A satellite TV system is mainly composed of a satellite dish and a receiver. A satellite in space sends out signals which the satellite dish then captures and transmits to the receiver. The receiver will then have to decode or unscramble it properly for programs to show up on your TV. Signal piracy occurs when people hack into satellite TV and obtain access to certain programs without permission and appropriate payment.
What is an FTA Receiver?
FTA or free-to-air receivers are used for receiving unscrambled or unencrypted signals from satellite TV channels. Most of them are produced by China and South Korea. They are often used for hacking satellite TV broadcasts.
How Does Signal Piracy Take Place?
In the past, smart cards were mostly used for signal piracy. Setting up can be done by yourself or you can hire someone else to do it for you. But these cards could be remotely accessed and controlled by satellite networks. When cards with unauthorized access have been pinpointed, they would be immediately disabled.
In the case of FTA receivers, signal piracy is achieved most simply by hacking into Bell TV or Dish Network. As the two networks use the same technology utilized by FTA receivers, reverse engineering can be employed to allow owners unauthorized access to all channels broadcasted by the companies, including PPV ones.
Unlike with smart cards, satellite TV companies are not able to gain remote control or access to FTA receivers. And even if they happen to be disabled, one would only have to wait for updated unlocking software to show up online, apply it, and resume use of the receiver.
One other way for signal piracy to occur is through IKS or Internet Key Sharing. With this method, an Ethernet cable is used to feed signals from the Internet onto the satellite receiver.
Satellite TV Piracy Today
A conservative figure of one to three million households have successfully hacked into satellite TV, allowing them access to all the shows they want, even those in pay-per-view format, without paying a single cent. Every year, the entertainment, sports, and satellite TV industry in general lose an estimate of $1B annually because of satellite TV piracy.
DirecTV is arguably the biggest favorite among satellite TV hackers as it has double the number of PPV adult programming and movies than its competitor. Another reason why Direct TV is an irresistible lure to hackers is because of its wide-ranging sports program, which includes exclusive shows like NFL Sunday Ticket, NCAA Mega March Madness, and NASCAR Hot Pass.
According to Bob Scherman, editor for the Satellite Business News, there is probably one person who’s enjoying Direct TV’s service for every five legitimate owners of a DirecTV satellite TV system.
Is It Illegal?
As far as DirecTV is concerned, it definitely is. They cite the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 as proof. The law gives companies like Direct TV the right to sue distributors and manufacturers of equipment used for satellite theft. Provided they have approval of the court, they may also be given the right not only to use the said equipment but to seize customer records as well.
Another countermeasure that Direct TV has taken is their decision to send letters to individuals they believe are guilty of satellite theft. In a nutshell, people who received such letters were asked to pay Direct TV $4,500 to avoid prosecution.