What is smart cards in electronics?
Read the following to find out:
DIGITAL television and payperview programmes promise a bonanza not only for broadcasters but for pirates too. The illegal sport of beating the smart card is about to become more popular than ever.
Cloned smart cards are the favourite fraudulent way to watch satellite TV. To make a clone hackers reverseengineer legitimate smart cards which unscramble TV images and copy their circuitry.
TV companies respond by transmitting instructions intended to disable the clones but this sometimes hits legitimate cards as well. They can also replace every legitimate card making the clones obsolete. It can take the hackers months to produce a new clone.
But the cloned smart card which has troubled BSkyB the main payTV company is a crude device. It is giving way to more sophisticated hacking.
One alternative which has emerged in the past few months simply bypasses the smart card. It works well in France where the Nagravision decoding system scrambles the picture by cutting it into lines and shuffling them. A £150 pirate device analyses the shuffled lines and reassembles the picture.
But experiments with Sky`s scrambled pictures have so far produced only poorquality results.
Apart from professional pirates who make a living from cheating international broadcasters amateur hackers have written computer programs which emulate smart cards and trick decoders into unscrambling channels. One a program aimed at BSkyB appeared on the Internet three years ago; it was written by a German hacker to allow Europeans to watch undubbed Star Trek. BSkyB issued a new card; the program cracked that too.
More than 30 European channels can be watched in Britain with emulators they include banned porn channels and Filmnet from Scandinavia which shows the latest films in English.
SKY`s current card has resisted emulators for 14 months. But the payper view mechanismused for last night`s world championship boxing for example can be hacked. A few days before the £15 payperview Mike Tyson fight last year a hacker using a pseudonym released codes on to the Internet which turned on cards for the events. A few cards were later disabled.
More ominously for BSkyB another program appeared on the Internet at Christmas. This turns on every channel of the Sky card. BSkyB could face a costly problem.
Another technique delayed data transfer requires viewersto videotape a scrambled broadcast. Later they get descrambling codes from the Internet. After a bit of rearranging of the TV cables the scrambled tape can be replayed.
Another illegal method of cheating Sky decoders is called the `McCormac hack`. The descrambling codes from one card are distributed to other decoders in realtime with a wire or phone line; even radio transmission has been tested. In essence a single card is plugged into many decoders.
With a good phone line the picture quality is perfect: and there is no known technical countermeasure. This isn`t used much in the UK because of the cost of phone callsalthough £1 an hour for a cheaprate local conference call is cheaper than payperview prices.
New digital decoders will be more secure but it is impossible in theory or in practice to make them totally resistant. PayIV companies may face the perpetual problem of passengers who do not want to pay the fare.