artful deception

Masters of Deception

Masters of Deception (MOD) were a New York-based hacker group. MOD successfully controlled all the major telephone RBOC's and X.25 networks as well as controlling large parts of the backbone of the rapidly emerging Internet.

Origin of Masters of Deception

MOD's initial membership grew from meetings on Loop-Around Test Lines that led to legendary collaborations to hack RBOC phone switches and the various minicomputers and mainframes used to administer the telephone network. They successfully remained underground using alternative handles to hide even their true hacker identities, which over time had become notorious. Bearing no resemblance to the stereotypical profile or media representation of how a traditional hacker looks or acts provided a perfect cover for instances of hacking in public places. Ironically, MOD's unique sense of style would later make some of its members very popular with the mass-media.

Acid Phreak founded the Masters of Deception with Scorpion and HAC. The name itself was, among other things, a mockery of LOD, as 'M' is one letter up in the alphabet from 'L', although the name originally was a flexible acronym that could be used to identify membership in situations where anonymity would be the best course of action. It could stand for "Millions of Dollars" just as easily as "Masters of Deception." The latter was perfectly suited to the ideology of MOD, who, through artful deception, attained new heights in exploration and understanding of "The System". Alternate handles, social engineering, misdirection, discovery of and the masterful application of system exploits, backdoors and trojan horses, these were the ways of Masters of Deception.

It is worth mentioning that the intended mockery of the LOD name was a sort of statement to the underground that LOD had lost its direction. Several LOD members were close friends who had been raided and indicted by the government, causing the majority of those who remained to drop out of the underground for safety reasons. In their absence, LOD largely fell into disarray causing the disagreement and disillusionment that led Phiber Optik to align himself with MOD in an effort to restore the direction of the true spirit of underground hacking.

Members of MOD

The original Masters of Deception included: Mark Abene ("Phiber Optik"), Paul Stira ("Scorpion"), Eli Ladopoulos ("Acid Phreak"), HAC, John Lee ("Corrupt," a.k.a. "Netw1z"), and Julio Fernandez ("Outlaw").

Additional members whose real names are unknown include: Supernigger (also of DPAK), Wing, Nynex Phreak, Billy_The_Kid, Crazy Eddie, The Plague, ZOD, Neutrino, Seeker (CKER), Red Knight (who was also a member of Cult of the Dead Cow) and Lord Micro.


Masters of Deception operated differently in many respects to previous hacking groups. Although they openly shared information with each other, they took a controversial view on sharing information outside the group. It was believed that access to MOD's knowledge should be earned via degrees of initiation and a proven respect for the craft, rather than releasing powerful information into the wild where it could be used for nefarious purposes. A demonstration of responsibility on the part of the initiate was required. This informal compartmentalized protection of more sensitive knowledge was a structure originally employed by LOD in the 1980s, rather successfully. According to Lex Luthor, "I realized early on that only certain people can be trusted with certain information, and certain types of information can be trusted to no one. Giving out useful things to irresponsible people would inevitably lead to whatever thing it was being abused and no longer useful. I was very possessive of my information and frequently withheld things from my articles." --Phrack #40 interview, 1/8/1992.

The Fall of MOD

As a result of a major nationwide investigation by a joint FBI/Secret Service task force, five of MOD's members were indicted in 1992 in federal court. Within the next six months (in 1993), all five pleaded guilty and were sentenced to either probation or prison.


Masters of Deception have appeared in many magazine and newspaper articles, and the individual members have appeared on television numerous times.

  • Village Voice July 24, 1990. Cover Article by Julian Dibbel.
  • Masters of Deception — The Gang that Ruled Cyberspace (ISBN 0-06-092694-5)
  • Gang War in Cyberspace Wired 2.12


  • The Book of MOD, Vol. III
  • Computer Underground Digest, Volume 5, Issue 87
  • Masters of Deception — The Gang that Ruled Cyberspace (ISBN 0-06-092694-5)
  • Gang War in Cyberspace Wired 2.12
  • Notorious M.O.D. Wired 9.06

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