The Masters of Deception : Gang That Ruled Cyberspace, The

Author: Michele Slatalla
List Price: $15.00
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ISBN: 0060926945
Publisher: Perennial (10 January, 1996)
Edition: Paperback
Sales Rank: 82,391
Average Customer Rating: 4.24 out of 5

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Customer Reviews

Rating: 4 out of 5
"Easy to Understand" Hacking
Michelle Slatalla and Joshua Quittner's Masters of Deception: The Gang that Ruled Cyberspace is about hackers, more specifically hackers that enjoy entering into the telephone companies computers and looking around or as they call it, "research." I recently borrowed this from our library for an assignment, and am planning on purchasing it and reading many times more.
The book follows the path of the MOD boys as the deal with pranks and "pliks" along with some very weird Secret Service raids. Quittner and Slatalla make this possibly boring read come to life by explaining all of the hacker underground in laymen terms.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Skip this one
If you want a book on computer cracking that you can't put down, that will keep you up past your bedtime -- then skip this one and get The Cuckoo's Egg by Cliff Stoll. Factual and detailed. The Masters of Deception is more a feelgood fuzzy kind of sociological study, light on facts and correlations. Not one to read a second time.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Interesting... but dated
Back in 1990 a small gang of telephone hackers managed to bring down the entire AT&T long lines network through what was essentially very crude hacking: They found the login and password for a major AT&T switch, and they shut it down. In terms of technical skill, this is about as sophisticated as disabling a car by stealing the battery. But at the time, when AT&T was looked on as the rock Gibralter, it was shocking that a group of kids could manage to bring it down so easily.

Since then, both phone switch technology and the skills of hackers have increased, phone and computer technology has exploded in dozens of new wired and wireless services, and the Web has replaced the phone company as the target of many a youthful discordian. Given that, the tales of teenagers poking about in telephone switches and wide-open databases is pretty boring.

The real heart of the story of "Masters" isn't the technology, of course, but the sociology and the personalities of the teens involved. When this story first broke, the players were portrayed as young geniuses who had mastered an arcane technology and beaten the giant phone company at their own game. The truth is somewhat less impressive and less interesting. None of these kids were geniuses, although they were for the most part pretty bright. Most of their hacks involved diving in dumpsters for technical manuals or posing as AT&T employees to gain access and information. What they were doing was as much con games as anything, and what they did with the information they gleaned wasn't terribly sophisticated or imaginative. Nor were they themselves particularly sophisticated in hiding their tracks- even after being charged with crimes they continued hacking away at other computer systems.

In the end, there really isn't much to tell. A few teens and post teens get prison sentences. And no one seems to have learned very much.

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