Murdoch’s inside job

by peterjukes

NDS was an accident of history. In February 1998 an Australian technology consultant, Bruce Hundertmark, badgered Murdoch into shelling out $3.6 million to found a start-up company in Israel called News Datacom Research, based on encryption technology developed by the Weizmann Institute, which took a 20 per cent stake. (The details of the early history are airbrushed out of many accounts).

Seven months later, after blithely deciding to launch Sky Television in the UK, Murdoch realised that he needed to encrypt the broadcast stream.

It’s called conditional access. You can access the programming and watch the moving pictures only on the condition you have paid for it. Otherwise pay TV companies would go broke.

A handful of technology companies around the world provide conditional access services – including Nagra in Switzerland, Viaccess and Canal Plus Technologies in France (later sold to Nagra) and Irdeto in South Africa and the Netherlands. They all use smartcards with microchips on them that are inserted into the set-top box to decrypt the pay television signal – and they are the heart of any pay TV system. They provide the customer management base as well as the platform to offer interactive services.

But the microchips on the smartcards can be hacked and the source codes to the chips exposed.

In 1988 Murdoch turned to NDS to develop his own conditional access system for Sky.

via Murdoch’s inside job.

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