BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Clifford Stoll, the author of The Cuckoo’s Egg, Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage, why did you write this book?
CLIFFORD STOLL, AUTHOR, "THE CUCKOO'S EGG, TRACKING A SPY THROUGH THE MAZE OF COMPUTER ESPIONAGE": It’s part of documenting what happened. I was working in a laboratory and found a spy breaking into our computers, and kept a notebook, kept a logbook, and at the same time kept a diary and what was happening in my personal life. I wrote it to combine the diary of my personal life with my laboratory notebook and document what actually happened for two or three years of my life. It's not quite an autobiography so much as an extension of the lab notebook. You know if you do something in a laboratory you ought to tell the world about it and that's sort of telling it. Sort of telling a story of what happened and why it happened.
LAMB: We'll get to the specifics of the story. What did you think of the experience of writing a book?
STOLL: Experience of writing a book? It's fun! Nobody ever warned me. My English teacher never said, "Look, you can have fun writing." You can sit there and out of your fingers come words. And at first, I thought, oh, I'll just write about computers, and it turns out writing about people was a lot more fun -- writing about how you interact with people and how some people are real neat folk and others are sort of well, you don't do much. I just had a gas of a good time writing and I'll never do it again. It's a year out of my life, writing. But it's really fun and it's also having the chance to say things that you wouldn't write in a scientific paper and explain what happened in a way that real people can understand, instead of scientists and computer specialists -- writing what happened and talking about spies and espionage over our computers as it happened to me.
LAMB: What's the time frame for this book?
STOLL: In August of 1986 we found some guy breaking into our computers. He was arrested a year later. For a year the FBI and the CIA and NSA kept saying, "Don't say a thing publicly. Don't do anything." During that year I took my notebook and my diary and started mixing them up into a book and finished writing about a year later around -- December last year -- and then from December until just now Doubleday's been trying to publish it and it just came out. So about two years after we caught the guy the book came out. It took eight months or not quite a year to write and another six or eight months to publish. And it was fun. It was so neat to learn about what publishers do and what editors do and what they don't do. That was fun to learn. Well, that was just writing.
LAMB: What do publishers do? And by the way, this is Doubleday.
STOLL: First of all they are not computerized. You'd expect -- you send them computer disks with all your words already preprocessed for them -- no, they want everything typewritten. They also don't edit the book heavily. I thought the publisher would sit there with the high-paid editor carefully going over every phrase that I wrote. Hardly. They pretty much left everything intact and said, "Hey, that chapter's pretty boring. Why don't you throw it away?" Except for that they left it as is, and it was neat to see how at first the editor takes charge and it goes into production. People start worrying what kind of binding should it have and how should the cover art work be designed and then finding that there's acid-free paper and there's this kind of paper. It was just fun to learn how all of these things interact. And so for me writing the book was partly learning about how you make a chapter interesting, how do you develop a character, and how you say what actually happened in your life. But also, afterwards, it's neat to just explore publishing land.
LAMB: Did they come to you or did you go to them?
STOLL: I kind of went to them.
LAMB: To Doubleday by name?
STOLL: A year and a half ago I go to a friend of mine -- an astronomer's walking down the hallway and says, "Hey Cliff, you caught the spy. Why don't you write a book about it?" I said, "Come on, be serious. I can't write. I don't know how to write a book." He says, "It's easy. You write a book proposal sample outline -- write an outline of your book -- 10, 20, 30 chapters -- and mail it to this literary agent -- this agent guy in New York City -- and that's all you have to do. Write this outline. Write a sample chapter and mail it to the guy." OK. So I sit down and write an outline. Write a sample chapter. Spent like an afternoon and half of a morning -- maybe almost a full day doing it. And tell him about the story of spies breaking into my computers and the KGB and CIA and FBI and mailed it to this guy in New York. Guy calls me back two days later and says, "Cliff, you can't write. Sorry. You have an interesting story, but you can't write."
So OK. Well, that kind of confirmed what I knew. I never thought I could and never thought I'm an astronomer. So I didn't. I wasn't very deflated over it -- went back, did astronomy, kept going. Month goes by, two months goes by, then the story gets leaked to the New York Times. "Spies caught in U.S. military computers." You know, front page headlines in the New York Times.
Bang. First person who calls me up on the phone this agent in New York saying I can sell your book today. Wait a second, I can't write any better today than I could two months ago. This literary agent says it doesn't make difference. I can sell your book today. I couldn't sell it before. Wait. Wait. Wait. You're telling me that even though I don't know how to write, you can sell a book. He says -- Yeah, let me sell your book.
So he goes out and sells the book. Doubleday. And so a month goes by ... two months go by ... and I don't hear from Doubleday, don't hear from the agent. I don't hear from anyone. And I figure, well, I ought to start writing. Ought to ... I mean, you know. So I start writing the book -- textbook on computer security and how operating systems work; how to secure your operating system; how cryptographic pathways work and and I get five chapters in and a friend of mine reads it and says, "Cliff, this is a book about computers. Five hundred, maybe 600 people in the whole world are going to read it." I say, "Yeah, well, that's what I proposed." My friend says, "Well if you want to write a book, write about people -- don't write about computers, write about people. Don't talk about how computers work. Talk about what happened. You know what happened in your mind and what happened in your friends' minds."
