http://www.thisislondon.com/news/business/articles/timid54179 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 Department. 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 Messier. 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 competition'. - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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