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#1
Old 12-17-2002, 07:26 PM
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Satellite TV piracy: detectable?

Ok, I absolutely do NOT want any discussion of A) how to commit satellite TV piracy, or B) even if it's possible. Let's leave this with the following hypothetical.

Let's imagine one had a magic box that receives and decodes satellite TV signals (I repeat: I don't care if it's possible or not). The box plugs into a power outlet and the TV, but not a phone line or anything.

I've been arguing with a friend: he claims that the company would somehow know that you're doing so.

I claim that there's no way to tell that you're doing so, any more than individual radio stations know if you're listening. It's not like there's a drain on the signal.

Anyone know for sure?

Fenris
#2
Old 12-17-2002, 07:56 PM
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There is no way for them to know. There is no additional drain on the system merely because you are decoding signals that would otherwise strike the ground.
#3
Old 12-17-2002, 08:00 PM
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They would never know unless they came to your house and witnessed it themselves. It is the same concept as the cable descrambler boxes that can give you free cable today. They aren't detectable unless the cable company comes to your home and sees the box for themselves. On that note, they are also not illegal to have, but they are illegal to steal cable if your not paying for it. They are merely for you to be able to choose to have your own box rather then rent the one the cable company provides. (Yeah, like that is what people really do with them)
#4
Old 12-17-2002, 08:38 PM
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I wouldn't bet my life that modified cable boxes aren't detectable. These are physically connected by wire to the cable system.

But with satellite, no, there is absolutely, positively no way what-so-ever to detect them. Without the phone line connected they are totally 'receive only'.
#5
Old 12-17-2002, 08:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Hail Ants
I wouldn't bet my life that modified cable boxes aren't detectable. These are physically connected by wire to the cable system.

But with satellite, no, there is absolutely, positively no way what-so-ever to detect them. Without the phone line connected they are totally 'receive only'.

SOme of the newer digital boxes can be detected by the cable company's home office.

I have seen tons of "modified" smart cards on Ebay. I once called my satellite provider (DISH) to let them know and they didn't seem to give a flaming rat's ass.
#6
Old 12-17-2002, 08:51 PM
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So are TV's, but Great Britain apparently has little trucks to drive by the homes of people who haven't paid the TV tax to see if they're watching. Is it possible that the local oscillator of a TV is powerful enough to be picked up by the right equipment from the street? Would a Sat-TV receiver have something similar?
#7
Old 12-17-2002, 09:21 PM
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In my Intro to Electronics Class, when we got to using resistors to match the resistance of a load, like telephones and such, he told this story.

The cable company has a device that measures the load on the other end of a line. So, from the pole, a cable guy and 'see' every splitter, cable box, and TV that is connected to the line. They couldn't see what you were watching, but they could detect devices and interruptions in the line.

He worked on TV's and currently runs his own electronic consulting business. I tend to believe him.

As for Satillite, there is no way for them to know that you are using their signal.

However, if you have Tivo, or some other system that makes a weekly call to download programming information, there is a catch. Turns out that programming information goes both ways. Tivo knows what you are watching and that information goes back to Tivo so they can sell ratings information to the Broadcasters. As of now, the information for an individual viewer is all lumped together. Howevere, the data is there and if the satillite version of the RIAA get John Ashcroft to investigate, they can run a match between what shows you watch and who is paying for Satillite TV. If you come up watching Satillite TV shows and you aren't on the Satillite TV list, you are busted.

Of course they could do the same thing with Cable.

But just because they can do it, doesn't mean they will, or that it is legal for them to do it based on the privacy agreements that exist between Tivo and their customers.

Good Luck,
-Sandwriter
#8
Old 12-17-2002, 09:23 PM
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He is my Instructor, and it CAN see, not and see. DOH!
#9
Old 12-17-2002, 10:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by manhattan
So are TV's, but Great Britain apparently has little trucks to drive by the homes of people who haven't paid the TV tax to see if they're watching. Is it possible that the local oscillator of a TV is powerful enough to be picked up by the right equipment from the street? Would a Sat-TV receiver have something similar?
You can remotely determine which radio stations are listened to by passing motorists with a similar technique: "Smart" billboards.
From the description of satellite dishes at howstuffworks, it sounds as if the dish's "low noise block down converter" might put out a detectable signal.
#10
Old 12-17-2002, 10:18 PM
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If you are willing to take enough time and use a narrow-bandwith detector you can probably detect the local oscillator signal from quite a distance. It would be hard, though, to determine that the particular receiver was tuned to a satellite TV signal unless you know the receiver intermediate frequency.
#11
Old 12-17-2002, 11:08 PM
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One thing to watch out for is the "bullet". If you have a magic box to decode the satellite signal, you won't have to worry about it, but I believe there are ways for the satellite company to remotely disable hacked smart cards.

