During his first week as a system administrator at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories, Cliff Stoll noticed a mismatch of $0.75 in the total sum produced by two different programs used for system accounting. Within a day or two, he discovered that the system he is in charge of has been broken into. Most people would at that point shut the security hole, thus perhaps throwing away excellent material for a book. Dr. Stoll instead decided to track down the intruder, a quest that occupied most of his time for several months. His chase brought him in contact with several three-letter agencies, as well as celebrities Luis Alvarez and Bob Morris Sr.
Dr. Stall put considerable efforts to make descriptions of technical details as non-technical as possible. Still, enough details are preserved to bring fond memories to all those still remembering the BSD and System V Unices, VMS and early Internet. More amazing for me, however, was his deep and profound trust in the government agencies. In short, all of them wanted him to continue the chase while refused to help him in any way; requested information from him and at the same time giving no valuable information in return. As a topping, after Markus Hess -- the cracker Stoll has been chasing for month -- was arrested, FBI refused to release any information to Dr. Stoll and requested him to keep quiet, while at the same time leaked the story to a German magazine. Still, the whole episode seem to strengthen his belief in the government agencies, even more so when he discovers that the intruder is from abroad. Now if this is not patriotism, I do not know what it is.
All in all, the book reads as a very readable spy chase -- and a true one. Dr. Stoll writes well enough to succesfully convince even a non-American reader that he was doing the right thing and Hess was not. Well, almost.