I said, "Den you know you're right. So I threw away everything and started writing all over again except this time using -- saying hey, I did this, she did that, this other person did that, the FBI agent said that, Mike said that, the spy did this. And it became a whole lot easier to write. It was a whole lot more fun.
Instead of talking about a computer operating system and how Unix transfers files from here to there, it was how I'm an astronomer and caught up in this moras of computer spies and computer counter spies and I'm in the middle of it. And someone is stealing data from me, and that agency over there isn't interesting and the FBI won't support us and the CIA is interested and wants us to do something but they won't give us a nickel and the NSA is keeps working and breathing down our shoulders but won't say anything to us. All of a sudden it became a lot more interesting to write because it wasn't about computers anymore. It was about computers because that's where the espionage was taking place.
LAMB: Let me ask you a broad question and then we'll on in to some of the statistics. Someone watching this and they say what in the world does this have to do with national security affairs, foreign affairs, government policy, why is the C-SPAN network talking to this fellow about computers? What would you say to that?
STOLL: Government policy ... there's not many things happening in the government that don't go through computers that aren't stored in some word processing file. There's not much sitting ... there's not much happening that's isn't inside of a computer some place. A lot of things are just controlled by computers. When Ollie North erased all of this files to make sure nobody could see them it didn't occur to him that they were kept on back up tapes in another office so then when the Justice Department raided his office they got the originals even though he had deleted them -- at least he thought he had.
It's that our governmental policy towards computers that's surprisingly fuzzy. Even though laws have been passed to protect information very few people are thinking about what that means or or the sort of the tension between the openness of the First Amendment saying saying freedom of the press. We should have the right to look at governmental data bases and see what's going on. There's tension between that and our personal privacy. Don't I have the privacy of making sure that others can't read what's going on in the data base that describes me. When I check into a hospital aren't my medical records kept secret? Yet if somebody can break in and steal those, oh maybe not.
Also, this is this is the first case that we found of espionage taking place by breaking into American military computers. Someone from Europe who's systematically going after secret information in American military computers and getting it and then retailing it to the Soviet Union. It seems to me that that's sort of something that governmental people ought to recognize or realize or think about occasionally. No. Or maybe not. Maybe you should let people who are important like that know these things.
LAMB: What was it like to testify before Congress.
STOLL: It is a gas. I went there really scared to a Senate hearing. Senate subcommittee or a Senate Judiciary Committee -- some committee on technology. I went there thinking this is horribly worrisome. I don't know what to expect. These people are important. I'm just a burnt out long haired hippie from the '60's testifying at the Senate. I was astounded. Questions by this guy Senator Lahey -- will he be asking ... They banged me right in the middle. They were incredibly well focused. The guy is actually interested in protecting information in protecting computers and preserving communities of people who are using computers. He's interested in making sure that people can creatively use computers and not pass laws that will prevent people from making new programs. He understood very much the problem of if you pass too restrictive a law saying, hey -- you can't write this class of programs, it might be computer viruses. Or should we write laws about computer viruses? If you do so, it might be that you stifle some creative people who are working on new ways to work on data bases. At any rate, testifying was fun. It was the last thing I would have expected. I go in there completely nervous and and found that these people were friendly and they didn't mind that I was completely nervous.
LAMB: Did you refer often in the book to being ex- hippie, long hair, rumpled clothes, jeans, bicycles, sleeping under your desk?
LAMB: You know what you are?
STOLL: I identify that way. But the weird one is ... the scary one for me was to find some commonality with people who wear suits and ties and to find sort of a common denominator between people in secret agencies and myself. Find that we're both working in the same direction towards preserving a community. And we both ... it's sort of the political right is worried about secure computers because they hold national defense interests. Political left is worried about computer security because they're worried about privacy. And sort of people in the middle worry about securing data bases because they get ripped off when somebody breaks into a bank and makes everything more expensive. That here's sort of an issue that sort of across the spectrum people support for kind of diverse reasons and its kind of reassuring to find that. I was surprised. It never occurred to me. And so it was strange to be a left over from the '60's and stumble into a field where where people have such agreement.
LAMB: Who named this book for you?
STOLL: "The Cuckoo's Egg" -- A penguin keeper in the San Francisco Zoo pointed out to me that cuckoo's are weird birds. They lay their eggs in other birds nests. So a cuckoo will come along look for look for someone else's nest, flop into it, lay an egg and then quickly disappear. The regular bird comes back to nest, it hatches a cuckoo and the cuckoo takes over and gets fed by the mother bird. It all turns out well for the cuckoo. The cuckoo runs off and lays other eggs. So cuckoo's lay eggs in other birds nest. The same thing happened when this hacker broke into our computer. He breaks in and lays his program, lays an egg in our computer, turns around and lets our computer hatch it. Our computer runs his program that he lays in our system. The program comes to life and takes over our system and starts giving him privileges and powers that he shouldn't ever have. He became superuser. The system manager of our computer by laying this egg in our system.
LAMB: Somewhere I think I read in your introduction that you did you have a contest. You asked people to write in and suggest ...
STOLL: Oh, right. Right. I put a notice up on the electronic networks across literally across the country saying hey I'll give you a free copy of the book and mention your name in the introduction if you'll give me a good name for the book. I got about 500 people writing in sending me electronic mail suggesting all sorts of real neat zany names.
LAMB: Let me just point out that you've got then -- you literally have a double name here. Did you get two different people come up with this?