Of course, they still don't know whether you had a hacked card in the first place, or whether the bullet worked.
#12
Old 12-17-2002, 11:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by manhattan
So are TV's, but Great Britain apparently has little trucks to drive by the homes of people who haven't paid the TV tax to see if they're watching. Is it possible that the local oscillator of a TV is powerful enough to be picked up by the right equipment from the street? Would a Sat-TV receiver have something similar?
Heh. That's what brought up the question. We were talking about Britan's TV Police and the discussion sort of grew from there.

I think my friend and I have a draw: it's hypothetically detectable, but not practical to detect.

Thanks for all the answers!

Fenris
#13
Old 12-18-2002, 12:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by HighSoci
It is the same concept as the cable descrambler boxes that can give you free cable today. They aren't detectable unless the cable company comes to your home and sees the box for themselves.

This is absolutely false. I have a very close friend who, after retiring from Milwaukee Police Dept. after 25 years as a Lt. went to work as an investigator for Time Warner Cable. He's told me all about this. The boxes can be detected, right from the comfort of their HQ. We're here to fight ignorance HighSoci, not promote it!
#14
Old 12-18-2002, 02:26 AM
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Then, pkbites perhaps you can ask your friend if knows a handy cite for such a claim?
#15
Old 12-18-2002, 02:38 AM
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Mr2001 brought up the more practical way to defeat pirates. You give every legitimate customer an electronic key. Every now and then you send out a signal from the satellite that tells the receiver to check the key. If someone has the key, nothing happens. If they don't have a legitimate key, however, the receiver is programmed to stop working, erase the information, explode, etc.

While it's still possible to get around it at least temporarily using a stolen or forged key, there are further improvements that make it difficult to continue pirating; this is the basic idea, though.
#16
Old 12-18-2002, 02:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by SC_Wolf
Then, pkbites perhaps you can ask your friend if knows a handy cite for such a claim?

Cite, nothing! He showed me the equipment!
It's hooked up to the same equpiment they use to reprogram the cable box when your having a problem of some sorts. They do it all from the main office. I personally wittnessed all this.
They can even tell, at any given moment, exactly what programs your watching, for how long, when you started serfing, etc. It's spooky.

The main thing is, the boxes they (Time Warner Milwaukee) are handing out have a special chip inside them. Because of that 1) any box bought elsewhere, like Ebay, has a high probability of not working here, and 2) it makes it easier to detect a "foreign" box.

Whether other cable companies use this technology I know not. But it can't just be Milwaukee using it, can it?
#17
Old 12-18-2002, 03:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by panamajack
Mr2001 brought up the more practical way to defeat pirates. You give every legitimate customer an electronic key. Every now and then you send out a signal from the satellite that tells the receiver to check the key. If someone has the key, nothing happens. If they don't have a legitimate key, however, the receiver is programmed to stop working, erase the information, explode, etc.
This is pretty much exactly what satellite television services already do to hinder piracy. Satellite receiver boxes have a programmed card (like a credit card) in them - hence an electronic 'key.' Every so often, the satellite service sends out signals in their broadcast (the 'bullet' someone else mentioned) that scrambles or blocks the picture of any receiver using an unauthorized card. The problem is that the hackers keep coming up with new programs/codes and all they have to do is reprogram the card and they're back in business. Apparently, it's a pretty constant 'battle' between the sat companies scrambling the bad cards and the hackers reprogramming them. So it's not that the companies don't "give a flaming rat's ass." They are already WELL aware of the situation and are doing what they can to combat it.

I have a question about legality here. I realize that stealing satellite service in this way is ethically wrong, but is it illegal? It seems to me that stealing cable service by splicing into one of their cables is clear-cut because you are physically tampering with 'their' property--the cable line. However, with satellite receivers, you are simply picking up a signal that they are broadcasting through the air and unscrambling the signal. I am not doing this myself, but I wouldn't think there could be a law against simply unscrambling a signal that is there for anyone with the right equipment to pick up.
#18
Old 12-18-2002, 03:42 AM
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Tangent, I suspect that something in the part of the DMCA about circuventing encryption to break copyright might end up applying here as well. One of the facets of copyright is controlling how a creative work is distributed.

