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Murdoch's chief hacker testifies in California

But what colour was his hat?

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Christopher Tarnovsky has been testifying in the ongoing case between the News-Corp-Owned NDS and DISH Network Inc, which accuses Murdoch's firm of hacking its pay-TV conditional access (CA) systems.

Tarnovsky admits receiving $20,000 in cash, hidden inside electronics delivered from Canada, from NDS to examine their own CA system for weaknesses and create more secure systems. However, he denies ever receiving any money for breaking the system used by DISH, known as EchoStar at the time.

Tarnovsky said: "I never got money for reprogramming Echostar cards," according to Reuters . "Someone is trying to set me up."

It's not the first time Tarnovsky has been involved with hacking pay-TV systems. After spending some years providing technical know-how to those selling pirated cards, he eventually changed hats and went to work for NDS, where he was embroiled in litigation between Canal+ and NDS over similar claims.

Canal+ provided CA for the likes of ITV Digital, the UK's short-lived digital-TV pay-service, and accused NDS of breaking their technology and supplying Tarnovsky with the codes, which ended up posted on a Canadian website. That case ended when Canal+ owner Vivendi Universal sold their Telepiù satellite service to News Corp, dropping the lawsuit as part of the deal.

Christopher Tarnovsky left NDS last year, but when asked about his forthcoming testimony at a recent black hat conference he was dismissive. "Sure, I've broken the cards of Kudelski [supplier of the EchoStar Smart Cards]... I was paid by NDS to do it. This is an activity that all companies in the trade do. But why would I have published these codes on the Net for free? I am not stupid, and I never had the intention of taking that risk."

The case is expected to last another couple of weeks, with DISH hoping to extract several million in damages for lost revenue. ®

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