STOLL: Two people sent titles and subtitles. The winning title "The Cuckoo's Egg" was submitted by a penguin keeper and the subtitle was sent by a computer programmer in England. And Doubleday picked them from this list of 500 letters that people sent in and much to my delight I now owe two people copies of the book and the box of chocolate chip cookies each That was the contest. Send me the best title and I'll send you a box of chocolate chip cookies -- home made -- a copy of the book and I'll mention your name in it.
One of the niftiest things is that it showed me how information passes around the electronic bulletin boards. I post this notice and I start getting messages from around the world. Someone in Japan suggests a title. A half a dozen people in Iowa posted titles to me. Just sent hey I think the title ought to be "A Spy in the Net." It was so nifty to find that there's bulletin boards and electronic networks that pass messages around around the country a sort of sub-culture of people who never meet each other but send messages all day to each other. Just neat to be a part of this community neighborhood.
LAMB: For those who don't know anything about this, we need to go through a lot of little basics. Where were you located when you started seeing this hacker come into your computer system?
STOLL: I was an astronomer in Berkeley, California and managing a couple computers -- trying to keep them running, keep a bunch of astronomers happy -- and most of my day was designing telescope optics and occasionally go down and make sure the computers are happy. From August, 1986 the bill in the accounts of one of my computers bit out of balance -- just seventy five cents off. Look at it and say that's really interesting. If the accounts are off by a thousand, 10,000 dollars, it's going to be easy to understand. You know if you're balancing your checkbook it's off by 10,000 dollars you know you made a simple mistake. But if you balance your check book and it's off 75 cents then you have a heavy duty problem that worth exploring. I looked into it and found holes.
My little mistake was because someone from the outside had broken into my computer and used a little bit of computer time without my permission. Just enough to imbalance my accounts. I looked at it, looked at it closely and said hey, it's not only someone from the outside who I haven't authorized but they're using it in peculiar ways. They become system managers -- it becomes super user on the computer which shouldn't happen. So I started watching. It started just carefully and quietly seeing what's going on in my computer and took a printer so every time this hacker breaks into my computer my printer will print out every key stroke that this guy types in. The guy breaks in and logs in; literally I could see everything that he was doing and everything that came back to him. I wanted to watch over his shoulder and see what he was doing. Wanted to capture everything.
And what he was doing when he got into my computer was not reading my astronomy texts. He wasn't reading about the structure of the galaxy and Orion. He wasn't reading scientific things he was using my computer in Berkeley to search out over the computer networks to go into military computers. One after another after another. He'd break into military computers in Alabama and California in the Pentagon in Okinawa. He'd systemically reach out over the milnet the computer network connecting military computers together and into universities as well and try to break into them. When he's succeed an break into a military computer he'd search. I would watch him. I watch him search for words like SDI like NORAD ... systematically trying to get information about nuclear preparedness. And I'd watch him get information from a Pentagon computer about chemical and biological warfare plans for Central Europe.
I'm looking at it and ... I'm an astronomer I'm an old long hair from the '60's. I'm not accustomed to seeing this stuff go through my computer let alone understanding what it's talking about. And so I didn't quite know how to handle it. So I called the FBI in Oakland, California and said hey, we've got a problem. It looks like somebody's breaking into our computers and breaking into these military computers and what should we do. And the FBI agent says, "How much money have you lost?" "Well, about seventy five cents. You see there's this account problem ..." This FBI agent says, "You're telling me you lost seventy five cents. You're calling us to tell us about a problem. Go away kid. You bother us." I say, "But he's breaking into these military things ..." "Seventy five cents? Go away kid."
I’m in , Berkeley, and I'm sort of ... I don't know about things but I think it's worth continuing to watch. The FBI says, "Oh look, just change your password and make sure he can't break in any more and cut off your network connection. He'll go away." They were right. I could have kept him out. I could have blocked him out easily. But it struck me that it was worth continuing to watch.
LAMB: Let me come back to that.
STOLL: Sure. Sure.
LAMB: You keep saying Berkeley. Berkeley, California.
STOLL: Yeah. The peoples republic of Berkeley.
LAMB: Across the Bay from San Francisco.
STOLL: Yeah. In northern California. No where near Los Angeles where the fogs roll in and..
LAMB: And where specifically was your computer? Where was it sitting?
STOLL: It was in room 150B over in Lawrence Berkeley Labs in the computing center down in the basement. It's a big Unix computer and Lawrence Berkeley Labs is an unclassified lab funded by the Department of Energy. Everybody confuses it with Lawrence Livermore Labs where they make atomic bombs and classified stuff. But it's this little know place called Lawrence Berkeley Labs where it's sort of a side kickoff the physics department where people do just pure science. Nothing classified. Quite open.
LAMB: Who's Lawrence?
STOLL: Lawrence? E.O. Lawrence, the inventor of the cyclotron and America's second Nobel Prize winner was a scientist who helped design the first atomic bombs in space back in the '40's. And Lawrence formed ... there were two laboratories the Lawrence Berkeley Labs and Lawrence Livermore Labs named after him. Both are funded by the Department of Energy. One of them does secret work and the other us does unclassified science. So so Lawrence was a major force in atomic physics from the late '30's until 1960.
LAMB: Would you not work for Lawrence Livermore?
