Satellite television provider DirecTV sent a signal Sunday night that destroyed smart cards hacked by signal pirates to get the company’s programming without paying for it. An estimated 200,000 illicitly reprogrammed DirecTV cards, worth several hundred dollars apiece only last week, were destroyed Sunday night.
The pirated smart cards, actually microcomputers complete with embedded software and memory, were made read-only by hackers to prevent just such an attack by the satellite company. The company, however, put the program that eventually destroyed the cards into them a few Bytes at a time over months as part of routine updating of the H cards. Users were forced to regularly modify their cards, inadvertently programming them to be destroyed when DirecTV finally gave the command to inject an endless loop into a “write once” section of the memory.