The BBC’s Panorama documentary show has alleged NDS deliberately leaked On Digital smart card codes and that this led to endemic hacking of the service which, in turn led to its successor, ITV Digital, closing in 2002.
The allegations are not new, but Panorama had tracked down Lee Gidding, the man behind The House of Ill Compute (or THOIC), which NDS admit was taken over after its own security unit in Israel had found Gidding trying to hack Sky cards. NDS says THOIC was used as a tool to track and catch more hackers, Gidding alleges it was fed On Digital codes and encouraged to leak them as far and wide as possible.
The cards used by On Digital and then ITV Digital were from Canal+ Technologies and were widely compromised. NDS never denied hacking rival cards – which is legitimate practice – but strenuously denies distributing the resulting codes and thereby undermining rivals in the market. Canal Plus sued NDS, but the case was settled when News Corp bought out and broke up Canal Plus Technologies.
Though not new allegations, Panorama claimed to have email traffic showing NDS executives knew of and supported the leaking of hacked codes, some of which came from Oliver Konnerling, sometimes referred to as the world’s leading hacker, and an NDS consultant, who Panorama interviewed at his home in Monaco.
NDS denies all the allegations and stated:
“NDS is a global leader in the fight against pay-TV piracy, having repeatedly and successfully assisted law enforcement in that important effort.
Like most companies in the conditional access industry – and many law enforcement agencies – NDS uses industry contacts to track and catch both hackers and pirates. This is neither illegal nor unethical. And, to ensure that all activity remains completely within legal bounds, NDS staff and their contacts operate under a clear code of conduct for operating undercover.
These allegations were the subject of a long-running court case in the United States. This concluded with NDS being totally vindicated and its accuser having to pay almost $19m in costs – a point that the BBC neglected to include.
Regarding “Thoic” and Lee Gibling
NDS never used or sought to use the “Thoic” website for any illegal purpose. NDS paid Lee Gibling for his expertise so information from “Thoic” could be used to track and catch hackers and pirates.
Canal Plus is and has been a customer of NDS for many years, and we maintain a good relationship with them. It is wrong to suggest that any NDS employee acted in any improper way.
ONdigital / ITV Digital
It is simply not true that NDS used the Thoic website to sabotage the commercial interests of ONdigital / ITV Digital or indeed any rival. The United States Department of Justice, a federal court jury, a federal trial court, and a federal appellate court have all rejected allegations that NDS was responsible for TV piracy or that NDS distributed codes that facilitated that piracy.
As part of the fight against pay-TV piracy, all companies in the conditional access industry – and many law enforcement agencies – come to possess codes that could enable hackers to access services for free.
It is wrong to claim that NDS has ever been in the possession of any codes for the purpose of promoting hacking or piracy.”