Some hacker groups have noble intentions. They adhere to a code of ethics and strive to make the world a better place through Hacktivistism. Masters of Deception doesn’t fall into that category. MOD, as they were affectionately known as, were a group of brash youths who seemed consumed with their reputation and competition with rival groups rather than adding something to humanity. Several key elements of the rise and fall of the Masters of Deception will be discussed below.
The group MOD started in New York in the late 1980’s. At the time, Legion of Doom was a really hot hacker group out of Texas who was garnering a lot of attention. Several key future members of MOD were turned off by their interaction with Legion of Doom and its supposed deterioration, so they formed a rival group Masters of Deception (1). The name may well have been a play on Legions of Doom (LOD), but the rivalry wasn’t all fun and games. Members of MOD would call the home of a certain LOD member almost nonstop (2). Member of MOD would hold meetings in the Citigroup building at least once a month (1). This is where members could get to know each other and exchange ideas.
Unlike hackers today, MOD had to resort to an inordinate amount of manual labor to help facilitate their exploits. Their hacks consisted mainly of breaking into computer system of phone companies. One major element in gaining access to a network would be to dumpster dive at the headquarters of a given company in hopes of finding some tidbit of paper with a username and password to help them gain access (1). This part of the adventure may have been just as thrilling as the technical invasion of a network. They were like young pirates in search of paper gold to lead them to some digital glory just to rub in the face their Texas rivals. Though there certainly were many illegal activities involved in MOD’s escapades as evidenced by the federal charges, they seem to amount to teenagers going for a joy ride.
Acid Phreak and Outlaw originally founded MOD (1). Corrupt also knows as John Lee would join them a short while later. John Lee was the network hacking expert of the bunch (2). He had skills and knowledge that made much of mischief MOD was up to possible. Phiber Optik was perhaps the most notorious member of the group. He had been a member of Legion of Doom originally and eventually migrated over to Masters of Deception (1)
Law enforcement began tracking the activities of MOD in the summer of 1989 (2). They had noticed them breaking into the phone company’s networks and were slowly building a case against them. MOD didn’t share the notoriety of the Texas rivals until they were arrested. They may have infiltrated some of the biggest network of the time, but not many people actually knew about it. The fact is they were one of the first groups to be targeted and taken down by the FBI for hacking. Altogether 5 members of MOD were charged with computer crimes (3). Each of them pleaded guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence and served less than a year in jail (2).
MOD’s notoriety came in their demise. They were made an example of by law enforcement, which overly publicized the grandeur of their escapades. MOD perhaps would not have been made an example of if it were not for their contempt for the Legion of Doom. In the end, the group of teenage boys who took on a legendary hacking group became legends in their own right.