STOLL: Oh, no. I'm a long haired hippie. You need security clearances to work for Lawrence Livermore. You'd need all sorts of classification schemes and cue clearances and weird things like this. At Lawrence Berkeley Labs they'll hire pure scientists like myself who don't have clearances. People who are happy to to research just for the fun of it.
LAMB: I have your biography as sent out by Doubleday. I want to read the first paragraph. And first of all did you write this?
STOLL: I don't know what it says.
LAMB: I'll read it. "I survived graduate school.."
STOLL: True fact.
LAMB: "..at the University of Arizona long enough to receive a Ph.D. in planetary science. It's easy: just hang around, play with computers and pester professors into letting you analyze spacecraft data." Did you write that?
STOLL: Yep. That's me.
LAMB: And why would you ... let's show the audience. Why would you send out a biography like this?
STOLL: To tell people look if you want to get into grad school and you want to get a Ph.D. in astronomy just sit back do what's fun. Do what do what you feel like doing and sooner or later people will say, "Yeah what we think you're doing is either worthwhile, keep doing it or we don't think it's worthwhile -- we'll boot you out." The reason why I was in graduate school wasn't to get a union card, wasn't to make money. It was rather to find out what we're doing in our universe around us. What's happening in our solar system and my approach was to use computers to analyze data from observatories astronomical data. And to me, the kicker in graduate school was learning what's happening around us. And not so much graduate school as a way to get a good education and step up to higher pay. In astronomy there is no money in it.
LAMB: Where were you born?
STOLL: Buffalo, New York. Queen city of the Great Lakes. Good working class town and grew up without much money so I'm accustomed to living without but having a good time.
LAMB: What did your parents do?
STOLL: My dad's a bartender. My mom spent eight, nine, 10 years going to college and because she had arthritis she couldn't take notes. While she went to the University of Buffalo,she'd take little 10 or 11-year-old Cliff along a side of her and say, "Look Cliff, you be quiet in the back of the class don't say anything just sit there quietly and take notes. And whatever you don't you don't ask a word of that professor."
So I'd sit in the back row taking notes during her geology classes. So I learned.I 'm 11 years old going to the structural geology class and taking notes on archecopterics and silurian trilbytes. And it was the neatest thing being 11 years old going to a university class. It was so nifty. That that there were all sorts of things they don't tell you in junior high school and high school that they do tell you in college. And this professor would get up and lecture. It was so exciting to be there. So that's kind of where I grew up in Buffalo. And in a sense it was weird that my mom's disability and having a hard time taking notes turned out for me to be a really good thing.
LAMB: In your introduction you say "I was 10 years old when Ernest Both of the Buffalo Museum of Science invited me to look through a telescope opening a universe of astronomy. I wonder if I'll ever be able to thank him properly." Why did he invite you to do this?
STOLL: My mom took me to the museum of science one day. I asked the curator of astronomy whether the moon has mountains on it. That's it. Why don't you see for yourself. Come on by tonight and look through the telescope. So I take the bus down to Humble Park in Buffalo, go over to the museum that evening look through this telescope. The moon really does have mountains. There's craters on it. And he let me just play with the telescope for that night. And a week later and a week later and after a couple of years he gave me the keys to the observatory and said, "Look, come up and use it when you wish to." And he'd let me drag this old 4x5 camera up and hook it up to the telescope take pictures of the planets and see the rings of Saturn. Someone who who'd let this 10, 11, 12-year-old kid who's from the north side of Buffalo use a telescope all that he wanted to any clear night -- which isn't often in Buffalo -- I'd be up there.
How do you thank someone who who for year after year encourages you to work in science and gives you gives you license to use professional tools when you're only 12 years old? How do you say thanks to someone who's who says, "Yeah, you know, I shouldn't let you use this telescope but if you're careful -- go do it and and treat it gently. Here's what's happening on the planet Saturn. Those rings that you see are actually made up of small particles ..." Someone who'd answer my questions and who'd encourage me to work in astronomy. How do you thank someone like that? So to me although the book is about a computer spy breaking into our astronomy computers I owe so much thanks to this man who has spent years and years of his time letting me this little kid work there. It's a joy to think about.
LAMB: How did you get to Berkeley? University of Arizona graduated in 1980 -- is that Ph.D.?
STOLL: Graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. Went off, started hanging around with my sweetheart Martha and she left to go to college on the east coast, so I moved to Baltimore to follow her. She then went to law school in Berkeley and I left the east coast to go to Berkeley started a job there and I found it a neat way to live. Just follow your sweetheart around and where ever she moved I went along. And after all, I was doing astronomy for the fun of it and it's easy to pick up and move someplace else when you're in astronomy. It's not like it's not like your career ends because you've given up one job and taken another. You're not being paid in one place, you're not being paid much in another so might as well work in one as the other. It was fun to just follow her around.
LAMB: Where are you now?
STOLL: Well Martha just ... I'm right now living in Cambridge. Martha just took a job here in Washington so we're kind of seeing each other on the flight back and forth. She's clerking at the Supreme Court over there and..
LAMB: Who does she clerk for?
STOLL: Justice Blackman. And it's a lot of work. A whole lot of work. I had no idea ... well, I had an idea that it was a lot of work but it's even more work. It's a whole lot of work more than that.
LAMB: Let me ask you about a small thing.
