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Masters of Deception: The Gang That Ruled Cyberspace Paperback – December 1, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (December 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060926945
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060926946
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,061,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On January 15, 1990, the AT&T long-distance phone network crashed. Although it was eventually ruled an accident, the event was a wake-up call to telephone companies and law enforcement agencies everywhere, exposing the fragility of the systems that we all heavily depend on. The feds decided that the time had come to crack down on the handful of computer hackers they had been monitoring for several years in connection with the phone companies. The term "hacker" is about to become a household word, and not in the sense of "great programming."

Set against this backdrop, two rival gangs--The Legion of Doom and The Masters of Deception--are about to go to war. What sounds like a clash of comic-book supervillains is actually a feud between factions of teenagers, fueled by misunderstandings and adolescent testosterone. The events leading up to the conflict and its climax are riveting and fun. The book features great depictions of some of the earliest celebrities of hackerdom, including Acid Phreak and Phiber Optik, as well as tales of their exploits and rivalries. Slatalla and Quittner do a great job of portraying the principals as both the powerful cyberspace masters they want to be and the scared, emotional young men they really are.

There is also a nostalgic attraction at work in Masters of Deception. Anyone who remembers their first Commie 64 or TRS-80 will long for those golden days and be thankful that they were elsewhere when the Secret Service came calling.

From Publishers Weekly

This riveting account of electronic gang warfare and computer crimes by two rival bands of hackers raises disturbing questions about computer security. One group of brainy teens based in New York City and calling themselves Masters of Deception (MOD) downloaded confidential credit histories (including those of Geraldo Rivera and Julia Roberts), broke into AT&T's computer system and stole credit-card numbers. Their arch rivals, the Texas-based Legion of Doom (LOD), launched a security service firm to assist corporations whose computers MOD has penetrated. MOD had one African American member, and it was the racial epithet electronically hurled at him by LOD hackers that triggered the feud, according to New York Newsday reporters Slatalla and Quittner, husband-and-wife coauthors of mystery fiction. The Secret Service, using unprecedented authorized datataps (wiretaps on a computer), helped bust MOD in 1992; four hackers got jail sentences ranging from six months to a year. First serial to Wired; author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The book is well written and very easy to read.
Bas Vodde
Great book going behind the scenes of computer hackers in teh late 80's early 90's.
DaReda
I greatly encourage you to read this book, it is worth your time and money!
Por

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Forman on January 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this book a while ago, but I was still so impressed by it that as I'm showing a friend of mine the web page here I couldn't help but add a review. My aunt bought me this book for Christmas, and I put it down only once over the course of two days. Masters of Deception paints a wonderfully vivid picture of the hacker culture and Internet security when both were nascent. The book is technically vivid, emotionally engaging, and just plain fascinating.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By zem on July 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
I read this after reading Clifford Stoll's Cuckoo's Egg which is a much better book on the same subject matter. Stoll is just a smart and observant graduate student who simply tries to tell his story accurately. The 2 authors of Masters of Deception are apparently professional writers and they spend too much time trying to liven up what is essentially an account of high school and college kids playing on computers. You get the feeling they writing this with a screenplay in mind. The book is filled with cliches, bad metaphors, contrived rhetorical questions: "Destroy people's lives? Make them look like saints? Is this what hackers do?" There is very little interesting technical info and much of what there is is dumbed down and often wrong. The discussion of tymnet in chapter 13 is completely off. They obviously don't understand it. Cuckoo's Egg is much better and even the Littman books are better books on the same topic.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
I'm sorry. I don't know where that title came from. This is one of those books that really sheds some insight into the mind of the phone phreakers and the 'hacker' subculture. Kids, bored, learn everything there is to know about the phone system, social engineering, and various other things.
Because they are young, they do cool sutff with their knowledge, and because the world doesn't have much of a sense of humor, they get into trouble.
A very interesting read about the people who would be Internet Consultants and web designers today, but didn't have the material to work with at the time. Proto-web as it were. If you ever wondered about what the online world looked like before it was the web, read this book. It's great fun.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "asestrin" on April 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is essentially a slightly jumbled, chronologically organized log of all the events and occurences that lead to the hacking scandal of the early 1990's and the war between MOD and LOD, two rival hacker groups.
The book begins with an introduction to all these hacker kids, and continues on through all their hacking exploits, life occurences, and various important events leading up to the cyberspace war, and computer law scandal.
The book is cliched in some ways, and attempts to answer the question of what a hacker really is, and what a hacker really does. In the end the book ends up being a bit of a cautionary tale.
None of the boys' deepest feelings or psyches are really explored, and it really seems that if they ever get below the surface to show what they're really thinking, it's very brief. In the end it seems a bit like reading a log of events.
All in all the book is informative, and there are few, if any, technical mistakes (not that there is much technical dialogue to begin with).
I urge you to buy this book, simply to be informed, and if you're up for some light reading on the subject, it's likely you'll enjoy it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 16, 1998
Format: Paperback
What could have been a very boring and dry account of the daily affairs of teenager hackers was turned into an insightful and entertaining book with serious social value. The way the story was presented kept every character vital and kept the reader informed on what the overall picture was. The way in which it switched perspective every chapter or so also kept the plot line fresh. It stayed true to the ideals of all involved, although at times it slanted a bias towards the young pranksters, and "Masters of Deception" also succeeded in conveying what hacking is really all about. The summary at the end also provided one hell of a thought to chew on. Actually it gave you several, and that is quite possibly the most redeeming thing about this book. Not only is it a fun read, but it provokes you to think about the social questions surrounding what has become a major issue in the 90s.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Baker VINE VOICE on April 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Review by C. Douglas Baker

MASTERS OF DECEPTION: THE GANG THAT RULED CYBERSPACE

By Michelle Slatalla and Joshua Quittner

HarperCollins Publishers, Incorporated

New York, New York

Copyright 1995

225 pages

"They believe in the hacker ethic: Thou shalt not destroy." With this oft repeated refrain, Slatalla and Quittner unfold the exploits of a hacker gang, the self styled Masters of Deception (MOD). Briefly, a group of intelligent kids in the early 1990's, with cheap computers and a lot of time on their hands break into sensitive computer systems all over the country. While most people were asleep, these teens were accessing and learning how a variety of high tech computers controlling telecommunications operate. MOD's most notable intrusions were the telephone company and TRW, the company that keeps data on everyone's credit. Of course, they were not supposed to be there and were technically committing a crime. Their motive was primarily a desire to learn and the bragging rights associated with "hacking" some company's computer system, then sharing its secrets with friends. They were only limited by their imaginations and their ability to find a receptive computer accessible via a modem. The morals of "cyberspace" is: if a computer is vulnerable to penetration, then it is fair game for the hacker. The hacker is actually doing the victim a favor by exposing their weakness (assuming he victim even realizes they have been penetrated). Once the phone company realized it was being "hacked" it did not take the intrusion lightly. After a lengthy investigation that included the phone company, the Secret Service, and the New York City District Attorney's office, among others, the ring leaders were caught.
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