DirecTV takes a stand
January 27, 2001 12:01 PM   Subscribe

DirecTV takes a stand and VIA satellite, "killed pirated pieces of hardware that had enabled viewers in the U.S. and abroad to see a broad range of programming, including premium channels and pay-per-view events that they had not paid for." I didn't even know these pieces of hardware existed, but there are whole sites dedicated to satellite hacking which tell you what to do now if you had one of these. I hope if you have one of these cards you didn't have a Super Bowl Party planned.
posted by Mark (13 comments total)
There are also some prank calls to DirecTV. "Do you want my number so the FBI can call me back?"
posted by Mark at 12:10 PM on January 27, 2001

Here we go again...

"... analysts say the company's attack saved DirecTV at least $100 million a year in lost revenue."

Wrong. How many of these "pirates" are now going to run out and actually buy the service? Does DirecTV seriously think that they will make $100 million more next year because of this?

Then again, their revenue does appear to be in the billions... but in that case, was it even worth the effort for them?
posted by whatnotever at 12:58 PM on January 27, 2001

This is just what the SPA does when they talk about the amount of lost revenue do to warez. They figure the total loss by saying that anything someone downloaded and used, would have been purchased if they wouldn't have been able to download it. But, I think dealing with television is a little different.

A majority of people who download, say, Adobe Photoshop can live without it. Saying Adobe loses 200$ million a year (I have no idea what it is) in lost revenue isn't accurate since most people who downloaded it would never buy it in the first place. But television is essential for most people. This was a pretty smart move in IMHO, and just because their revenue is in the billions, doesn't mean they wouldn't mind a few extra million.
posted by Mark at 1:26 PM on January 27, 2001

television isn't anymore essentail than Adobe Photoshop. Sure, there might be some people that would subsribe to DirecTV if the weren't pirating it, but I would guess its a small percentage of the people pirating the service. There are plenty of other options for people when they actual decide they want to pay for a service (local cable company for example).
posted by howa2396 at 1:38 PM on January 27, 2001

"Television is essential for most people"? Say what? No, food is essential. Television is a luxury.

In any case, nobody needs the premium channels they were stealing from DirecTV. (The scam requires you to buy basic service, then the pirates hack your receiver to get the premium channels for free.) If people needed HBO, and it were being withheld by the rich corporate bastards, then perhaps they'd have moral grounds to steal it. There is no justification for stealing a luxury good.

In other words, we agree but for competely opposite reasons!
posted by kindall at 1:42 PM on January 27, 2001

There's no way DirectTV is going to get $100 million in new revenue out of this, but I wouldn't be surprised if they get $1-2 million. After all, you've now got all these people with the dishes and decoders already in place at home and no way to use them. I think a number of them will concede and go legit, at least until the next round of serious cracks come down the line.
posted by aaron at 1:43 PM on January 27, 2001

kindall said, "The scam requires you to buy basic service, then the pirates hack your receiver to get the premium channels for free."

I'm affraid you're incorrect on this one. The scam does require an account with DirecTV at all, which means pirates pay absolutley nothing for their monthly service. The signals are sent out for ALL the channels and the card is normal programmed to restrict access to certain channels. The hack takes off all restrictions and you recieve every channel for free.
posted by howa2396 at 1:55 PM on January 27, 2001

check that: the scam does NOT require a DirecTV account at all (left out a word, whats this preview button for, anyway?).
posted by howa2396 at 1:56 PM on January 27, 2001

"The scam requires you to buy basic service, then the pirates hack your receiver to get the premium channels for free."

Whoops, I was thinking of a Dish Network scam I read about recently and assumed it was the same thing.
posted by kindall at 1:57 PM on January 27, 2001

Of course they have to occasionally show some muscle in order to keep everyone from thinking they can do this with impunity. Of course the marginal cost, to them, of being hacked is zero. (At least cable can make the argument that other customers may be harmed.) Actually, I kinda admire the guys who pull this off. Their engineers must spend a lot of time putting together hack devices and then locating this kind of vulnerability ...
posted by dhartung at 5:28 PM on January 27, 2001

I have a couple of friends in Montreal who have the hacked H cards... Canadian satellite service isn't quite the same so they opted to pay around $1500 CDN ( approx $1000 US)for the hacked card and the receiver to get Direct TV through a "grey market" dealer. They couldn't be legit if they wanted to. I don't think that canuks can legally get the service.
posted by heather at 8:32 PM on January 27, 2001

No, we can't. The U.S. satellite companies aren't allowed to offer their services in Canada, but that doesn't stop anyone. Windsor is a hotbed of black/grey market satellites. Either people get a U.S. P.O. Box in order to subscribe to the service or just get a hacked card.
posted by yupislyr at 10:49 PM on January 27, 2001

Thanks to the latest RISKS Digest, this BugTRAQ/SecurityFocus piece describes in some more detail how the silver bullet worked -- obviously there's much more going on in these boxen than I'd apprehended.

"I don't know why they didn't do this back in November."

Then you're a moron. :-)
posted by baylink at 8:47 AM on January 30, 2001

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