LAMB: You look at the cover of your book – Clifford Stoll is your name. Turn inside and you sign the acknowledgements page here -- I don't know if Mark can get close enough on this or not -- but it says Cliff Stoll Matthews. Who is Cliff Stoll Matthews?
STOLL: That's me. Read the paragraph just before that and you'll understand who that is.
LAMB: I can drop it so you can see it ... "I needn't thank my sweetheart and wife Martha Matthews. She's been as much a part of writing this book as she was in the story. I love her with all my heart." Did you take her name?
STOLL: Yes. Yes. She's a part of me and I'm a part of her. And it's neat to be so close to someone. To me I'm delighted to be so close to her.
LAMB: What's her name?
STOLL: Martha Matthews.
LAMB: She didn't take Stoll.
STOLL: No she didn't but we've never really argued much about it. It's kind of ... you'd have to ask her what her feelings are in the name. To me it's sort of a way of saying we're two very close people. And anyway, it's considered commonplace for a woman to change her name when she gets married. It seems like a useful thing to occasionally not do that and flip things the other way. So why not?
LAMB: How has this whole experience affected your life? You keep writing in your book I'm only an astronomer.
STOLL: I keep trying to get back to being an astronomer. I keep trying ... I'm up at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge. I'm trying to do astronomy but things keep boomaranging. A computer virus breaks out and unfortunately I know about computer viruses so I'm involved in untangling the mess. I've had to deliver 50 or 100 lectures all over the place -- talks on computer viruses on computers.
LAMB: I want to show everybody exactly what we're talking about. This was also in the packet of information that was sent ...
STOLL: Oh really.
LAMB: ... from the book publisher and if we just go down the list of all those places where you're giving talks. And I must say I notice on there the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, Armed Forces Communications and Electric Association. Is it hard for you to be in the bureaucratic world, the military world. You write about how basically you're not comfortable with FBI, CIA, NSA.
STOLL: It's weird. I find that what's important is less the bureaucracy than each individual in it. Some people -- they don't give a damn. They're interested in just doing their own work and nothing else. Others understand that espionage over computers is a serious problem. And giving talks at groups at NSA, National Security Agency, is strange. I don't have a security clearance so I can say anything I want. On the other hand, they won't say anything to me. So it's bizarre.
I go to the CIA. They invite me to give a talk and then I'm wondering, you know, is this an OK thing for me to do. What am I doing there? And my answer to myself was yes, it's OK. In some bizarre way they and I are working in the same direction for the good of a community that that I support and believe in. That strangely they are interested in preventing people from breaking into our computers in the same way that I am. Coming at the result from two completely different positions. And if anything my problem with with these organizations is that they treat they treat this as a technical problem. At NSA the questions these people ask.
LAMB: That stand for National Security Agency?
STOLL: Yes. National Security Agency in Ft. Mead. The electronic spies. The people who who do electronic listening all over the place. They gave me a list of questions to ask -- questions like: How was this penetrator tracked? How do you guard against intruders breaking into computers? They're asking me to list questions like this and I realize that these questions bothered me. It wasn't what they were asking me that bothered me. It wasn't the content of the question, but the tone of voice. These people were asking me about penetrators and intruders and how does an outsider gain access to a to a large computer. Talking about penetrators and intruders -- outsiders -- when to me somebody who breaks into a computer is a snake, is an egg sucker, is a son of a bitch who's breaking into my computers. Here's somebody who's stealing information and attacking the community that I believe in.
So long as you keep asking questions about penetrators and intruders and people who are just morally neutral agents -- people who are neither good nor bad -- you don't make any progress at all. The only time that you're going to chase down somebody who's attacking your neighborhood, your community -- the only time you're going to catch somebody who's stealing information from your computer is when you get involved and start realizing this person is attacking you. Not even attacking you -- this person is attacking me. He's stealing information from me. He's grabbing things that I want kept private. And my problem with these spooks at NSA is that they see it as a technocratic problem, as a technical problem one that's to be solved electronically. One that if you can come up with a good cryptographic check, or some such check as this you'll protect our information. So long as so long as you see this as a technical problem you make only technical progress. But when you see this, when you see someone attacking, when you see someone breaking into your computer, when you perceive this as a personal affront, then you make progress not technically but more socially. Then you get involved and you're willing to put your life into it.
Then it's personally meaningful instead of when I leave at 5:00 tonight I don't have to worry about it any more. If you're involved, you sleep under your desk at night. You'll spend 24 hours a day wired to your computer waiting for this guy to break in. When you're involved, you don't see this guy as an intruder -- you see him as a bastard who's ripping you off. So my problem with some of these agencies is is they approach it as a as a technical problem. As one that -- oh, we need we need better passwords ... computers need these stronger operating systems. That's true, but in addition the people who are protecting our information, who are protecting us for that matter, how to be involved in a way that they see this as a very personal thing rather than as a generic there are penetrators out there. I'm sorry. I've been spouting too long.
LAMB: When you look at this list you're scheduled all the way through February 28th.
STOLL: Yeah. Oh well.
LAMB: Do they pay you to go do these -- to make these speeches?
STOLL: No. If they pay me, I can't say what I feel like saying. So I don't take money for it. What?
LAMB: What are you getting out of this thing?
STOLL: Not much.
LAMB: Do you enjoy speaking to these groups?
