Encryption Trade Secret Bust Nets College Student

Accused of stealing and distributing through the Internet secret documents related to DirecTV’s latest anti-piracy technology, 19-year-old college student Igor Serebryany was arrested by the FBI in Los Angeles Thursday morning. Serebryany, who attends the University of Chicago but was in Los Angeles visiting his family, faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Serebryany is accused of stealing trade secret information pertaining to DirecTV’s latest and most sophisticated conditional access card. DirecTV invested more than $25 million to develop the latest generation access card with the assistance of its security venders.

The three earlier versions of the DirecTV access cards have been compromised by hackers who have developed ways to circumvent DirecTV’s security technologies. The company’s newest security card is the only DirecTV access card that has yet to be compromised by the pirate community.

According to the FBI, the documents were stolen from the law offices of DirecTV’s legal counsel, Jones Day Reavis & Pogue in Los Angeles. DirecTV had provided the information to Jones Day in connection with civil litigation between DirecTV and one of its security vendors, NDS Americas, Inc. Serebryany was temporarily employed by an outside document imaging service that was hired by Jones Day to prepare documents in relation to the litigation. Serebryany obtained access to documents without Jones Day authorization.

Jones Day was outside counsel for DirecTV and represented the company in civil litigation that was filed last year by DirecTV against NDS, which was the developer and supplier of the proprietary encryption and smart card technology. In preparation for this litigation, DirecTV delivered trade secrets to Jones Day.

In an official statement, the FBI says some of the trade secret information was so secret and valuable to DirecTV that DirecTV had previously maintained the information only in an encrypted format on computer hard drives secured at DirecTV facilities.

In September and October, some of the trade secret information was posted on pirate Websites on the Internet. These secrets included confidential internal design notes and correspondence between DirecTV and NDS regarding the access card architecture and security features.

Through forensic analysis of computer evidence and other investigative techniques, the FBI claims that Serbryany stole the trade secret information and published it to members of the hacking community for the sole purpose of helping the hacking community with its efforts to crack the new access card.

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