Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Dirty deeds done by Digger?

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  • Russell Brown,

    And here’s the BBC’s own report on the Panorama programme that screened in the past couple of hours:

    Lee Gibling said NDS paid for Thoic’s servers and was across all of its hacking and TV piracy.

    “Everything that was in the closed area of Thoic was totally accessed by any of the NDS representatives,” he said.

    He added that although Thoic was in his name, in reality the website belonged to NDS.

    “It was NDS. It was their baby and it started to become more their baby as they fashioned it to their own design.”

    Once ITV Digital’s codes were published on Thoic, Mr Gibling said his site was then used to defeat the electronic countermeasures that the company used to try to stop the piracy.

    Mr Gibling said new codes created by ITV Digital were sent out to other piracy websites.

    “We wanted people to be able to update these cards themselves, we didn’t want them buying a single card and then finding they couldn’t get channels. We wanted them to stay and keep with On Digital, flogging it until it broke."

    Sheeit.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18513 posts Report Reply

  • Robert Fox,

    And this at a time when News Corp appear to be going after Cameron. Strange days.

    Since Nov 2006 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman,

    Didn't Rupert tweet some pretty strident stuff about pirates?

    I guess this would be just about privateering then. Or something.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 205 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I used to work in this part of the industry - integrating crypto into settop boxes for various vendors - I've dealt with all the major crypto vendors, including NDS.

    They're all a bit paranoid, very hard to deal with, which is I guess is understandable given the business they're in, building a relationship to work with them was always hard - and NDS were always the hardest of them all - story was they originally came out of Mossad's crypto people and still have that whole spy frame of mind. Maybe the dirty tricks side too. Their code sucked as well.

    To be fair to Murdoch I think NDS were doing this before he bought them and my impression is that he was blind sided by all this shit hitting the fan.

    Echostar (Dish TV in the US) was a customer of NDS's major competitor, they'd had an ongoing range war with the Canadians who were breaking their crypto (at the time legal, Canada because E* didn't provide the required amount of French language content and therefor was an illegal product in Canada - and legally couldn't be stolen) whether NDS was involved I don't know, though I suspect that the Canadians started off without their help (at least when I had this story told to me from E* people - before the NDS revelations - there was no mention of NDS)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2031 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    They’re all a bit paranoid, very hard to deal with, which is I guess is understandable given the business they’re in, building a relationship to work with them was always hard – and NDS were always the hardest of them all – story was they originally came out of Mossad’s crypto people and still have that whole spy frame of mind. Maybe the dirty tricks side too. Their code sucked as well.

    Several other leading Israeli companies in broadcast tech emerged from military and security applications I think -- most notably those behind the motion-tracking products we see in sports coverage.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18513 posts Report Reply

  • Ana Simkiss,

    From the link on the end of the lawsuit, without comment:

    "This brings an end to this long drawn-out process in which we vehemently denied all allegations of piracy which were made against us over a decade ago," said Abe Peled, NDS Group executive chairman. "Piracy is an issue throughout the industry and injurious to all in the value chain. It is only with the active anti-piracy efforts of companies such as ourselves that the pay-TV industry is able to evolve and continue to enable people to enjoy premium TV viewing."

    Freemans Bay • Since Nov 2006 • 121 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    E* didn't provide the required amount of French language content and therefor was an illegal product in Canada - and legally couldn't be stolen

    We should have this in NZ. Any content not available in a Te Reo translation doesn't qualify for copyright.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4361 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Grevers, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Any content not available in a Te Reo translation doesn't qualify for copyright.

    That would just see a lot of content (or a lot more than present) being denied to NZ. Remember that French is the majority language in a significant part of Canada - the status of Te Reo Māori is nothing like as strong.

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 121 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I don't think the issue was copyright - there was a court case in which the pirates (aargh!) argued that the US TV had no commercial value in Canada, and that one could not steal something that had no value, and did not deprive the owner of the item. What followed was a burgeoning Canadian trade in pirated smart cards leaking across the border into the US and an ongoing cat and mouse game between the pirates and E*/DTV - I think they basically had crap crypto when they started, these days the pirates have to be able to factor large primes (all they need is one quantum computer .... )

    I believe the law has since changed, the US seems to have played the heavy in Canadian politics a lot recently

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2031 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Piracy? More like industrial espionage.

