The KGB, The Computer, and Me

In 1986, astronomer and computer scientist Clifford Stoll notices a 75-cent discrepancy between the charges printed by two accounting programs at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

These programs were responsible for charging people for machine use and would operate day and night. Usually the program would work flawlessly, so having even 75-cents off on the calculations was something to investigate.

Looking into the issue, Stoll deduced that the system had a string of inconsistencies. One where, a specific user named “Hunter” was undocumented in the system.

Digging further into the issue showed how Hunter had methodically installed new programs to elevate himself as the de facto super administrator of the system. In essence, Hunter could do anything he wanted whenever he wanted. – In other words; Stoll had just uncovered a hacker.

Intrigued, Clifford Stoll investigates the hacker’s footprints in an effort to uncover who this was and what he wanted.

What follows is a 6-months wild virtual chase through the ethernet tubes, leading Stoll to realize how this hacker is a part of foreign intelligence, designed to prod and pull any military data out of the U.S. This was a spy who was stealing the U.S. government’s internal files.

As the documentary progresses, Stoll realizes the hacker is a computer programmer located in Hannover, Germany. US intelligence is then sent out to investigate further, realizing in the process that “Hunter” worked for the Russian intelligence service KGB.

The KGB, The Computer, and Me
  • Info
  • Release date1990
  • Full runtime
  • Director(s)Robin Bates
  • Production companyWGBH