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Thursday, April 24, 2008
Hacker Testifies News Corp Hired Him

A computer hacker testified on Wednesday that a News Corp unit hired him to develop pirating software, but denied using it to penetrate the security system of a rival satellite television service.

Christopher Tarnovsky -- who said his first payment was $20,000 in cash hidden in electronic devices mailed from Canada -- testified in a corporate-spying lawsuit brought against News Corp's NDS Group by DISH Network Corp .

The trial could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in damage awards.

NDS, which provides security technology to a global satellite network that includes satellite TV service DirecTV, denies the claims, saying it was only engaged in reverse engineering -- looking at a technology product to determine how it works, a standard in the electronics industry.

Tarnovsky told the court that he was paid on a regular basis by a publishing arm of News Corp, for 10 years. He added that one of his first projects was to develop a pirating program to make DirectTV more secure.

But lawyers for DISH Network claim Tarnovsky's mission was to hack into DISH's satellite network, steal the security code, then flood the market with pirated smart cards costing DISH $900 million in lost revenue and system-repair costs.

Smart cards enable satellite TV converter boxes to bring in premium channels.

Tarnovsky said that he had never got money for reprogramming Echostar cards. What he did was the development of a device called "the stinger" that could communicate with any smart card in the world.

The trial is expected to last another two to three weeks.

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