Cuckoo’s Egg – Week 7 Notes

Session Recording: (Available 1/26-2/2)

Next Sessions Registration:

This week, we reviewed chapters 38-46.

Cliff hears that the FBI is working with the German attache to get the warrant sorted out but it is taking some time due to internal issues. Meanwhile, he discovers the computer responsible for the Bevatron, a cancer research device, has been compromised. This is a sensitive system whose data integrity is paramount, as it directly relates to cancer treatment. Incorrect numbers could kill someone. He works with the system owner to reset all the passwords and kick the attacker out. He laments over the fact that he can’t do anything to stop the attacker, he can only watch and kick them out when he spots them. 

Industrial Control Systems (ICS)

The attack on the computer that controls the Bevatron is an example of how machines can be attacked in such a way as to cause a kinetic impact. Although the attacker didn’t succeed in doing this and likely had no idea what they were interacting with, the computer they were accessing could control this physical device. Much of the world around us now is controlled by devices that are network and internet-connected, which brings about unique concerns. 

With this in mind, I provided an overview of ICS devices and how they interact with normal computer networks. I highlighted the segmentation that normally exists and spent time “mythbusting” some common misconceptions about the nature of the threat to ICS networks and how likely that is. Along the way I highlighted examples ICS malware and specified attacks to ICS networks where additional study is helpful for those interested in this topic.  

More Reading:

Dig Deeper Exercises:

  • Level 1
    • Research at least one family of ICS targeting malware in depth. Clearly define the function and impact of the malware when executed.
  • Level 2
    • Research the Shamoon attack at Saudi Aramco and compare it to what happened in Iran with Stuxnet. Can you clearly define what makes one different than the others?



Cliff gets a call from the FBI telling him they are calling off the case. He persists but to no avail. He eventually calls TeeJay with the CIA and explains the scenario. TeeJay gets back with him in a couple of days and lets him know the CIA made a “grandstand play” and that the investigation is back on, which he confirms with Mike at the FBI.

Shortly after that, the attacker comes back. He is traced back through Datex, then to Bremen, and finally to Hannover again. The Bundespost reiterates they need a warrant or they will drop the whole case. The University of Bremen also reiterates they need to move forward or they are going to plug their holes. Cliff confirms that to trace the call in Hannover requires someone with feet on the ground in the switching station, and the actual trace could take as long as two hours.

While Cliff is describing his plight to his girlfriend, Martha, she comes up with a brilliant idea. Cliff needs to keep the hacker on the network for a long time to complete the trace, and the hacker is interested in specific types of information. So, why not give it to him? They devise a plan to create fake documents related to something called “SDINET” to lure the attacker in. They spend a lot of time making them official and even setup a detail request form that has to be mailed in with the hopes that the attacker does so and leaves a return address. This is one of the earliest mentions of a honeypot.


With some help, Cliff devises a plan to use what is one of the earliest recorded forms of a honeypot to attract the attacker and keep them connected while traces could be made. Honeypots have been used for a long time, but more traditionally for research purposes, to track scanning and worm activity, and to gather malware. I provided an overview of the evolution of honeypots, culminating in the modern use of tactical honeypots for detection and network security monitoring. I demoed a few simple honeypots like the Cowrie SSH honeypot and Tom’s Honeypot. I also discussed non-traditional honeypots and demonstrated a HoneyDoc.

More Reading:

Dig Deeper Exercises:

  • Level 1
    • Download and install Cowrie on a VM or test system. Configure it so that it perfectly mirrors the SSH login of a specific Linux distribution.
  • Level 2
    • Use netcat to create a simple honeypot that listens on one or more ports and logs the data it receives to a file.
  • Level 3
    • Create and Word document and figure out how to embed a tracking link that phones home when opened.



Cliff spends some time talking with the various agencies to get approval for his project. He doesn’t get it, but he doesn’t find anyone who tells him not to do it either, so he moves forward. The attacker comes back and falls for the bait by enumerating and downloading the files. Concurrently, a trace is made that gets as far as a specific exchange in downtown Hannover. They know the connection is coming from a local line and they’ve traced it to a block of 50 numbers, but they’ll have to wait for the next call to go any further.

It took two more traces, but then it happened. The folks at Hannover were able to trace the call to an individual number which was tied to a computer at a business while the attacker was enumerating Cliff’s files and breaking into a military base in Okinawa via LBL. Hannover said they would give the number over to the FBI. The attacks had been traced to their source.

Cliff repeats a few more traces as the attacker comes back, but then enters a holding pattern now as the Bundespost and German authorities are still waiting for a warrant from the FBI and their legal attache. During this time, Cliff is invited up to a meeting with all the interested parties in DC. He meets the cast of characters he’s been talking to. He’s also invited to speak at the NSA and brief the Deputy NSA Director. During this exchange he meets Bob Morris, whose son later becomes famous for creating the Morris Worm, the first ever worm observed on the internet.



Questions to Consider

Honeypots are one of best forms of detection in terms of signal:noise ratio. Take what I discussed this week and try to answer the following:

  • Should honeypots be a required detection tool for all organizations? Where do they not make sense?
  • What are a few unique ways you could build honeypots for detection in your home or work network?


Next Session

February 1st 7:30PM ET — The Last One!

Read Chapters 57-56

Register/Attend Here:


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