Monday, November 26, 2007

Motivation & The Cuckoo's Egg

Many moons ago when I was a student at university I remember motivation being at something of a low ebb as I started work on my dissertation. The subject matter was interesting - the main focus was on Unix and Windows security issues in a networked environment - but it was dry, very technical and I was feeling less than inspired.

It was then that I read "The Cuckoo's Egg" by Clifford Stoll. I had picked it up at a second hand bookshop without knowing much about the subject matter, other than that it was computer related and seemed to be some kind of story rather than just technical data which made a nice change. I expect many readers will have read The Cuckoo's Egg already, but for those who haven't, it's the true story of an astrophysicist called Clifford Stoll who starts by investigating a seeming innocuous computer time billing discrepancy and ends up tracking a hacker through a maze of computer networks, ultimately leading to a connection with international espionage. [I note that the full title at Amazon these days is "The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage" which tends to give the plot away!]

It's a relatively quick and easy read but it's a gripping tale nonetheless, especially for those with an interest in computer investigations. For me it was exactly what I needed to boost my motivation because it gave me some insight into what might lie beyond my university years.

Now, it has to be said, many forensic assignments are fairly straightforward, even mundane...but now and again something crops up which creates a buzz of excitement and I'm reminded of Clifford Stoll and his cuckoo's egg. At its best, this is a fascinating field to work in.

I'm always interested to hear what motivates others with an interest in computer forensics. Drop me a line or leave a comment.

6 comments:

David said...

Good afternoon,

I started working in computer forensics after 20+ years of IT consulting and 12+ years of search and rescue. CF provides me with a superb opportunity to make a living while applying skills and experience earned through both professions. I derive a great deal of satisfaction from teasing out the subtle details and linking apparently disassociated facts into a cohesive story.

Benjamin said...

Personally I just like the challenge :)

admin said...

Thanks for those comments. The challenge of putting various pieces of a puzzle together to create a coherent picture of who did what, when and how is certainly something I enjoy. How many of us are primarily motivated by the human side of the story though (i.e. the impact an investigation may have rather than just the technical challenges it presents)?

azrael said...

I remember reading the "Cuckoo's Egg" as well - although it lead me more down the Security route. The other book that influenced me was "Takedown" about the capture of Kevin Mitnik.

As I don't actually do forensic work per se at the moment - I find the academic puzzle and the technical challenges comprise the main part for me - but I do relish the successful application of the knowledge by others ! It is, after all, what it is all about :-)

jamie said...

I'd forgotten about "Takedown", I think I bought it straight after "The Cuckoo's Egg" (although I didn't enjoy it as much). Didn't they make a film out of it too?

azrael said...

Yep ... But I haven't seen it :-P

It was called "Takedown" as well ( thank you Wikipedia ... ) I must admit that I heard that it was lousy at the time and didn't bother, as it was some years after I had read the book ...