Almost a year ago, Kevin Poulsen wrote an article at SecurityFocus.com describing the tactics that DirecTV was using to home in on satellite TV pirates. Problem is that detecting who is receiving a satellite signal is very hard (though the dish on the side of the house might be a giveaway in many cases). So DTV resorted to chasing the people selling the equipment that could be used to hack their system receivers and smartcards.
Problem there is that electronics enthusiasts, and even some potential entrepreneurs such as the doctor mentioned in the story above, have perfectly legitimate uses for this equipment. DTV is not the only company using smart card technology, nor do they have any right to restrict who uses the technology. Sure, DTV has a right to prevent people stealing their signal, but as many seem to be forgetting in this country, people are innocent until proven guilty.
Yesterday, SecurityFocus published a new story from Kevin Poulsen about one John Fisher, a former employee of DTV who was tasked with getting settlements from people who had bought this type of equipment, many of whom had simply had an interest in smartcard technology. John Fisher is now filing suit against DTV for asking him to do unethical, and perhaps even illegal, things as part of his job, thereby forcing him to resign. Don’t know how I feel about that as a case in itself, but his filing makes for interesting reading about the tactics DTV was allegedly using. The account on page 10 of the filing, where DTV was allegedly trying to get a $3500 settlement from a person who bought a leather pouch is especially good, as is the case on page 30 where the accused points out that he was regularly paying for his DirecTV service at the time, but was still told he had to pay the settlement for purchasing an illegal programming device.