By Dan Goodin
17th February 2009
White-hat hacker Adam Laurie knows better than to think email,
video-on-demand, and other content from Sky Broadcasting and other
satellite TV providers is a private matter between him and the company.
That's because he's spent the past decade monitoring satellite feeds and
the vast amount of private information they leak to anyone with a dish.
"Looking at what kind of data you can see being broadcast, some of that
is quite surprising," he says. "Things you would expect to be secure
turn out not to be secure. The most worrying thing is you can just see
all this data going by."
Using off-the-shelf components Laurie assembled himself, it's not hard
for him to spot private emails in transit, web browsing sessions, and
live stock market data that's not supposed to be available for free. The
most unforgettable thing he's seen came in 1997, when television
reporters in Paris used unsecured feeds to beam back what was supposed
to be closed-circuit coverage of Princess Diana's death to a UK
"The journalists were smoking cigarettes and gossiping," Laurie says.
"We were witnessing these journalists and the events unfolding in the
raw, before they were edited. That's not something you normally get
Laurie plans to share the findings of his research on Wednesday at the
Black Hat security conference in Washington, D.C. He's not the only
hacker to research satellite feeds. Researchers Jim Geovedi, Raditya
Iryandi, and Anthony Zboralski have exposed similar weaknesses here
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