    And the prank hacking of The Sun's web page was poetic justice to say the least.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4060 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan,

    I imagine there will be much interest in the evidence NDS gave in their defence against the Echostar lawsuit.

    Potential perjury?

    While it is probably true that Rupe has plausible deniability with respect to this dirty business, his corporations have demonstrated an alarming habit of using dirty tricks against competitors.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 143 posts Report Reply

  • James George,

    Well as someone who followed the NDS saga quite closely at the time, I have to say the old 'way back machine' must have been going hard. Old links that give detail to the story have gone from anywhere near the top of search engine results, while the barebones which iterate the fallacy now repeated here, that Vivendi/Canal Plus (for whom the original cards used by ITV Digital were manufactured for) used technology that was already outmoded at the time of implementation is repeated over and over. Unsurprisingly NewsCorp rags such as the FT predominate high up the list.

    Remember all the digital TV companies were struggling with hacking at that time - including murdoch's channels. Some readers may remember how easy it was to watch sky in NZ if one fitted a video card to yer PC. The Vivendi/Canal Plus problem was the speed with which the cards were cracked and released following changes to the encryption made to circumvent crackers.

    Many of the original, now hard to find articles included testimony from a former 'hacker' turned NDS employee who had to move to Israel because, he claimed, his NDS bosses wanted to work in a country where the US Digital Millennium Copyright type laws against reverse engineering hadn't yet been passed.
    This bloke also said/claimed that NDS has spent considerable sums, in the millions, buying hardware that allowed the Vivendi/Canal plus cards to be physically scanned to determine embedded code and hard wired security.

    The bloke also had the job of uploading the newly decrypted codes to a site in Canada from where the Vivendi hacks were disseminated.
    Now a decade later who can really remember when a particular protocol became 'too old' especially since many of the victims have been paid off, but it needs to be remembered that this was right at the beginning of the digital TV changeover and the technology was fast evolving. Only if channels had the resources to keep buying upgrades.
    The worst thing about this sort of piracy (according to NewsCorp when explaining why they went to such lengths when they chased an escapee from a low security englander jail all the way to NZ. The bloke had been convicted of selling forged Sky digital cards) is that not only does the ready availability of cheaper cards compete with the legit product; it devalues the product in the eyes of consumers. "Only mugs pay full tote for ITV Digital" became a meme in england.

    As for Panorama's belated coverage, the BBC has made in plain that it will take no prisoners in its battle with News International. The blue started before the last englander election by young James launching attacks on state broadcasters for providing 'free' news.

    Kind of ironic since the post Hutton Inquiry BBC News bulletins are tough to tell apart from Fox News Bulletins. John Simpson and Bill O'Reilly are pretty much birds of a feather esp on USuk imperialism.
    Bring back Stratos/Triangle - whose disappearance strikes as another murky affair. (Forgive pun).

    Since Sep 2007 • 66 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to James George,

    Well as someone who followed the NDS saga quite closely at the time, I have to say the old ‘way back machine’ must have been going hard.

    Indeed. Oddly enough, I also paid lots of attention to that sphere back then -- a legacy of stories I'd written about the hacking of stored-value cards (remember Mondex?) for Computerworld.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18513 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Ah, Mondex! So much hope, so little delivery. And DigiCash was another. This is one reason I print to PDF web stories if I might want them for the future, so that I still have them when they disappear from their sites. Wayback doesn't gather everything :-(


    ETA and as for Rupe, the chickens are roosting, and there have been a lot of them over the years...

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1768 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    Ah, Mondex! So much hope, so little delivery.

    Aw, you got me going now:

    Security expert claims e-cash system fatally flawed

    Mondex marketing may mask the issues

    Banks reassess Mondex after security doubts

    Tbh, they read a bit better than I thought they would. I’ve always thought that with more experience I could have done better than I did with the material I got. Which was incredible.

    I honestly think this is the most influential writing I ever did. Weirdly, it failed to even be a Qantas finalist that year.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18513 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Ah yes, this one:

    AUCKLAND– Mondex International is running a public relations campaign to emphasise positive aspects of its security after acknowledging in a confidential document that customers may not be protected if its electronic cash scheme is “compromised”.