STOLL: Enjoy? Yeah, in a weird way it's kind of it's kind of neat. My long haired friends in Berkeley kind of don't talk to me much about it. You know, you're sitting around a table with vegetarian tofu being passed from person to person ... brown rice dinner ... and people are talking about how how the CIA's doing this, that and the other thing in Central America -- you're kind of, "I'm going to Washington tomorrow to talk in Langley, Virginia to the CIA." It kind of makes you feel uneasy. What I get out of it is, like, it sounds weird, but you kind of have a responsibility to a community. The community happens to be pretty much synonymous with our country -- to tell people what's happened and to suggest what can be done about it. To me, that's what writing the book was -- a crude attempt to to say, "This is what happened to me. Maybe this is a red herring and I'm misleading you by saying this is a big security problem, but this happened to us and maybe it's happening to other groups and maybe we should pay attention to concerns of secure computers and securing our information. Or maybe we shouldn't."
So what do I get out of giving talks to governmental agencies? Sort of the satisfaction that I'm at least not being silent about it. To me that's sort of the advantage of not having a security clearance -- that I can talk about what I know and that I don't have to keep reminding myself oh, you know this is a secret and I can't talk about it.
LAMB: Don't want to invade your privacy, but on your left -- you've got all kinds of notes written. Can you show the camera. I mean is there anything there that's ...
STOLL: What's ...
LAMB: Do you do that often?
STOLL: I don't put it on both hands because I'm right handed. What's on my hand? It says there's the electronic mail address for a friend of mine Ellen who I need to send an electronic mail message about what I've been doing the past few days. There's two telephone numbers -- one of them if for C-SPAN to try and set up an interview with you or something like this. There is the name Brian Lamb does that ring a bell?
LAMB: I didn't even see that on there?
STOLL: And there's the word snake oil over here which is a reminder to me about -- it reminds me that, yeah, it might be that some of the people that are writing antididotes for computer viruses are really writing snake oil. That maybe some of these computer virus anti-computer virus programs are a little more that snake oil. So I take notes on my hand, because if I don't write it there it will get lost. And after I write something on my hand I'll sort of transfer it into my notebook which I keep on a computer.
LAMB: How would you define your politics today?
STOLL: My politics today? Anarchy. My politics today?
LAMB: Anybody out there that you would vote for for President?
STOLL: Gosh. Is there a Presidential race this year? I thought ...
LAMB: There's always a Presidential race in Washington.
STOLL: I thought it was in San Francisco and Oakland this year?
LAMB: When was the last politician that you admired in this country?
STOLL: The last politician that I admired in this country? Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, LaMar. I'm not sure. There is ...
LAMB: Do you stay away from all this?
STOLL: I'm an observer. I love to watch.
LAMB: Do you vote?
STOLL: Yes I vote. I vote in Berkeley election but Berkeley's Parties are the Berkeley Coalition and the Citizens for a Better Berkeley or they are they are groups of people who don't wear the same labels as Democrat and Republican and Liberal and Conservative. Those are political parties that are othoginal to the usual mainstream political party. I sort of vote locally and think globally.
LAMB: Why Berkeley? What is it about Berkeley that draws people of all these political persuasions together?
STOLL: Berkeley values diversity. San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland -- it's an area where strangeness is tolerated. Where even though someone might have views different from the next person, they're tolerated and there's a vocal interaction of people who feel all television should be blown up to people who feel people should do nothing but watch television. I think it's the home of the couch potatoes. It's a place where there's a lot of intellectual conflict. It's exciting all of the time. It's where the young Socialists will argue with the latest Communist party group with the young Americans for Freedom and some young Republicans group and they'll all gather around the table and argue and you can just ... You'll see the Chinese Student Association group at a table next door and they'll all be scratching and saying what's going on here. It's a loud open dialogue continually happening.
It's diverse also in what you see -- in the mountains going up up the hills. You can bicycle along and there's flat lands that you can bike for hours on. There are places where it's just really terrific science happening. The cyclotrons, the physics labs the computing operating systems of Berkeley Unix versions. There's terrific science happening sociology studies and a neat law school where Martha would attend. So many neat things are happening and conflicting all the time. It's a gas to be a part of it.
LAMB: Two-part question.
LAMB: Do you think you're strange?
LAMB: Do others think you're strange? That's based on what on what you said about Berkeley tolerating strange people.
STOLL: I'm kind of ... am I strange? No. I grew up in circumstances that were ordinary. I'm still kind of ordinary and ...
LAMB: What kind of student?
STOLL: Oh, class B. Vanilla. Get enough work done to stay in college. Keep the grades high enough so they don't boot you out but at the same time do enough on the side so that that life is interesting. Am I strange? Do other people think I'm strange? It would be sad if people thought that I was completely strange.
LAMB: Back to what Doubleday sent us an arm load of material. You probably haven't seen some of this.
LAMB: Right. I want to read you another paragraph. Cliff -- that's you -- Cliff will launch his tour with an interview on Saturday Night Live with Connie Chung October the 7th. You've done that?
STOLL: Yes. Yes. I was..
STOLL: Well they interviewed me. I don't know if it's been on the air. It was a gas. It was neat. They asked good questions. Well, needless to say, it's fun to have what you think challenged by people. Hey, people are breaking into your computer you claimed. Prove it. Show me evidence. Who was indicted? Have they been on trail yet? If you can't answer questions like that, if you can't be continually challenged then you're not doing good science. And that was fun. It was neat to to have a sort of forum to to to squirm a little bit and also to explain what exactly what happened from my point of view and that's neat.
