Found in 19 comments on Hacker News
yodon · 2023-09-07 · Original thread
If you enjoy this sort of history and haven't read The Cuckoo's Egg[0] yet, you're in for a treat.


ZeroSolstice · 2023-03-20 · Original thread
Can you expand on this a bit? A search on the internet provides plenty of examples of this, even a search in the dictionary[1]. Along with movies[2], books[3], and typical news reporting hack/hacking/hackers has been used to indicate malicious intent.

You can debate crackers vs. hackers and that its the intent that differentiates them but its a moot point based on that very thin veil of separation. Similar to the title security researcher or pentester you only can believe whats presented publicly by that person, group or organization and you can never validate that they haven't sold access or exploits to anyone else.

I would say your generalized term would be better understood as a security audit, pentest or bug bounty which would appear to represent a non-malicious intent to gain "successful unauthorized computer system access" as defined by the contract.

[1] [2] [3]

thetadot · 2022-02-27 · Original thread
one of my favorite examples of fruitful redundancy is Cliff Stoll noticing a 75 cent discrepancy between two different accounting logs that let to the discovery of an intruder in the Lawrence Berkeley Lab network.

toss1 · 2021-04-23 · Original thread
Indeed, and excellent book that should be required reading for any computer professional, even outside of security.

No relationship other than being impressed with the work.

Uhhrrr · 2020-09-22 · Original thread
Seconded! It gives very good flavor of life working at Berkeley and living there, and also the Internet of the day:
mindcrime · 2020-07-17 · Original thread
I can give you the names of a handful of books that might be useful. Some are more technical, some less so. Some are more about personalities, some about the business aspects of things, some more about the actual technology. I don't really have time to try and categorize them all, so here's a big dump of the ones I have and/or am familiar with that seem at least somewhat related.

The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering -

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution -

The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage -

Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet -

Open: How Compaq Ended IBM's PC Domination and Helped Invent Modern Computing -

Decline and Fall of the American Programmer -

Rise and Resurrection of the American Programmer -

Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date -

Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle -

Winners, Losers & Microsoft -

Microsoft Secrets -

The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture -

Troublemakers: Silicon Valley's Coming of Age -

Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire -

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture -

The Supermen: The Story of Seymour Cray and The Technical Wizards Behind the Supercomputer -

Bitwise: A Life in Code -

Gates -

We Are The Nerds -

A People's History of Computing In The United States -

Fire In The Valley: The Birth and Death of the Personal Computer -

How The Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone -

Steve Jobs -

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation -

Coders -

Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software -

The Pentagon's Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top-Secret Military Research Agency -

The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World -

The Technical and Social History of Software Engineering -


"The Mother of All Demos" by Doug Englebart -

"Jobs vs Gates" -

"Welcome to Macintosh" -

"Pirates of Silicon Valley" -

"Jobs" -

And while not a documentary, or meant to be totally historically accurate, the TV show "Halt and Catch Fire" captures a lot of the feel of the early days of the PC era, through to the advent of the Internet era.

And there's a ton of Macintosh history stuff captured at:

josephv · 2018-11-06 · Original thread

Honeypots are good fun. This book introduced me to them many years ago at university.

smussell · 2018-06-01 · Original thread
There’s a ton of great suggestions here. Here are a couple I haven’t seen mentioned.


- Silicon Cowboys - It covers the creation of Compaq

- American Experience: Silicon Velley - About how Silicon Valley came to be.

- Naughty Dog 30th Anniversary - Kind of a PR video, but interesting and free. Covers the history of Naughty Dog games.


- Cukoo’s Egg - Has some interesting technical detail, and gives perspective on a very different time on the internet.

- Revolution in the Valley - You can read these stories on, but I enjoyed the collected book. Covers the creation of the Macintosh.

doomlaser · 2018-05-15 · Original thread
I'm a huge fan of the biography Jean Renoir (the acclaimed film director) wrote about his father, Auguste Renoir (the acclaimed Impressionist painter), Renoir, My Father -

For a gripping tale of technology and hacking, The Cuckoo's Egg never fails:

And, as someone reminded me in the thread about Xerox and Fujifilm, Dealers of Lightning tells the story of Xerox PARC, the Alto, Steve Jobs' visit, etc:

yodon · 2017-10-30 · Original thread
That was a scary time, the first ever large scale network attack. I found myself a couple days later flying down to DC with some other folks from MIT and Harvard to brief a bunch of senior DoD and agency types on what happened, but the thing I remember most vividly was getting home late at night after spending the day repeatedly trying to disinfect and protect our machines, only to log in via a 4800 baud modem and see our machines were somehow infected yet again, with the realization we’d changed root passwords so many times I had no idea how to get in and fix it, nor any way to reach our sysadmin who was even more exhausted than I was.

