Clifford Stoll

Astrophysicist at Berkeley University
Internet Guru

Image--Clifford Stoll, astronomer...6KB
Image of Clifford Stoll courtesy of

Clifford Stoll first came to national prominence in 1989 with the publication of his book, The Cuckoo's Egg, an amazing account of his search across the Internet to catch a German cracker who was breaking into military computers all over the world.

Mr. Stoll is an astronomer by trade, who was “promoted” to Systems Manager at his lab. While examining the accounting records, he noticed a 75-cent error in the billing logs. He began investigating the logs to rectify the error, and discovered enough discrepancies to make him believe someone was tapping into their system illegally.

Before the search was done, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Security Agency were involved. but Mr. Stoll was the one who finally tracked him down.

The perpetrator was a twenty-five year old German hacker named Markus Hess who was selling US government secrets to the KGB for money and cocaine.

Since the publication of that book, Mr. Stoll has been widely sought after for speaking engagements, and has written a second book. One wonders where he finds the time to pursue astronomy.

Cliff Stoll at a Contact Consortium Symposium in 1995

Image--Clifford Stoll, serving on a panel...10KB
Photo courtesy of Bruce Damer and The Contact Consortium.

The second book, Silicon Snake Oil, brought him more fame and fortune, but often brought criticism from those who didn't like his critical view of Internet culture. Mr. Stoll's idea is that some aspects of the World Wide Web may strip us of some of our humanity...if we let it.

Some quotes from Silicon Snake Oil:

Interactive computer entertainment gives you a choice of many different outcomes, all preprogrammed. The experience is about as interactive as a candy machine.
...unlike a friendly game of chess, the computer provides no opponent across the table to award your brilliance with a wistful smile of admiration. You end up admiring yourself.

Given that Mr. Stoll is in the public eye so much, there are a number of websites about him, his books, his views, etc. Here are a few of them:


Links to Clifford Stoll

Quotes by Mr. Stoll

Cliff Stoll's self-description--“Cliff Stoll backs up his data every week, pays all his shareware fees, flosses nightly, and lives in Oakland, California, with three cats that he pretends to dislike.”

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Last updated on September 3, 2000.

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These pages were developed through GirlTECH , a teacher training and student technology council program sponsored by the Center for Research on Parallel Computation (CRPC), a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center. Copyright July 1998 by Michael Sirois.

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