from the all's-fair-in-murdoch-land dept
Four years ago, we wrote about claims that News Corp. had hired hackers to break the encryption on DISH Networks’ satellite TV smart cards, and to “flood the market” with those cards, thereby increasing “piracy” of DISH’s service. News Corp., of course, owned DISH’s main competitor, DirecTV. The whole thing seemed really bizarre, and we were skeptical. This kind of thing only makes sense if you actually believe that “piracy” like that directly takes away money from the company whose service is hacked. But, it seems just as likely that flooding the market with hacked smartcards would take away business from both DISH and DirecTV in the cases where it was a true substitute (rather than going to people who would never pay for either anyway). Either way, that case ended with a jury finding News Corp guilty… but of just hacking one smartcard, for which the company was fined a grand total of $49.69… and another $1,000 for “damages.” Honestly, I’m not even sure that makes sense, because if it just hacked a single smartcard, it sounds like it may have just been for reverse engineering purposes.
Of course, in the intervening years, News Corp.’s name has become a lot more closely tied to the word “hacking” thanks to the News of the World scandal where reporters regularly “hacked” into voicemails (and, by “hacked” I really mean used a widely known loophole that makes it easy to listen to many people’s voicemails). So with news breaking that News Corp. is again being accused of hacking, a lot of people are thinking about the recent scandals — but the details suggest that this may have been identical to the DISH/DirecTV story above, but with a UK focus. Basically, News Corp’s subsidiary NDS is accused of hacking ITV Digital, a UK competitor to News Corp’s Sky TV.
In this case, there are some more details, where it certainly suggests that at least someone at News Corp. was working closely with some hackers to publish the codes necessary to make unauthorized smartcards for ITV. ITV eventually did go out of business, and of course the article linked above quotes an exec there insisting that such “piracy” was “the killer blow for the business, there is no question.”
Again, this doesn’t make much sense to me. Even if all of these actions were done via News Corp., how does that actually help News Corp? People who got the hacked ITV smartcards weren’t going to buy Sky TV services either. The whole thing seems pretty strange, suggesting it was either exaggerated, or whoever at News Corp. decided this was a reasonable strategy didn’t even think about how getting more hacked smartcards would likely be a challenge for Sky just as much as it was for ITV.