And back to pkbites: Time Warner Milwaukee, and any cable system that uses the same type of cable boxes would be able to do what you describe, but it's a far cry from saying every cable company has that capability. It's probably a case of some do and some don't.
#19
Old 12-18-2002, 07:12 AM
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About 8 or 9 years ago my neighbors and I would get together on Saturday nights at midnight to watch a show that was being placed on the air by a guy in a garage or something. He was stealing air time. He did his show live. He would hold up a piece of cardboard with a phone number on it. My neighbor called in and was on the air. He was sometimes funny. Most of the stuff was kind of stupid. He had a panel... regular folks on the show each time. One night he and a friend had sex with a woman on the air. The show disappeared after that. His set looked different almost each Saturday / Sunday. We though he was moving around to avoid being discovered. After the porn thing I guess the FCC got pretty serious and caught him. One of his regulars looked very very very much like an assistant DA here in town. I was watching the 6:00 news and this DA was being interviewed. I kept thinking... where do I know this guy from? Then I remembered. Called my neighbor so she could get a look and she agreed. Things that make you go hmm...
#20
Old 12-18-2002, 09:33 AM
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Wait, jacksen9, you mean the show was actually being broadcast? An actual unlicensed broadcast, receivable by anyone with a regular TV?

If so, that's not the same as 'stealing air time'; there was no licensed free-to-air broadcast to be pre-empted, or licensed scrambled broadcast to be decoded without permission.
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#21
Old 12-18-2002, 09:43 AM
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This thread reminds me of an idiot ex-roommate who insisted that having a radar detector in your car made every radar gun within 50 miles go haywire automatically. Moron.
#22
Old 12-18-2002, 09:47 AM
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I don't know if the TV companies actually do this, but I can think of at least one method that could be used to foil counterfeit descramblers. Every week (or day, or month, or whatever period they choose), the dish company would generate a random number, and XOR the signal with that number. The decoders would then be programmed to phone in to the main office every week to pick up that number, and then XOR the data again. The main office could then just caller ID the boxes that were calling in, and match that with the numbers of their legal customers.
#23
Old 12-18-2002, 10:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Chronos
I don't know if the TV companies actually do this, but I can think of at least one method that could be used to foil counterfeit descramblers. Every week (or day, or month, or whatever period they choose), the dish company would generate a random number, and XOR the signal with that number. The decoders would then be programmed to phone in to the main office every week to pick up that number, and then XOR the data again. The main office could then just caller ID the boxes that were calling in, and match that with the numbers of their legal customers.
I believe some European systems do this. I do not think the box phones anywhere but the cable company sends you a card (key) which you insert in the box. I believe this system has been broken quite easily. Note that the strength of an encryption is dependent on two things: the legth of the key (bigger is better) and the length of the encrypted information (bigger is worse). A TV channel sends enormous amounts of info. I believe you can get some system which, when the key is changed onece a month, the system takes a while to figure out the new key and then you are set for another month.
#24
Old 12-18-2002, 10:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by manhattan
So are TV's, but Great Britain apparently has little trucks to drive by the homes of people who haven't paid the TV tax to see if they're watching. Is it possible that the local oscillator of a TV is powerful enough to be picked up by the right equipment from the street? Would a Sat-TV receiver have something similar?
We have discussed this in several threads in the past and my conclusion is that, while it may be theoretically possible to detect TV receivers, that is not in fact what the BBC does. First of all it would be pretty difficult to pinpoint every TV set in a block of apartments. Besides evidence seems to show the BBC just relies on assuming every address has a TV and mailing scary reminders. I think the vans are just aimed mostly to make people believe the government does have in fact the power to know if they are watching TV. It is psycological more than practical.
#25
Old 12-18-2002, 10:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Chronos
I don't know if the TV companies actually do this, but I can think of at least one method that could be used to foil counterfeit descramblers. Every week (or day, or month, or whatever period they choose), the dish company would generate a random number, and XOR the signal with that number. The decoders would then be programmed to phone in to the main office every week to pick up that number, and then XOR the data again. The main office could then just caller ID the boxes that were calling in, and match that with the numbers of their legal customers.
Hmmm...a friend of mine once had the hypotheical 'black box' to decode satellite signals. I'm not sure how it works but the satellite occasionally does something that either fries these cards or renders them inoperable. The satellite company doesn't know who is stealing cable but they make it so you have to buy a new decoder card every few months which turns out to be more expensive and more hassle than just paying for the service in the first place.

