30 March, 2013

Cybercrime before the advent of IP networks


An early case of cybercrime, dated back into the late nineteen eighties caught my interest while I was browsing one of the recently released National Security Agency's internal published Cryptolog magazines. The events about the hunt for German computer hackers, who broke (on behalf of Soviet Unions' Committee for State Security, or KGB) into a computer at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL) have been published one year after the incident in the book The Cuckoo's Egg.


Clifford Stoll (the author) managed some computers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. One day, in August 1986, his supervisor (Dave Cleveland) asked him to resolve a USD$ 0.75 accounting error in the computer usage accounts. He traced the error to an unauthorized user who had apparently used up 9 seconds of computer time and not paid for it, and eventually realized that the unauthorized user was a hacker who had acquired root access to the LBL system by exploiting a vulnerability in the movemail function of the original GNU Emacs...

TV documentary

Based on the events, there's also a surprisingly well done screen adaption. At least if you have a certain passion for vintage VMS/Unix stuff...

Btw, the 1998 released German movie 23 - Nichts ist so wie es scheint told part of the story from the hackers point of view, as IMDB states.

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