    Holders of Mondex smartcards will not be protected by Mondex and will not necessarily be able to redeem the value held on their cards if the scheme is successfully attacked, according to an agenda item on security PR prepared for a Mondex board of directors’ meeting in July.

    The document, leaked to Computerworld, describes a plan to counter “this obvious weakness” and cites the need to step up security PR in light of “recent events”, namely the series of articles in Computerworld (New Zealand).

    Potential adverse impacts on Mondex of fears about its security are listed. These include attacks from consumer groups and pressure on governments “to act to protect the consumer against products like Mondex, either by insisting that Mondex accepts liability or that it is not allowed to be developed”. Mondex also fears adverse impacts on the other brands held by MasterCard, Mondex’s 51% owner.

    Six New Zealand banks – ANZ, National, Westpac Trust, BNZ, Countrywide, and ASB – are also shareholders in Mondex and recently confirmed their intention to launch the smartcard-based system in October next year.

    “Given our assertion that Mondex is ‘tamper resistant’ and not ‘tamper proof’, any stepping up of PR security must include clear statements of the basis upon which consumers will be protected in the event of a security breach”,” the document says.

    “Without these statements, we are in danger of exposing the fact that the system is not tamper-proof, and should it be compromised, we will not protect cardholders."

    Ah, good times.

    Needless to say, Mondex never launched in New Zealand and the banks walked away from their investment.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18513 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Needless to say, Mondex never launched in New Zealand and the banks walked away from their investment.

    I think that was the response all over the world, actually. The Swindon trial was their first big one, they also had trials in Isreal and Canada. http://www.mondex.org reckons there were reports of 23 separate trials in the media, but they haven't been able to track them all down.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1768 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew E, in reply to James George,

    A minor point: the FT (thankfully) is not a Murdoch rag.

    Unlike the poor old WSJ which succumbed to his clutches in the last year or so.

    174.77 x 41.28 • Since Sep 2008 • 197 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan,

    This is huge. More evidence they have done the same thing elsewhere, specifically Australia:

    http://www.afr.com/p/business/marketing_media/pay_tv_piracy_hits_news_OV8K5fhBeGawgosSzi52MM

    Wow. Murdoch is screwed. His cash cows will be taken away from him. Might not happen right away, but if this pans out there is no way he can be allowed to retain control.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 143 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Aidan,

    This is huge. More evidence they have done the same thing elsewhere, specifically Australia:

    Holy shit. I wonder what other dirty deeds are detailed in those emails?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18513 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan,

    Murdoch’s whining about piracy is well founded. News was executing pirate attacks against rivals and knew just how damaging they could be.

    What a massive bastard. Imagine having him as father. Yuck.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 143 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Holy shit. I wonder what other dirty deeds are detailed in those emails?

    The pile on from all quarters on Murdoch shows that everyone was just waiting for someone else to make the first move.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1768 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    The pile on from all quarters on Murdoch shows that everyone was just waiting for someone else to make the first move.

    This Ray Adams guy certainly kept the memos. All 11,000 of them. The AFR says it's been working on the story for four years -- and I suspect you're right that it figured now, after Panorama had called Murdoch's bluff, was the time to go with it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18513 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Aidan,

    Wow. Murdoch is screwed. His cash cows will be taken away from him. Might not happen right away, but if this pans out there is no way he can be allowed to retain control.

    If the NotW was the entree, then this might be the main course. Definitely industrial espionage.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4060 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan,

    Check this out. NDS withheld "fixes" for piracy of DirecTV services for 15 MONTHS to depress the share price for a Rupe takeover:

    http://www.afr.com/p/business/marketing_media/how_nds_made_the_price_right_ePmeEzXgttjzE6bPMHsoVO

    General Motors were the ones who lost out. I'm thinking there might be some serious lawsuits. News sold NDS a couple of weeks ago to CISCO for $5bn -- they might be a little pissed about these revelations affecting the value of the business. Again, possible lawsuit? As they own the company, presumably they might have access to a great deal of incriminating material.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 143 posts Report Reply

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