A Canadian man was sentenced to seven years in a U.S. prison this week after admitting he led a sophisticated satellite TV piracy ring that produced and sold thousands of hacked smart cards in the U.S. and Canada.
Martin Mullen, 50, was also ordered to pay DirecTV and its smart card provider NDS Ltd. $24 million in restitution. Mullen pled guilty in a federal court in Tampa, Florida last September to conspiracy to violate anti-piracy laws, and to entering the U.S. illegally after being deported on an unrelated matter years earlier.
According to court records, Mullen was an expert at cracking security on the smart cards DirecTV issues to subscribers to authorize access to television programming. In normal operation, a subscriber inserts the card into a slot in the DirectTV set top box, and a satellite signal from the company tells the receiver which channels, if any, the subscriber is allowed to watch, based on the unique identification number coded into each card.
In his plea agreement with prosecutors, Mullen stipulated to heading a network of over 100 distributors throughout North America that sold thousands of hacked cards granting free access to all of DirecTV’s channels.
By some estimates, piracy was costing DirecTV $1.2 billion a year when, in April, the company finished a wholesale swap-out of 17 million older access cards and shut down its legacy data stream, effectively slamming the door on signal pirates. Since then, a slow resignation has begun to settle over the pirate community, which has been unable to crack the company’s fourth generation smart card, called the “P4.”
Source: Security Focus