark-gluon plasmas or pion condensates. And when the physicists aren't using them, the beams are used for biomedical research, including cancer therapy.
The 1980s were more innocent times than ours. This is the first-person account of how Stoll, an astrophysics graduate turned sysadmin at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, spotted unauthorised access to the departmental VAX one day in 1986 and set off on a detective trail that eventually led to Cold War hacking and espionage. One has to admire his forensic attention to detail, in the face of apathy from the USA's own intelligence and security services and the constant threat of being told to get on with his day job by his bosses; but it's also extraordinary to reflect on how things have changed, in that there would be no difficulty now in getting a government agency to pay attention to hacking on this scale; there would be no legal difficulty in bringing a prosecution; the technical tools to track down hackers are much better developed; and the big international threat to cybersecurity is not in Russia but further east. Still, it's a great book.

We actually came across it because Stoll's day job now is to make Klein bottles, and we got young F a woolly one for Christmas. But a little further investigation turned up this book which also looked like a good bet; and indeed it was.

This came to the top of three of my lists simultaneously: the most popular unread book on my shelves acquired in 2015, the most popular non-fiction book on my shelves, and the top recommendation from you guys. Next respectively in those sequences are Tales from the Secret Annexe, by Anne Frank; Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, by Svetlana Alexievich; and Tove Jansson: Work and Love, by Tuula Karjalainen.
Tags: bookblog 2016
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