Revisiting the Black Sunday Hack

One of the most impressive hacks I've ever read about has to be the Black Sunday kill. Since the original 2001 Slashdot article I read on this is 99.9% quote, I'm going to do the same. I can see why they quoted so extensively; it'd be difficult to improve on the unusually succinct, well written summary provided by Pat from Belch:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

I remember when this happened. I had a friend who stole DirecTV that way. It was like a major life crisis for him that his ability to steal TV signals was interrupted. I got a good kick out of it which didn’t please him much either. Oh well. He later went on to figure out a way to steal business-level cable internet and all of the premium channels while only paying the minimum monthly cable fee. Some people just aren’t happy unless they’re gaining an unfair advantage of some kind. We’re not really friends any more.


A truly amazing hack. I wonder how come the Hacking community had not modified their boxes to somehow virtualize the card completely. Perhaps they got complacent with their successes.

At the end of the day though, an unsustainable system is still unsustainable, and this was just a clever one-time trick that was a large setback for the black hats but not a permanent one.


What Alexandros said. If you’re going to build a brain-dead, doomed technology, at least do it in style.

These days DRM is at best useless, and at worst outright malware. My theory is that any engineers worth their salt know that DRM can’t work and that’s it a lot more fulfilling to work on software that doesn’t suck.

Well yeah. I mean as soon as any security measure is put into place, a 15 year old hacker is already at work breaking it.

Sound like a Hollywood movie :slight_smile:

Wow, that video is very impressive. Using a device and some software skills to read/write a chip is one thing. Using various chemicals to do “surgery” on a chip and control it is a whole new ballgame!

Is that not 9 bytes (GAMEOVER for 8)? Maybe the original quote changed it for dramatic effect.

Wow, I actually cheered DirectTV for this! :slight_smile:
I’m not a fan of any form of DRM, but the satellite receiver problem is an interesting one, and I’m also very much against the idea that anyone has any sort of “right” to receive a service they don’t pay for. This is from everything from fare dodging to benefit fraud.
Companies must not assume that everyone is guilty until proven innocent, but there is definitely another side to the story here - it’s a design for evil kind of problem. I’m glad that they actually were able to stamp their authority, no matter how temporary that ended up being.

Man, Thats real good!!! Sounds like a movie.

I don’t understand why they didn’t sent the hack (or the killer patch) in one pack?
It would still disable the smartcards no?

So sweet… Even if I was one of the hacked tv users I’d love the story.

Imagine what Christopher Tarnovsky felt. It must have been like winning gold in the Olympics or something like that.

Black Sunday Kill had no effect on those who were using a computer and cardreader as an emulator. There was lots of ominous warnings beforehand, but not everyone had the resources for this setup…

Awesome post - great hack.

The hack-counterhack-hack drama reminded me a bit of an excellent novel Daemon, by Leinad Zeraus - check it out

Google is evil

Dude, Black Sunday like totally rocked. Another Black Sunday would be like really cool wouldnt it?


While generally I understand and someone agree with the companies sides, isn’t it HIGHLY illegal to destroy other peoples equipment like this (no matter what they do with it) ?

It sounds like it would be about on a level with MS formatting your hard drive if you run a cracked version of Office.

@ J.Stoever

If you read the small-print the smart cards will be the property of the satellite provider.