Clifford Stoll

Counter-Intuitive Tech Thinker | Author, "The Cuckoo's Egg"
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Clifford Stoll gained worldwide attention as a cyberspace sleuth when he wrote his bestselling book, The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage, the page-turning true story of how he caught a ring of hackers who stole secrets from military computer systems and sold them to the KGB. He has become a leading authority on computer security. His lecture presentations are energetic and entertaining, and showcase Clifford’s dry wit and penetrating views. Clifford Stoll is a commentator for MSNBC and an astronomer at the University of California Berkeley.

The Cuckoo’s Egg inspired a whole category of books on capturing computer criminals. He began by investigating a 75-cent error in time billing for the university computer lab for which he was systems manager and ended up uncovering a ring of industrial espionage. Working for a year without support from his employers or the government, he eventually tracked the lead to a German spy hacking into American computer networks involved with national security and selling the secrets to the KGB for money and cocaine.

Since catching the "Hanover Hacker" (Hanover, West Germany), Stoll has become a leading expert on computer security and has given talks for both the CIA and the National Security Agency, as well as the U.S. Senate.

Stoll is also the author of two engaging and counter-intuitive critiques of technology’s role in culture written in his trademark quiet and folksy style full of droll wit and penetrating insights. In Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway, Stoll, who has been netsurfing for fifteen years, does an about-face, warning that the promises of the Internet have been oversold and that we will pay a high price for its effects on real human interaction. High Tech Heretic: Why Computers Don’t Belong in the Classroom and Other Reflections by a Computer Contrarian asks readers to check the assumptions that dominate our thinking about technology and the role of computers, especially in our classrooms. As one who loves computers as much as he disdains them, he admits to being deeply ambivalent about computers, and questions the role of networks in our culture.


  • MSNBC Commentator
  • Berkeley astronomer
  • Author, The Cuckoo’s Egg, Silicon Snake Oil, and High Tech Heretic


Stalking the Wily Hacker

Someone breaks into your computer. What do you do? Slam the door? Call the police? Ignore the problem? For a year, a German computer programmer broke into my system, along with over forty other computers around the world. By silently tracking him back, I discovered that he was a spy, selling software and military data to the Soviet KGB. A couple of years ago, he was convicted of espionage. What techniques did he use to crack into computers? Where are the holes in our systems? How do you trace someone across the worldwide computer networks? Who was willing to help -- and who wasn’t? Come hear "Stalking the Wily Hacker" and find out. A fun time is guaranteed for all.

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A Skeptical View of Computing

Does daily life require computers, digital networks? They’re irrelevant to cooking, driving, visiting, negotiating, eating, hiking, dancing, speaking, and gossiping. You don’t need a keyboard to bake bread, play touch football, piece a quilt, build a stone wall, recite a poem, or say a prayer. Virtual communities chatter about cybersex, cybersluts, and cyberporn, but the real thing isn’t there. Rather than bringing us together, might our online obsession be isolating us from each other? Do computers belong in classrooms — or might they get in the way of learning? Why do libraries spend so much on multimedia gizmos rather than books, journals and librarians? If computers are so great for efficiency, how come American business productivity has been essentially flat over the past two decades? Most of all, what’s lost when we plop down in front of our keyboard? Its time to inject a few notes of skepticism into the utopian dreams of a digital wonderland.

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The call to learn | TED
Clifford Stoll


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How a Berkeley Eccentric Beat the Russians — and Then Made Useless, Wondrous Objects
Cal Alumni Association


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