Platinum MemberUsername: Lklives
Post Number: 15049
Echostar is suing NDS (maker of VideoGuard, DTV's encryption system, and also CEO'ed by Rupert Murdoch) for $1 Billion for damages for piracy and copyright infringement of the Echostar Viewing card codes and for aiding the distribution and supply of pirate Echostar viewing cards for the Echostar owned Dish TV.
A key witness was in Amsterdam on the weekend attending a conference, and spoke to reporters and other interested parties:
Francois Pilet, Amsterdam
Saturday, March 29 2008
The audience is glued to the lips of Christopher Tarnovsky. In front of a podium of hackers and security specialists - with an average age of 25 - the self-taught electronics specialist revealed the techniques that allow him to break open chip cards that block access to pay TV chains in the whole world.
The scene takes place in the Movenpick hotel in Amsterdam, where the European edition of the Black Hat conference was held Thursday and Friday last week. This is one of the prime professional meetings dedicated to computer piracy. Among the twenty or so speakers invited to this big get-together, Christoper Tarnovsky talked for more than one and a half hour in the "Lausanne" room - a sign of destiny (Tr. note: Lausanne is a Swiss city close to the headquarters of the Kudelski Group).
Employed by NDS
The 39 year old American is accused of having been recruited in 1999 by the Israeli company NDS, a competitor of Kudelski, to break the security codes of Canal+ (French Pay TV) and publish them on the Internet, and to have repeated the operation, to the detriment of the Swiss group and its clients. The publication of these codes allowed hundreds of thousands of savvy users to access encrypted TV channels without paying the subscription fees.
The American satellite TV company Echostar also uses Kudelski cards to protect their content. They confirmed having lost hundreds of millions of US dollars due to these pirate activities and demand one billion US$ of damages from NDS, a subsidiary of the media group News Corp.
This April, Christopher Tarnovsky will take the witness stand in a California court in defense of NDS, his employer for ten years following 1997. According to him, Kudelski and Echostar have wholly invented the conspiracy they claim having been victim of in order to mask the weakness of their encryption.
In his eyes, the case against NDS is nothing short of an extortion attempt. "Sure, I've broken the cards of Kudelski", he annoyedly states. "I was paid by NDS to do it. This is an activity that all companies in the trade do. But why would I have published these codes on the Net for free? I am not stupid, and I never had the intention of taking that risk."
Having become an awkward asset, Tarnowsky is no longer employed by the group since a year. He started his own company, Flylogic, through which he offers his know-how to electronics manufacturers, to test the resistance of new products to pirate attacks before they are launched.
Christoper Tarnovsky details the general weakness of systems based on certain chips designed by a handful of companies like Motorola and Infinenon (sic), systems used in products as divers as garage door remotes, car alarm systems and TV decoders.
"Unbreakable? That's wrong!"
"The manufacturers of semiconductors claim that their chips are unbreakable. The companies integrating them into their products trust the specifications they obtain. They believe that their secrets will be well kept. That is wrong, of course."
He showed pictures of his laboratory, set up with second-hand equipment worth a couple of thousand dollars. The centerpiece is a powerful Zeiss microscope to access the heart of the chip, where the precious codes are hidden. Successive layers of silicone are peeled away, using acids and lasers.
The engineer then explains how he takes over control of the card by short-circuiting one by one its protections with long microscopic needles. It takes a few minutes for the weakest of them, a few hours for better designed chips, but the content of the card gives in to these attempts 9 out of 10 times. For such an operation, Flylogic bills "about 30'000 dollars".
When questions were taken, a voice is heard from the end of the room. A Microsoft engineer is wondering: "Did you take an interest in the processor of our Xbox360 game console?" - "I was offered 100'000 dollars to break it", says Tarnovsky. "But I replied that that wasn't enough."
"They didn't invest enough"
The next question comes from an Estonian journalist. His country, forerunner of cyberdemocracy, has introduced a chip-containing identity card, which can be used for e-banking, as well as online voting. "It's a Motorola", sneers Tarnovsky. "An old model, badly protected."
What about the Kudelski cards? A short embarrased silence before his reservations disappear: "Sorry: The last two generations were broken. The next one will be, as well. They did not invest enough into research in the last ten years. Today, Kudelski is running out of money, look at their stocks. They hope to reestablish themselves with this lawsuit, but they will lose."
Silver MemberUsername: Mucho
Post Number: 167
EchoStar vs NDS: More CA dirty washing?
25 February 2008
EchoStar is suing NDS again, pursuing a claim for $1bn again alleging all manner of dirty tricks. It's déja vu all over again.
Here's the story so far: Once upon a time, in March 2002, NDS was sued by Canal Plus alleging all manner of dirty tricks (AMODT), only for the claim to be withdrawn when News Corp bought Telepiu from Vivendi. Once upon a time DirecTV was also suing NDS alleging AMODT, but Rupert Murdoch's News Corp went and bought DirecTV. At the same time EchoStar and its conditional access supplier also tried to join the Canal Plus action against NDS (and alleging AMODT) only for his attempt to be largely thwarted when NDS mopped up half of Canal Plus Technologies.
But it seems EchoStar's Charlie Ergen is determined to have his day in court. These actions have rumbled on for more than 10 years without anyone making much headway. Ergen is seriously rich, and a renowned poker player, and it is going to be interesting seeing how the hearing, set to start before a full jury in the California District Court on April 8 progresses.
Not surprisingly, and as before, NDS firmly denies the allegations, and we'll see truck-loads of counter-allegations tabled on or before the date. However, all we can say is that the murky -- and sometimes dirty -- world of smart card encryption will get aired in public.