Tarnovsky began his pirating career in the '90s while serving in the U.S. Army. He had a top-secret SCI security clearance working on cryptographic computers in Belgium for NATO headquarters, and spent a year at Ft. Detrick in Maryland providing support to the National Security Agency for satellite transmissions to Europe. In 1996, he was stationed in Germany when his colonel sold him a used satellite-TV system, along with two pirated access cards, neither of which worked. Tarnovsky began posting on online pirate forums, and developed contacts in the community, ultimately learning how to fix the cards to access English-language programs from Sky in the United Kingdom....While living in Europe he'd once seen a news report showing an engineer at a French satellite company writing countermeasures, sitting in a lab with smart cards piled around him on his desk. "I always thought it would be so cool to be that guy," Tarnovsky says. "Finally I got the chance." Tarnovsky had two roles at NDS -- to find holes in its software and work undercover with pirates to discover what they were doing against NDS technology. To conceal his relationship with NDS from pirates, few people at the company knew his identity. He used the name "Michael George" and for the first four years was paid through other companies, including, for about five months, HarperCollins, the Murdoch-owned book publisher. "It was very hush-hush, because we didn't know who could be an inside informant," he says. Part of his job was developing ECMs for NDS. He'd examine pirate NDS cards to determine how they worked, then send instructions to engineers in Israel to create a kill for them. "I didn’t actually load the gun and pull the trigger but I got to make the bullet," Tarnovsky says. Among the countermeasures he says he created was one known among pirates as the "Black Sunday" kill -- an elaborate scheme that destroyed tens of thousands of pirate DirecTV cards a week before Super Bowl Sunday in 2001. Instead of being delivered all at once like other measures, the Black Sunday attack code was sent to pirate cards in about five dozen parts over the course of two months, like a tank transported piece by piece to a battlefield to be assembled in the field. "They never expected us to do this," Tarnovsky says.
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