LAMB: And before we go much farther -- because we've been talking for a long time -- was this individual caught? It's fairly obvious that we show the headline that he was. Who was he? Has he been indicted? Has there been a trial? Will there be a trial?
STOLL: The guy who was caught was a 26-year-old computer programmer named Markus Hess who would steal information from American military computers and retail it to the Soviet Union for $20 - $30,000 a year. He was caught. He was arrested in Germany. He was indicted about a month and a half ago on espionage charges. I've given pre-trial testimony in Germany. I believe the trial will happen in the next couple weeks or within the next month and a half. I may have to go to Germany to testify at the trial though. I don't know if my pre-trial testimony will be adequate or not.
LAMB: What was his indictment?
STOLL: His indictment was on espionage charges for breaking into military computers and breaking into sensitive commercial computers in Europe. Collaborating, apparently, with the Soviet Union with the KGB to sell information to them. It happened in Germany. I don't know the exact wording of the indictment. He was also indicted for breaking into computers but because the way German law is worded that probably won't hold water. Breaking into a computer at the time when he did it was apparently not a heavy duty charge.
LAMB: More on the Doubleday material.
LAMB: OK. A former hippie -- we talked about that. What's a former hippie, by the way?
STOLL: Got me I didn't write it.
LAMB: What's a hippie?
STOLL: Yeah, what's a hippie? Perhaps I'm a left over from the '60's who survived through it or sort a didn't survive through it. I don't know.
LAMB: How old are you?
STOLL: 39. And at being 39 it's pretty strange to be a hippie since I've never done any drugs at all. I'm a kind of strange kind of conservative. I hardly think of myself as some revolutionary hippie form the '60's but I guess maybe I'm one of the left overs.
LAMB: "Former hippie: a yo-yo whiz."
STOLL: Yeah do I have them with me? Yo-yo whiz.
LAMB: Do you have a yo-yo on you?
STOLL: Yeah. Don't go anywhere without a yo-yo.
LAMB: What's ...
STOLL: I can't say a yo-yo whiz they've exaggerated there but..
LAMB: I could get injured in this process here.
STOLL: Let's see here..let's see.
LAMB: Now what's the attraction of this yo-yo?
STOLL: What's the attraction of this yo-yo? When I was a kid I wanted to learn the
yo-yo and only in the past year past two years or so have some ... a friend of mine two or three years ago gave me a yo-yo and so I was just playing with it. It was neat. Actually the real attraction of it was I was maybe 7 years old -- one of the local playgrounds Dewey Playground in Buffalo over near Kensington Street had a scavenger hunt. And you were supposed to collect things like like like a bottle a bottle filled with sunshine and collect things like a bucket of smog. And so all the 7-year-olds were supposed to scour the neighborhood looking for a bucket of smog and and bottle of sunshine.
And there was this list of 10 or 15 things and nine of the 10 things on the list were impossible things like a bottle of sunshine but you're a kid and you go out and you find this vodka bottle over in the corner and you come up with a long story about how this really contains sunshine. And but the tenth thing on the list was a yellow yo-yo. Of the nine things, nine of them were impossible to get but the tenth thing was an easy thing to get -- a yellow yo-yo. Well there's probably 25 kids in the scavenger hunt. And it was neat. You spend the afternoon just looking for these things. We got all nine of the 10 things except the tenth thing -- a yellow yo-yo none of us got. So after that I said, boy, I've always wanted a yellow yo-yo ever since that scavenger hunt I've wanted to learn how to do a yo-yo. Well I explained that to a friend of mine who's an astronomer who three years ago gave me a yellow yo-yo. It was a sleeper. You could sleep it, you know, do things. And so since then I've been trying to learn the yo-yo and I'm slowly learning. And it's fun. It give you something to do when you're nervous.
LAMB: This is not a statement at all on this book and what you've got in it, but did anybody ever say to you -- you know Cliff, you are made for television? Different in appearance. Yo-yo's. All these little things that make you a little bit different. No one's ever said that to you?
STOLL: Nobody's said that. I'm actually looking forward to being anonymous again.
LAMB: Do you think that's possible again?
STOLL: Oh yeah. Nobody cares about astronomers. I'm really looking forward to just being a just hiding out someplace and doing astronomy and settling in with Martha.
LAMB: By the way, this little Doubleday piece of paper here goes on to say "A self professed chocolate chip cookie fanatic" and you've talked about that earlier..
STOLL: The neatest -- I think -- oh please be here..
LAMB: Find the page?
STOLL: Yeah, isn't it in here someplace? It's got to be in a footnote. At any rate I can't ... there it is ... the right way ... it's on page 126 of the book -- the correct way to make chocolate cookies is to follow the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip cookie mix except don't put any salt in it, use unsalted butter, add more brown sugar and less white sugar. You know, standard instruction. But then all the people say just put a half a teaspoon -- a dainty teaspoon -- of vanilla in your chocolate chip cookies. Wrong. The thing to do is pour half a jug, you know, pour a full ounce or two ounces in and then take a couple of spoonfuls of cocoa and toss it into the mix too. And it makes a huge difference. It's like ... it's the right way to make chocolate chip cookies. Like the whole house will smell of vanilla. And everyone, all your roommates will come by and say it smells great. Seriously. I kid you not.