So I called a friend, who is now a physics professor at MIT, and said “Our machines are infected, could you please break in, go root, clean the infection, and send an email to our sysadmin explaining to him you did this at my request?” All he said was “Ok, get some sleep” and yes even though we’d just spent almost 24 hours locking down every possible attack vector into our machines and network we woke up to clean machines with a polite email in the sysadmin’s inbox. I never have figured out whether that was more a measure of the state of network security in the late 1980’s or of the kind of mad skills it takes to become tenure track at a place like MIT.

There is a good telling of the worm story in the final chapters of Cliff Stoll’s amazing book on discovering a case of internet-hacking meets East-German-spies meets 2400-baud-modems and three-letter-agencies back in the mid 1980’s (which spent 42 weeks on the NYTimes bestseller list and is a ton of fun to read)[0]


For a really great book about an Active Intrusion this is a classic.
wainstead · 2015-07-07 · Original thread
Time to show my age here!

Others have listed some great, entertaining reads already:


Soul Of A New Machine (which won a Pulitzer),

Cringley's PBS series Triumph Of The Nerds (available on YouTube),

Where Wizards Stay Up Late

Some not mentioned so far (as I write):

The ancient, online Jargon File is a large glossary that captures a lot of early computer subculture through its lexicon. Eric S. Raymond maintains it today, but it originated way back in the 1970s:

"American Experience," on PBS, did a stellar documentary on the origins of Silicon Valley and the pervasive startup mentality there. It's all about the rise of the semiconductor industry, starting with transistors. Watch online:

Dropping LSD was, it turns out, crucial to the origins of personal computing! This I learned from Jaron Lanier and Kevin Kelly, who recommended John Markoff's What The Dormouse Said:

The Difference Engine: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer is a short book but also a fun read. Doron Swade, technology historian and assistant director of London's Science Museum, races to build a copy of Charles Babbage's "difference engine" before the anniversary of said machine; he tells his travails in building it while giving Charles Babbage's story at the same time:

No one has mentioned books covering the dark side of hacking. There are some great reads out there, and infosec is a crucial part of computer history.

CYBERPUNK: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier covers Kevin Mitnick, the Chaos Computer Club, and Robert Tappin Morris (who, somewhat inadvertently, wrote the first Internet worm). Mitnick disputes his section of the book, but it's fascinating nonetheless. Worth it for the Morris part alone:

The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage by Clifford Stoll is a fun read. Stoll is an astronomer by trade, and his analytical thinking can be an inspiration:

The Watchman is a true crime thriller you won't be able to put down. The author set out to write a book on Mitnick but wound up detouring to do a story on Kevin Poulsen, who is now an excellent infosec writer at Wired. You will not believe what Poulsen does in this book.

The Hacker Crackdown by acclaimed sci fi author Bruce Sterling is a great work on an infamous cross-country bust of many hackers. You'll get a look into the BBS subculture, Phrack Magazine, and the phreaker scene.

And let's not forget gaming:

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture gives a great history of ID Software and the origins of the FPS:

dbarlett · 2014-10-16 · Original thread
Clifford Stoll's The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage
wglb · 2014-09-06 · Original thread
Really a better list is by tom his own self:

My recommendations would add: by David Kahn. Many stories of the whole history of secret communications, with lessons in op-sec, not changing the codes frequently enough, they can't possibly break this.

The John LaCarre books. Do you remember the point where someone says to Smiley "There is no reason to think that they tapped the phone" to which Smiley replies "There is Every reason".

A must read, I tell my students in my Security Awareness training classes is The Cuckoo's Egg Examples like default service accounts on Dec Vax with username Field and password Service. Note when this is written and are our habits really any better with junk hung on the internet? Concepts pioneered in his book, as effective as they are, are not practiced. Note the alarms going off, ignored, at a large retailer last thanksgiving. Or another retailer recently, "Wait, what, we are being attacked? I didn't feel anything".

Most vulnerable is the thinking "Well, they can't get our X because <thing we did>". I have a matrix of attacker motives and what they are after. There motives and targetsyou haven't thought of.

lotsofcows · 2013-03-01 · Original thread
How the hell has no-one mentioned Clifford Stoll's "The Cuckoo's Egg" yet?
mindcrime · 2011-04-04 · Original thread
+1 for Cryptonomicon. It isn't the easiest book to get through, but it's very worthwhile.

Another couple of possibilities might be:

The Soul of a New Machine - Tracy Kidder

The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage - Clifford Stoll

Hackers & Painters - Paul Graham (yes, that Paul Graham)

edanm · 2010-07-06 · Original thread
In case anyone doesn't know him, Clifford Stoll wrote "The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage", a book about his real experiences tracking down a group of computer hackers.

By the way, there's a bonus at the end of the book: he mentions Paul Graham (in the context of Robert Morris' worm). Was a pleasant surprise when I read the book.

Amazon link:

Wiki about the book:

colonelxc · 2010-02-20 · Original thread
For those of you who didn't know, Stoll is the author of "The Cuckoo's Egg", his (true) story of tracking down a hacker that broke into Lawrence Berkeley National Lab's computers.

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