Thursday, April 06, 2006

What Can't Be Secured Must Be Endured

I was reading an article about Cablevision's remote storage DVR over the weekend, and the note reminded me how cable companies have centralized other aspects of their business.

Remember the old days when a technician had to come to your house and fiddle with your set-top box so you could get that new movie channel? Well, it turned out that anybody could do that upgrade — without the cable company's approval or knowledge. And that led to theft.

The cable companies tried scrambling signals, but that didn't deter too many thieves. I'm sure cable companies had to rely on local anti-theft measures, but I really don't remember hearing much about them. So I did some research, and I came across one technique that I never heard of. Here's a snippet from Robin Foster's October 14, 1985 article in The Orlando Sentinel entitled, Wired for Security: Inventor Put Lid on Cable Television with Rigged Box.
[Robert H.] Schaer is service manager at Sonitrol Security Systems Inc. in St. Petersburg, and after creating a security device for alarm boxes, his boss told him that the same invention might sell better in the cable television market. All Schaer did was wire together five screws for the back of a cable box. If the screws are not removed in the pre-determined order, the box will disconnect all the television channels.

''This protects against getting cable channels the customer is not paying for,'' Schaer said, explaining that many cable customers are able to take the back off their cable box and access extra channels. The only way the box could then be reconnected is with a visit from the cable service repairman, he said.
Simple and ingeneous. I wonder if it actually worked?

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