Hacking History: LOD vs. MOD Part 2 [The Hacker Gang War]
Last week, I started the story of two of the most infamous hacker gangs of the 1980’s: the Legion of Doom and the Masters of Deception. The second part of this story gets a bit more ambiguous, considering the nature of hacking operations. Much of my sourcing comes from a book entitled Masters of Deception: The Gang that Ruled Cyberspace and an article by Wired entitled Gang War in Cyberspace. I’ll refrain from continually siting these articles, though if a direct quote or another source is used, it will be linked and/or referenced throughout this article.
As I noted in last week’s post, the Masters of Deception (MOD) started in the spirit of direct opposition to the Legion of Doom (LOD), so it’s only natural that some cyber turf wars ensued therefrom. However, the impetus of their fighting was not started through online warfare or cyber turf, but with a racist remark.
The Hacker Gang War Begins
Sometime after MOD became official, publishing “The History of MOD” and beginning their hacking ventures into largely uncharted cyberspace, the feud began. One of the frequent hacks both the LOD and MOD took part in were setting up phone lines that could not be billed by the phone companies. This allowed them to have large conference calls, connecting people from across the United States, free of charge (via 3-way calling). The LOD had their own “liberated” phone line that they used for all their phone-based communications. Well, John “Corrupt” Lee broke into one of these conference calls and made a declaration to which one of the LOD boys replied, “Get that n*** off the line!” John Lee was not pleased and immediately made Chris “Erik Bloodaxe” Groggans (of LOD) his enemy.
Before continuing with this story, it’s important to point out the innovation that both groups contributed to. Aside from sharing valuable knowledge, LOD and MOD’s activities changed our understanding and prioritizing of security and policy as well as shedding light on the possibilities computer networks allowed us to access.
Per a recorded talk by John “Corrupt” Lee, MOD had broken into AT&T, banks, and eventually the NSA (which is what ultimately got them busted). He also discusses his two years in jail, what he’s doing now, and mentions the Great Hacker War, haphazardly commenting on the number of damaged computers left in the wreckage of the battle. Now back to the story…
As Chris Groggans and Scott Chasin begin working on a computer security firm called Comsec Data Security which they had been discussing for some time as the harassment begins. It starts with several, persisting, threatening phone calls to his house phone. Occasionally three-way-calling Scott in as well. Later-on, Chris’ long-distance carrier was randomly switched from Sprint to AT&T, causing Chris to undergo some annoying, bureaucratic phone conversations, explaining the situation. This harassment pushed Chris Groggans a bit over the edge, and with the belief that John Lee was behind all the harassment, and assuming he wrote the MOD manifesto, he decided to perform a little harassment of his own.
Chris concocted, yet another, racially insensitive (if not outright offensive) attack on the MOD. Taking the MOD Manifesto and running it through a translation program, he creates and publishes a “jived” version of the manifesto. To give you an idea about how this is offensive:
Original version: “In the early part of 1987, there were numerous amounts of busts in the US and in New York in particular…”
“Jived” version: “In de early part uh 1987, dere wuz numerous amounts uh busts in de US and in New Yo’k in particular…”
As Wired puts it, “Using the jive program is the electronic equivalent of appearing in blackface”. Around the time of Comsec’s grand opening (1991) John discovers the jived MOD Manifesto. Stunned by the outlandish offense, John is moved to continue his harassment of Chris and Scott. After an article is published in the Times about their new business venture, John Lee finds his in and logs into the Southwestern Bell switch controlling Comsec’s phone service. Playing the long game, John Lee begins surveilling Comsec’s communications.
One day in 1991, Craig Neidorf, world-famous hacker, called Comsec to discuss some phone harassment he’s been experiencing. After describing the harassment to Chris, Chris admits that the behavior sounded like it may have come from a hacker by the name of Corrupt. Just as he omits this information, a call comes in on the other line. When Chris switches over, a voice replies “Yeah, that does sound like something I would do.” Putting Chris into a panic.
With concerns of his company’s credibility in mind, Chris contacts the FBI to find that they have had an ongoing investigation of MOD for a couple years already. This, with the already gathered intel, marks the end of the MOD. The group’s main members all wound up in prison and/or with fines. They were charged with “the most widespread intrusions of the nation’s largest and most sensitive computer systems ever recorded”, as per Wired. Aside from sending a message to amateur hackers, this case also brought the dangers of cyberspace to the public eye changing beginning a legacy of understanding and approaching to system breaches and cyber security at large.
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