The world’s “second best hacker” says he was hired
under the table by media conglomerate News Corp, which owns the Wall Street Journal, MySpace, Fox News, and DirecTV.
Christopher Tarnovsky, testifying in Echostar
v. NDS, says he was paid $20,000 -- mailed inside electronics sent from
Canada -- to break into DISH Network’s satellite system and steal security
codes necessary for pirating DISH Network’s satellite signals. EchoStar
communications, which owned the DISH Network before a split in December of
2007, alleges that hackers from NDS Group, owned by News Corporation, employed
hackers to flood the market with smart cards for satellite receivers designed
specifically to steal paid DISH content. Both EchoStar and DISH, as separate
entities, are plaintiffs in the case.
The suit alleges that the smart cards cost DISH $900M in
lost sales and network repairs.
Tarnovsky says that while he was employed to develop
“pirating software,” it was not used against DISH or any other rival – instead,
it was designed to secure DirecTV’s network.
DISH attorneys said Tarnovsky constructed a device called
“The Stinger” – which Tarnovsky admitted to doing – that was able to interface
with any smart card, regardless of which company it was designed to work with.
Tarnovsky says his actions with The Stinger were aboveboard, but DISH attorneys
claimed that hackers and/or NDS employees used it to reprogram at least 50 DISH
Network smart cards.
“I never got money for reprogramming Echostar cards,”
Tarnovsky testified. “Someone is trying to set me up.”
Patent records reveal Tarnovsky received patent protection
on a “system for testing, verifying legitimacy of smart card in-situ and for
storing data therein” in 2005.
Earlier, fellow hacker and associate Tony Dionisi testified
that he recalled Tarnovsky bragging to him about The Stinger, and told the
court that he knew of “another hacker and NDS employee” who used the machine to
reprogram DISH’s smart cards.
Tarnovsky says he was paid on a regular basis for 10 years,
and received paychecks from Harper Collins, News Corp’s publishing company.
DISH lead attorney Wade Welch, speaking earlier this month,
said NDS’ plan was to take hackers “off the streets” and “turn them on the
“They called it the Black Hat Team,” said Welch.
NDS says it’s done nothing wrong. “Because this is a
competitive business, NDS also monitors competitors,” said NDS attorney Richard
Stone. “NDS has done nothing to illegally harm or damage EchoStar. All NDS has
done is compete hard and fair in the marketplace.”