As to Manhattan's bit about trucks driving around they used to do this in Chicago. Back in the 80's there was a pay broadcast service called ON TV (IIRC). Apparently they would drive trucks around and point an antenna at a house and determine what channel you were watching. If you were watching the ON TV channel and not on their subscriber list they knew to bust you. However, they found they had to do this at certain times as in the late evening they had adult programming and tons of teenage boys were more than content to tune in the scrambled (big line down the center of the screen) signal to catch the occasional boob shot that drifted to the side of the screen.
#26
Old 12-18-2002, 11:45 AM
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Our local cable company detects illegal boxes by driving by because people put them on top of the tv & they can see them in the window.

I suppose that would work with satellite decoders too?
#27
Old 12-18-2002, 12:35 PM
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Ways they bust you...

Buddy of mine worked for Media One (who provided our cable bought by AT&T Broadband)

Line impedance: Whenever you hook up or disconnect a box it creates a detectable shift in line impedance computers monitoring system integrity track those shifts and create lists of areas to check on. It might just be someone moving their TV, might be someone hooking up service.

All they really have to do is walk up to the junction box on your street/block/apt building and see whos hooked up compared to the subscriber addys that should be on that box.

Not a subscriber but hooked up... busted.

My personal favorite:
Free offers... A commercial adverising a cheap or free giveaway item "first 1000 to call get this cool beer can holder with rusty wallace on it!" Compare orders to subscriber database.

In all cases they still verified by going out to check physical connections. IIRC they sent you a little note that said "you agree to pay $X or we file a civil suit for $5,000. IIIRC the $5,000 was arrived at as the price of full cable access plus all pay per view events for 1 year or something like that and was considered "reasonable" by the local courts. The few that fought it were rumored to have lost.
#28
Old 12-18-2002, 01:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Whack-a-Mole
Back in the 80's there was a pay broadcast service called ON TV (IIRC).
How can you charge for broadcasts when broadcast frequencies are owned by the citizens? Did you have to buy or rent a special device?
#29
Old 12-18-2002, 01:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by carnivorousplant
How can you charge for broadcasts when broadcast frequencies are owned by the citizens? Did you have to buy or rent a special device?
Yes...when you subscribed to the service you got a box that would decode the signal. Without the box you could still tune the channel but a fat line ran down the center of the picture and the picture was wavy.
#30
Old 12-18-2002, 01:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by handy
Our local cable company detects illegal boxes by driving by because people put them on top of the tv & they can see them in the window.
Peeking in the window would work for all sorts of law breaking; drug use, sodomy, eating cilantro.

Has Ashcroft heard about this?
#31
Old 12-18-2002, 02:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by carnivorousplant
How can you charge for broadcasts when broadcast frequencies are owned by the citizens?
By paying a bit more for the franchise to operate this particular frequency. Which the citizens' duly selected representatives incorporated into the law that regulates how their frequencies are used.
#32
Old 12-18-2002, 02:18 PM
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I don't suppose anyone has a cite on charging for reception of a broadcast station?
#33
Old 12-18-2002, 05:56 PM
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My parent used to pay for a service that was broadcast out of Philidelphia in the early 80s. Not much of a cite, but such a beast did exist at one time.
#34
Old 12-18-2002, 07:11 PM
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Quote:
Hmmm...a friend of mine once had the hypotheical 'black box' to decode satellite signals. I'm not sure how it works but the satellite occasionally does something that either fries these cards or renders them inoperable
Satellite piracy has an entire subculture on the internet. There are literally dozens of sites with info. Just use a search engine on the subject...
#35
Old 12-18-2002, 07:31 PM
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You detected them!!
#36
Old 12-18-2002, 08:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by SC_Wolf
My parent used to pay for a service that was broadcast
Did they buy or rent a device that went between the antenna and the TV?
#37
Old 12-18-2002, 09:24 PM
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Wait, jacksen9, you mean the show was actually being broadcast? An actual unlicensed broadcast, receivable by anyone with a regular TV?

Yep. It went on for about 6 months. Every Saturday night or I should say Sunday morning it was on. Seems like it was on for more than an hour. I can't remember. This old guy with a dirty t-shirt would actually be on the air with several others. Some of them were regulars. It was live. It came on the channel that was normally used for the tv guide.

