MASTERS OF DECEPTION by Michelle Slatalla


The Gang That Ruled Cyberspace
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 A fast-paced tale of teenage hackers and their potentially dangerous mischief in cyberspace. With a deft touch and an occasionally sardonic yet sympathetic voice, Newsday reporters and mystery coauthors Slatalla and Quittner (Mother's Day, 1993, etc.) create a lively narrative. Queens, N.Y., high school valedictorian Paul Stira and buddy Eli Ladopoulos enlist the notorious Phiber Optik (Mark Abene) to help them probe the phone company computer they've penetrated. When Abene gets expelled from the hack gang Legion of Doom (LOD), he and his new friends, along with two other hackers, form Masters of Deception (MOD). They crash The Learning Link, a regional network that rebroadcasts educational TV shows, leaving a message of bravado; they hack into a Harper's forum on hackers, and their bold defense of the hacker ethic (any system is fair game) unnerves their elders. A battle is engaged between LOD and MOD. The Texans at LOD set up a hacker group to police cyberspace; a racial slur from one infuriates the New Yorkers, who harass their rivals. The Texans, however, enlist the Feds, who step in after one MOD starts peddling credit files. Charged with various counts of wire fraud and unauthorized access to computers, the five New Yorkers plead guilty, but several have jobs waiting when they get out of jail. While the authors note that the growing Internet offers even more opportunity for hacking and that the newly established Electronic Frontier Foundation backed off defending MOD (to avoid being seen as a ``hacker defense fund''), they could have done more to place the MOD's work in the context of the history of hacking. Still, they make technical information accessible, showing the mix of computer smarts and sheer gall (like pretending to be a repairman to extract phone company info) it takes to hack. A good read, if a bit facile. (First serial to Wired; $35,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-06-017030-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994


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