[ISN] Hiring hacker backfires on Murdoch

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Mon Oct 14 2002 - 00:12:42 PDT

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    Lauren Chambliss in New York 
    14 October 2002 
    BY THE mid-1990s, when still in his twenties, computer hacker 
    Christopher Tarnovsky already had the cyber equivalent of a PhD, a 
    skill for pirating satellite technology and the nickname to match - 
    the Big Gun. 
    Now 31, Tarnovsky, has emerged as a central figure in a civil lawsuit 
    and a US Justice Department investigation in California, where the 
    murky world of corporate espionage is attracting authorities' 
    attention and turning into a public relations and legal nightmare for 
    Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. 
    News offshoot NDS, one of the satellite industry's top anti-piracy 
    firms, hired Tarnovsky in 1997. Technology companies often lure 
    talented hackers to help them build security-proof systems, figuring 
    what better way to keep out thieves than to use their expertise to 
    erect a more secure system. But employing the Big Gun has backfired on 
    NDS, which last week received 31 subpoenas from the US Justice 
    While working at NDS, Tarnovsky was known as Mike Smith, maintaining a 
    fake identity so that he could frequent hacker hotbeds without 
    revealing his cross-over into the corporate world. The Justice 
    Department is investigating whether there is merit to allegations by 
    Vivendi Universal and Echo-Star Communications - two of the biggest 
    satellite dish providers - that Tarnovsky did not end his pirating 
    ways after being hired. 
    NDS's rivals claim Tarnovsky continued to filter information to 
    websites frequented by cyber hackers, enabling TV thieves to create 
    false smart cards and, ultimately, to access pay TV free. 
    Over the years, a flood of counterfeit smart cards robbed Canal Plus 
    of more than $1bn and eventually helped cost former chief executive 
    Jean-Marie Messier his job. Canal Plus was among Vivendi's 
    under-performing units that caused the board to lose confidence in 
    Vivendi recently pulled out of a civil suit filed against NDS after 
    News agreed to buy a major stake in Vivendi's Italian pay TV unit. But 
    the Justice Department continues to investigate NDS, led by chief 
    executive Abraham Peled, and Tarnovsky. 
    The corporate spy received his early training in computer technology 
    courtesy of the US Army, where he had top-secret clearance as a 
    satellite communications specialist in the mid-1990s while posted in 
    Germany. At the time, Germany was well known as a haven for hacker 
    activity through the Kaos Computer Club. 
    Although Tarnovsky has never been charged with a crime, before 
    secretly joining NDS he was thought to have been a programmer for a 
    Canadian counterfeiter Ron Ereiser, who openly sold bogus smart cards 
    that allowed users to bypass satellite TV providers and access the 
    service for nothing. 
    NDS is standing by its man, supplying him with an attorney and 
    insisting his only job has been to make their newest smart cards 
    resistant to cyber attack. In a Press release, NDS said the charges 
    were 'baseless and motivated by a desire on the part of certain 
    persons and entities to cause harm to NDS and to thwart legitimate 
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