LAMB: This is the book. We're going to go just a little bit longer here to some odds and ends we need to complete ... a little longer than our hour. This book "The Cuckoo's Egg" written by you --completed what date?
STOLL: I finished writing it in December and Doubleday made me do the last edits in on in June of this year. So it's current to June and if I had to do it again I'd make a whole bunch of changes in it.
LAMB: You would do this book differently?
STOLL: Oh, I'd do it a whole lot differently. What would we do differently? I think I'd say more about some of the people who were involved and less about some of the other people. For instance, the interesting people to me three years ago were some of the technicians who were involved in the nitty gritty. They're still equally interesting but now I realize that there were a couple other people who were involved that I'm only finding out about now that the book is being published -- they're coming up to me and said you know you forgot to mention so and so who really worked on this ... And I said Oh who?. Oops. Sorry.
LAMB: Who are the villains in this process? You've..
STOLL: Who are the villains?
LAMB: I mean besides the people that were caught and are under indictment -- like who are the people you don't feel so good about today based on asking for their help? It seems like you were somewhat critical of the FBI.
STOLL: The FBI. This FBI agent -- I say, "Hey give me a hand. Help me. What's going on here. Can the FBI help?" And they said, "No.Go away kid. Seventy five cents. Forget it."
LAMB: When did the FB ...
STOLL: On the other hand, the Oakland Public Prosecutor we say the same thing to and he says, "Oh, that's a serious problem. We will get a California state warrant to allow you to trace these telephone lines." Completely different thing happened just based on who these people were.
LAMB: What did you think of the telephone companies?
STOLL: Telephone companies I'm up on. Calling the telephone technicians. You know, the standard thing to do is to dump on the telephone company. Hey, they're not giving us the service they want. It takes too long to have a telephone installed. I'm impressed. The phone companies in North America do good stuff. And it's hard for me even to say that. But I think they're doing good things.
LAMB: What's this chart?
STOLL: That's a chart of how a hacker in Hanover, Germany breaks in through the University of Bremen, the German Daytex Network, cuts through either a satellite link or a transatlantic cable link through time nets, gateways, through Miter Incorporated in McLean, Virginia defense contractor then cuts through time net to telephone company into our computer in Lawrence Berkeley Labs then goes out over the milnet and Arpanet starts breaking into computers ranging from Okinawa, Japan into the Pentagon into the Air Force Systems command space division. Note that this is a link up chart, this is a chart of how the ankle bone's connected to the leg bone is connected to the knee bone is connected up through ... this is how the skeleton is connected for this particular hacker. Just where he went to, what computers did he break into and what we had to do to trace the guy. What we had to do to trace this bastard as he broke into 30, 40 military computers. Literally. You know ...
LAMB: Do you want to meet him?
STOLL: Do I want to meet him? No. No more than I want to meet somebody whose..no more than I want to meet any other thief. Without ever having met him or heard his voice I know a lot about him. I can characterize him. I mean I know what brand cigarettes he smokes. I know what..
STOLL: He's breaking into a computer in in Berkeley and I watch him create a new account for himself and gives it the password hedges. He breaks into an army base in Anaston, Alabama, gives himself the password "Benson." I was kind of thick skulled at the time, but I mentioned this to a librarian Maggie Morley out in Berkeley and she says, "Oh yeah, he must smoke Benson & Hedges." So I can also characterize his computer competence. I know that he does not know much about astrophysics. He's completely uninterested in artificial intelligence and real neat computer research.
On the other hand, he's very methodical. Very mechanical. Has the patience to try to break into 400 -- 500 computers one after another. It's like somebody going down the block, twists the door knob tries to break in the front door goes around to the back door twist the door knob tries to break in. Can't get into that house goes to the next house does the same thing over and over. Just one after another -- tries to break in after about the fifth, sixth, seventh house -- Bang! The door is wide open. Then he carefully removes his shoes, makes sure that there's no footprints left behind, starts walking through the front room and starts carefully rifling through drawers and picking things up, reading what he can, copying it, putting it back exactly where it came from. Goes on to the next. So this is sort of the techniques that he's using to just break in and steal things. And so he's methodical. Very patient. What patience it must take to spend hours every week, hours night after night after night. Nope -- can't get in, can't get in, door flings open and he's in there. You would think that spying inside of computers would be exciting neat work. But no, for him it was probably very boring very tedious. The kind of stuff you wouldn't do unless somebody paid you for. I wouldn't do it.
LAMB: We've got to wrap this up. When you go around and speak and when you appear on programs and you are interviewed what are the questions that you are always asked?
STOLL: Questions? Questions that I'm always asked? I know a question I've never been asked. That's probably more interesting. What's the capital of North Dakota? No one has asked me that?
LAMB: What are the questions ...
STOLL: I was prepared in second grade to answer that question. I was taught in second grade to answer that question. Nobody's asked me that.
LAMB: Make the people of North Dakota happy. What is the capital of North Dakota?
STOLL: I forgot. I'm really sorry I've forgotten but I learned it in second grade. No kidding.
LAMB: Try Bismarck. Do you feel better now?
STOLL: The capital of North Dakota is Bismarck.
LAMB: This is a narrative. This is the book "The Cuckoo's Egg" written by Clifford Stoll. Thank you very much for your time.
STOLL: Many thanks to you. I appreciate it.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2002. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.