[ISN] College student charged with distributing DirecTV trade secrets online

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Jan 02 2003 - 22:30:05 PST

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    Associated Press
    WASHINGTON (January 2, 2003 7:20 p.m. EST) - Prosecutors charged a
    college student on Thursday with distributing on the Internet hundreds
    of secret documents that could help TV owners steal signals from one
    of the nation's leading satellite television providers.
    Igor Serebryany, 19, of Los Angeles, faces stiff prison penalties if
    convicted under economic espionage laws. The FBI said in court records
    that Serebryany acknowledged distributing the documents on the
    Internet. Investigators do not believe Serebryany sought any money in
    exchange for the disclosures.
    Serebryany "specifically stated that he wanted to help the ... hacking
    community," FBI agent Tracy Marquis Kierce said in court records. A
    woman who answered the phone at the family's apartment in Los Angeles
    declined to speak with a reporter or pass a message to Serebryany. He
    also did not respond to e-mails sent to four of his Internet accounts.
    The documents leaked onto the Internet described details about the
    latest access-card technology from DirecTV Inc. The devices,
    resembling credit cards, are plugged into a viewer's satellite box and
    control which movie and sports channels each of the company's 11
    million subscribers can watch.
    DirecTV, owned by Hughes Electronics Corp., said it spent more than
    $25 million to develop its latest "Period 4" anti-piracy cards, which
    hackers have so far been unable to break. Marc J. Zwillinger, a lawyer
    for DirecTV, said the company would sue or seek criminal charges
    against others caught redistributing such documents.
    "To the extent people have these documents, we expect this news will
    cause them to delete the documents immediately," Zwillinger said.
    Older, pirated cards are widely traded and sold illegally among
    satellite customers. Companies occasionally destroy rogue cards by
    sending damaging electronic signals across their systems, forcing
    subscribers to buy new cards in what has become an escalating
    technology battle.
    The stakes are high: Satellite programming can cost $2,400 annually
    for a household. Only about 18 million U.S. viewers subscribe to
    satellite services, compared with nearly 69 million cable TV
    subscribers, according to the Federal Communications Commission. But
    DirecTV added 2 million subscribers last year, compared with 250,000
    new subscribers for the entire cable industry.
    The sensitive DirecTV documents, which included details about the
    design and architecture of these latest cards, began showing up in
    October on underground Web sites and discussion groups that specialize
    in defeating the devices. One site is operated by a person known as
    Maxximus told FBI agents that he was contacted in September by someone
    who called himself "Igor" and used the nickname "Igor32." This person
    e-mailed Maxximus and said he wanted internal DirecTV documents
    published on the Internet.
    Investigators said Serebryany took copies of many of the documents to
    his family's home in Los Angeles and from his home computer sent more
    than 800 megabytes worth of electronic copies to at least three Web
    site operators.
    The operator of one Web site, http://www.PirateDen.com, said he did
    not receive copies from Serebryany but acknowledged seeing some of the
    "It was mostly like snippets of internal meetings, technical meetings,
    about the new access card and such," the site's operator - who
    identified himself as J. Gray of Nanaimo, British Columbia - said in a
    telephone interview. "It gave people a start on where to start
    looking, the technical specifications."
    Serebryany was charged under the federal Economic Espionage Act of
    1996, which prohibits anyone from disclosing trade secrets for
    economic benefit and carries penalties in this case up to 10 years in
    prison and a $250,000 fine. Only about 35 criminal cases have been
    filed under the law.
    Although investigators acknowledge that Serebryany apparently didn't
    profit from the disclosures, the law bars giving away secrets for
    anyone else's economic benefit.
    Zwillinger, the lawyer for DirecTV, was formerly an expert on the law
    for the Justice Department and prosecuted the nation's first case
    under the law.
    The internal DirecTV documents were under court seal as part of a
    lawsuit between the company and rival NDS Group PLC, a unit of News
    Corp., over an agreement for NDS to provide access cards for DirecTV
    subscribers. In a series of lawsuits and countersuits, NDS had alleged
    that DirecTV itself was responsible for leaking the internal documents
    onto the Internet.
    A spokeswoman for NDS, based in England, could not be reached
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