http://www.nandotimes.com/technology/story/699152p-5172282c.html By TED BRIDIS 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." 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 documents. "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 immediately. - 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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