The Cuckoo’s Egg book is well written by Cliff Stoll. It was something like reading a horror story book. It was creepy, suspense, curiosity and scary too. The hacker every time breaks into a military system seemed to be like a ghost entering into the house and not like a thief. We know thief will definitely when he attacks a home he will for sure grab all things possible for him to steal. But this hacker was not doing just that, he was wandering in the system and making some creepy moves and disappeared.
Many a times he would just come and go just to show that he was still there. Something like a ghosts act.
Cliff clearly briefs every day’s situations, thoughts and reaction of the people around him. As we are reading this book and try to imagine the description given by Cliff, we can understand how things were in those days. The FBI, NSA, NCSC and CIA reacted and helped for such case.
It was definitely very difficult for Cliff to handle the pressure of his boss and the unsupportive FBI.
It was definitely a challenging case. An astronomer, who was least interested in computer programming lands up tracking a spy which leads him to be a professional network and information security provider. This journey of Cliff is an example to many who loose hope on their current jobs, or people who lost and don’t know where they are ending up.
See more: how to write an analysis paper
From this book I take back lot of things related to computers, networks, the government, information security and its importance, and how to handle things under pressure and stress. There are many characters who teach us how to look at situations which actually shows us a way to solve the problem.
Luis Alvarez is one such example who actually showed Cliff another view of handling this case. I think it was because of him Cliff took this case as a research and not as part of his job.
IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF THE BOOK
The very interesting part of this book is the way author relates all the problems to astronomy and physics. Most of the time it was his physicist friends who helped him crack the puzzle and find hints related to the hacker.
The reader must be good at computer security or astronomy in order to understand the relations made between them by the author. Author also analyzes people relating to physics and planet study. Cliff describes his new boss Marv Atchley and his division head Roy Kerth in physics aspect. Roy who was a college professor teaching about collisions, protons and anti-protons. He related his students and staff to his subatomic particles: keep them in their orbits, energize them and then shoot them into static positions. Roy was fed up of the year long delays and excuses given by computer professionals.
Author analyzed Roy and always made sure to start of a conversation something about relativistic physics before he could move on to computer related issues. That way author expected some kind of support for his tracking business, but Roy was a person who believed everything that had been proved or had some proof.
This made the author to maintain a logbook, in which he entered every single word related to this case. He even had dotted down the conversations made with every person whom he contacted for help. This logbook concept actually helped him to analyze the hacker and his activities, sometimes saved him from getting screwed by his higher authorities and also helped him to write his paper titled “Stalking the Wily Hacker”.
Though the techniques used by the author to trace the hacker is out dated now, but his way of approach is definitely amazing. How he relates this case to astronomy and physics is a very unique way.
Another physics aspect applied for detection is: When the hacker fires a universal file transfer program called Kermit. The hacker also used the Kermit program on his system, because the Kermit program checks each of its files after it has copied it from one computer to another. This proved the author that the hacker was obviously having all the sessions printed out and also copied on to a floppy disk.
Here author calculates the distance between his computer and the hacker’s by the concept of sound travelled and its echo heard. This way he arrives at a result of 279,000 miles but since his technician Lloyd was very good at communications explains him about the delays which occurred during communication between satellites and the earth, the hacker using a slow computer and the data transferred in the form of packets. Thus they land up with a result of 6000 miles.
Another interesting way Maggie Morley cracked the word puzzle which led to a hint of hacker’s location. Though this is not physics approach, but definitely it is a different way of approach to solve a problem. Maggie gives the meaning of Jaeger, in German it meant Hunter and it was a name of a hunting bird. Hunter and Jaeger were the passwords used by the hacker. Hedgers and Benson were the name Cigars. So this lead to a conclusion that hacker must be somewhere in Germany and that he smoked.
Dave Cleveland also gives a clue, which the hacker is not from the west coast. He comes to this conclusion by seeing the hacker type ps-eafg Unix command. This meant to Dave that the hacker didn’t know Berkeley Unix.
The best way to learn new things is to make mistakes and learn from your mistakes and the best way to understand others is to put your legs in their shoes. Cliff uses same technique; he tries to be hacker himself to break into Mitre systems. He was successful in logging into Mitre and finding out holes in its internal networks. He tried to log in to Mitre through Tymnet connection as the hacker had done. This proved that it was possible for anyone to break into the most secured network systems and also helped to find the holes in the system.
Cliff’s astronomer friends Jerry Nelson and Terry Mast play an important role in helping cracking few codes and puzzles related to the hacker. Jerry analyzed the codes and numbers given by the phone technician while tracing out the hackers line. He said that 703 was area code to Virginia and C and P meant Chesapeake and Potomac. The next time they help to crack KH-11. It was a secret spy satellite, KH stands for Key Hole and 11 was the series number.
We should also be aware that in many countries hacking is not considered as illegal or crime. Some countries actually support hackers and maintain secret group of hackers to hack sensitive information of other countries. In this case it is very difficult to trace the hackers and punish them.
The author not just keeps an eye on the hacker’s activities and trying to trace him but also tries to explain it to other authorities who could help him with this case. So he begins to talk to people at FBI, Teejay at CIA, Zeke at NCSC, some spies and spooks. That way he actually becomes a spy himself trying in his own way to catch the hacker. This experience teaches him how to talk and explain things to such people and also very well understands that every department was not interested or were not ready to take up the case. This way he understands what importance people gave to the information and network security.
This book tells us how the government treated a security issue. It is really pity that they were just bothered about the loss in figures and not the sensitive information that was stolen. The FBI, CIA, NCSC, NSA all of them had the same idea. They were worried about their reputation or about the loss in figures. They did not realize that the hacker was stealing some very sensitive information related to the U.S army, navy, and military.
If they had been co-operative to Cliff they could have caught the hacker mush before and did not need a year. But now the FBI is very concerned about the Cyber crime and identity theft. I learnt that they would take serious action in investigating such cases. This is definitely very important in today’s world. As the number of users and systems are increasing, technology is advanced, people are connected not just through telephone lines, wires and cables but also they are connected wirelessly through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections which make them more vulnerable to security threats.
As number of users and system and technology is rising, number of cyber crimes and hackers are also increasing. Now the hackers are very intelligent unlike our Cuckoo in the book. Markus Hess could have been easily caught with the help of the FBI and NSA as he was leaving his traces everywhere. For example the passwords and the connections used were easily predictable.
Today the hacker may be sitting next to you but it is very difficult to trace them. Hence complicated and advanced techniques and technologies must be implemented. At the same time it is everybody’s responsibility to make sure that the information related to them personally or professionally must be secured.