How the United States Learned to Cyber Sleuth: The Untold Story


In early 1998, Defense Department computer networks came under attack. The offensive was codenamed Moonlight Maze, and it came—for the first time that anyone knew—from a foreign power.

Moonlight Maze marked the first skirmish in what would soon emerge as a new theater of global conflict: cyberwar. Nearly two decades before cyberattacks became a routine feature of international relations, the story of how the U.S. grappled with the attack and its attackers—never before reported in full—shows how a fledgling national security team in the Pentagon bureaucracy learned to follow a new kind of trail to identify cyber culprits. It also reveals just how big a challenge this new kind of war posed—and, in many ways, still poses—to the American security establishment.

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In early March of 1998, word came through that someone had hacked into the computers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and was

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