Karl Koch (hacker)

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Karl Koch
Karl Werner Lothar Koch

(1965-07-22)July 22, 1965
Diedc. May 23, 1989(1989-05-23) (aged 23)
Celle, Germany
Known forCold war hacker

Karl Werner Lothar Koch (July 22, 1965 – c. May 23, 1989) was a German hacker in the 1980s, who called himself "hagbard", after Hagbard Celine. He was involved in a Cold War computer espionage incident.


Koch was born in Hanover. He was heavily influenced by The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Besides adopting his pseudonym from a character in the book, he also named his computer "FUCKUP" ("First Universal Cybernetic-Kinetic Ultra-Micro Programmer"), after a computer designed and built by that character.

Koch was loosely affiliated with the Chaos Computer Club. He worked with the hackers known as DOB (Dirk-Otto Brezinski), Pengo (Hans Heinrich Hübner), and Urmel (Markus Hess), and was involved in selling hacked information from United States military computers to the KGB. Clifford Stoll's book The Cuckoo's Egg gives a first-person account of the hunt and eventual identification of Hess. Pengo and Koch subsequently came forward and confessed to the authorities under the espionage amnesty, which protected them from being prosecuted.[1]

Koch was found burned to death with gasoline in a forest near Celle, Germany. The death was officially claimed to be a suicide.[2][3] However, some[who?] believe there is little evidence supporting suicide and many believe that Koch was killed in order to keep him from confessing more to the authorities. Why Koch would be targeted, and not Pengo and Urmel, is unknown.

Koch left his workplace in his car to go for lunch; he had not returned by late afternoon and so his employer reported him as a missing person. Meanwhile, German police were alerted of an abandoned car in a forest near Celle. When they went to investigate, they found an abandoned car, that looked like it had been there for years, as it was covered in dust. Near to the car they found a burned corpse (Koch). His shoes were missing and have never been found. There was a patch of burned ground around him, which although it had not rained in some time and the grass was perfectly dry, was controlled in a small circle around the corpse. It is thought[by whom?] to be highly unlikely that this type of controlled burning could have been achieved by Koch himself which leads many to believe that his death was not suicide.[4]

Karl Koch in media[edit]


  • Katie Hafner, John Markoff. CYBERPUNK: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier, Revised (November 1, 1995 ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 400. ISBN 0-684-81862-0.


A German movie about his life, entitled 23, was released in 1998. While the film was critically acclaimed, it has been harshly criticized as exploitative by real-life witnesses. A corrective to the film's take is the documentation written by his friends.[5]

In 1990 a documentary was released titled The KGB, The Computer and Me.


  • Koch was memorialized by Clock DVA at the opening of their music video for "The Hacker" and in the liner notes for "The Hacker" on the album Buried Dreams (1989).

See also[edit]


External links[edit]