TUCoPS :: TV, Cable, Satellite :: foxtel.txt

Hacking FoxTel


 Many people have emailed me asking 'How do I hack Foxtel', 'How do I get
 free channels' etc. I have never been able to help them since I did not have
 it myself, and couldn't explore it. Well now I do, and I have a 'hack' on how
 to 'possibly' get extra/free channels. Enjoy.

 - Background -

 Foxtel is Australias first cable television provider. It provides over 30
 channels ranging from dedicated movie channels, to kids cartoons, to history
 and to sport.

 The channels are provided to customers over a single coaxial cable which
 runs with the telephone lines, and depending on you area it is either
 underground or aboveground alongside the power lines. The cabling is provided
 by Telstra's Multimedia division and I assume this is the same cable they will
 be using for their cable internet.

 As you know, the channels sent down the lines are scrambled to prevent people
 just hooking onto the lines. Customers are provided with a box called a Set
 Top Unit (STU) which decodes the transmissions, and displays it on the 
 televison set and also provides a number of other usefull features. The STU's
 are not owned by the customer they are 'rented' from Foxtel, and a replacement
 costs $300.

 - Installation -

 The installation can take anywhere from 2 hours to 8 hours. The time taken
 depends on the location of the Foxtel cable, and the difficulty in installing
 an outlet in your house (ever tried to install and extra phone line / tv
 antena? similar process and awkardness). All that the installer (technician)
 does is connect a cable to the main one running down the street, then either
 brings it overhead with the telephone/power cables, or underground to an
 isolator box located at either the side or front of the house. The isolator
 box converts the main (more stronly shielded) external cable to a less
 shielded and slightly more felxible cable (exactly the same as networking
 coaxial cable). The isolator box is a medium sized box which contains the
 message 'Unauthorised access is prohibited' printed on the outside, and a
 very irregular screw holding it closed. With a bit of effort the screw
 can be undone. On viewing the inside, it is quite a bit of a let down, there
 is not much in the way of contents. Basically a small square box (the
 isolator) with the Network cable going in, and the customer cable comming
 out. From the isolator box, the customer cable goes to an outlet inside the

 Once the cable has been installed, the technician unpacks a STU places on top
 of the television and plugs it in. The cable from the outlet goes into the 
 STU, and then one comes out of the STU and into the television (or video)
 arial in, or stereo audio visual plugs. On the side of the box the STU was
 contained in, is attatched a Smart Card. The Smart Card is placed in to the
 STU, and then the television or video is then tuned in on the UHF frequency.
 Once an image is obtained (snow with a box down the bottom saying 'this 
 channel is blocked' the technician calls a division of Foxtel (number
 unknown) and basically asks them to turn on the cable. The technicial gives
 his name and a pin number (consisting of only numbers) and says the customers
 address, and in a couple of seconds a decoded image is onscreen. 

 - The Set Top Unit (STU) -

 The STU is a box slightly smaller than a VCR. It interacts with the smart
 card to convert the cable signal into a television picture. As said before,
 the channels are transmitted scrambled, and the smart card with the STU
 produce and unscrambled picture.

 The STU provided by Foxtel is produced by AMSTRAD and there are have been
 many different models produced. Cable and satelite each have a different
 STU, and the current STU for cable is the STU200, which is the fourth model
 to be supplied. 

 A scan of the contents of the STU can be seen as the attached file
 (stu200c.jpg). There are five main Integrated Circuits (ICs) with three of
 them having forty legs, and one with atleast fifty. The STU consists of
 three Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) each with a seperate purpose. One
 contains the components that deal with the power supply, one deals with the
 input and output sockets (but also contains the largest IC, outlined in blue
 on the image), and the last is the main board which houses the smart card
 reader, and four ICs. It would be reasonably difficult to construct a STU
 given that there are five ICs which all seem to be specificly designed (you
 couldn't buy them are Dick Smiths :), the rest of the components (resistors, 
 sockets, capacitors, etc) can all be obtained easily.

 In the middle of the STU along the side with the other sockets (back of box)
 there is a three pin plug (see the blue circle on the image attached) which
 cannot be accessed when the cover is on. There is a removable piece to give
 access to this socket though, and anyones guess on it's use would be as good
 as any. Uses could possibly for future upgrades, or for diagnostics (more
 than likly).

 - Exploiting -

 It would be a fairly difficult task to 'illegaly' set up your own free cable
 television. The most difficult process would be getting hold of a STU (with a
 smart card), and then getting Foxtel to 'turn on' the cable to your house.
 You could get a friend who already has Foxtel to report that is was stolen, 
 and pay your friend $300 for the STU, but then you need to get Foxel to 'turn
 on' the cable. This could be achieved by getting someone to listen in to the
 technician for his name and pin number when he gets the cable connected, and
 get an itemised bill to determine the number he dialed. Once those are
 obtained, lay the cable, make the call to Foxtel, and sit back and enjoy free
 ($300) cable television... for a short period of time anyway...

 When a customer gets Foxtel, they get all channels for free (except the
 Italian, Greek, and Adult channels) to try out for one month. After that
 month you only get the channels you subscribed to. Since I had recently
 subscribed, I recieved all the channels for free. I had a friend who also had
 Foxtel, but only recieved a limited number of channels, so being the
 experimental type, I took my smart card over to his house, and da daa! he now
 had all the channels. This deducted and proved that the smart card holds data
 which tells the STU what channels to decode (which ones I have subscribed

 Once the first free month is over though, a technician does not come out to
 re-program your smart card, it is done over the cable. All new channel
 subscriptions or alterations are done over the cable. This is why the first
 mentioned 'free cable' will not work for a very long period of time. Foxtel
 will obviously see that someone who is not listed on their books is
 recieveing a cable transmission, and they could either re-program the smart
 card to not accept ANY channels over the cable, or just stop sending the
 signal. Foxtel would also have your address on paper.. and you know what that
 can lead to...

 The method that I have come up with is ALOT less risky and easier to perform.
 Although it would work in theory, I have not yet tried it in practice. First
 you must have a Foxtel subscription, and during your first month, when you
 have all your channels for free, 'accidentaly' lose your smart card. A
 replacement card will cost $30 and possibly a technician call out fee. Now
 use your 'new' card all the time, and it will be re-programmed after your
 month is up to recieve only the channels you subscribed to (only subscribe to
 the basic channel set). You should now be getting 29 channels. When you want
 to watch a show that is on a channel that you dont have, whip out your
 previously 'lost' card from your first free month with all the channels, and
 watch your desired show... for free. Make sure that once you have watched
 your free show to put your 'new' card back in, because Foxtel may
 occasionally send out 'bursts' of data to re-program cards in the event of
 the above. Althought I doubt it, but it is just a precaution that should be
 taken, and it may be implemented after this file gets around (if it does
 work in practise :).

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