I don't know if anyone other than Phonoscope customers got the bootleg show. Phonoscope was a small cable company in Houston.
#38
Old 12-18-2002, 09:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by jacksen9
It came on the channel that was normally used for the tv guide.
That's a cable channel, not a broadcast channel over the airwaves.
#39
Old 12-18-2002, 09:53 PM
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Right. But it was not an authorized show.
#40
Old 12-18-2002, 10:28 PM
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Re: Ways they bust you...

Quote:
Originally posted by drachillix
My personal favorite:
Free offers... A commercial adverising a cheap or free giveaway item "first 1000 to call get this cool beer can holder with rusty wallace on it!" Compare orders to subscriber database.
I've heard this one a few times before, but have wondered whether it is true. Anyone have a cite? A brief search at snopes.com revealed little.
#41
Old 12-19-2002, 03:13 AM
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The cable companies, and other satellite TV companies have a list of who subscribes to them. Everyone knows this much or ought to know this much. What the cable companies can do is to air a commercial for some kind of bogus product, like "wizbang odor eaters" for $9.99. Who ever responds to this add has no way of knowing that it is a fake. Hence they have to give thier name and address and stuff to get their "wizbang odor eaters." Then the cable company checks thier list and matches it with the names from the TV commercial. Whoever doesn't match is probably stealing cable TV, and a bogus service call is arranged. The technician will then report his findings to Cable and they will prosecute.
#42
Old 12-19-2002, 08:23 AM
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"Well, gee, I saw it on the TV in a bar. I forget which one."
#43
Old 12-19-2002, 11:10 AM
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I've heard a few rumours about this kind of thing. From what I understand, there is a great deal of rumour in the satellite hacking area, so I guess we need to take it all with a grain of salt....

Apparently, the satellite companies have some sort of device that they can point at a dish and see if it is receiving signal or not. Then they can compare that to their list of paying subscribers. So it does sound like a similar situation as the UK thing.....

Although, as I said, it's just a rumour that I heard about. And it was the possibility of it happening not an act of it occurring....
#44
Old 12-19-2002, 11:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Harli
the satellite companies have some sort of device that they can point at a dish and see if it is receiving signal or not.
The dish receives all the signals that it sees.
The receiver in the house does the decoding. Instructions can be sent to the circuit cards in the receiver. Apparently they can disable cards that don't have registered addresses with an instruction such as "If your number is x or y or z continue to function. Else turn yourself off."

It would be a little difficult to point a device at any number of antennas worth mentioning, unless it's done from the super secret Dish-TV space station.
#45
Old 12-19-2002, 12:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by manhattan
So are TV's, but Great Britain apparently has little trucks to drive by the homes of people who haven't paid the TV tax to see if they're watching. Is it possible that the local oscillator of a TV is powerful enough to be picked up by the right equipment from the street? Would a Sat-TV receiver have something similar?
Yes actually It is, the government has verious spy devices that do just that, but they're geared more for seeing what you're doing on a computer, and you have to pretty close for it to work. You could even make one yourself if you know your way around an electronic workbench. I've seen one of these in use at a "Spy Shop" for Private Investigators.

My IMHO about this topic. We have microwave radiation slicing through our bodies at all times, I don't think theres anything wrong with tapping into it. I've looked into this topic alot and discovered that unless you have ALOT of time on your hands and can make everything from scratch you won't be saving money vs. paying for the service for several years.
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#46
Old 12-19-2002, 01:28 PM
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Quote:
"Well, gee, I saw it on the TV in a bar. I forget which one."
And then you managed to get home within 60 seconds and place a phone call from your home?
#47
Old 12-19-2002, 01:56 PM
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Well....yeah.
#48
Old 12-19-2002, 03:28 PM
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Back in the ooooolllllddddd days....

ahem, the 80's...

The cable companies caught people the old fashion way.

Through their stupidity A friend at the time was a dedicated cable stealer.

I imagine these could still be used today.

One way was to make the cable 'fuzzy' this would go on for a couple of weeks getting fuzzier and fuzzier. If you called in to complain, it would clear right up. If you were stealing and called in.....People were actually caught this way.

Another was a permanently scrambled channel. It would look normal in every way but they would have commercials for good priced products and free giveaways. The number to call was never spoken, only written. Because the channel was scrambled for everyone, anyone calling in.....
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