Genesis

Introduction

Several techniques could be combined and integrated to create more powerful and more integrated solutions. Genesis activators and blockers were an example of this, taking elements from previous hacks and embedding them into an emulator-like passthrough card.

How It Worked

Now that cards were being made more complex to defeat clones, if it were possible to simply use legitimate cards again as with Infinite Lives or KENtucky Fried Chip then there would be no need to attempt to emulate this new, more complex circuitry. Phoenix activators were one example of this, enabling the modification of legitimate but unactivated or deactivated cards such that they could be set to enable viewing of channels which were not subscribed to. Genesis, however, took the concept a little further, performing the same job in hardware to remove the need for a computer, and adding deactivation blocking in the manner of the early hacks.

The device was much like an emulator/debugger card in that it would be installed into the viewing card slot of a decoder, with a card slot of its own into which a legitimate smartcard would be inserted. It would then be capable of communicating with the viewing card, much like the decoder itself would, and enable activation or reactivation of channel access. In addition, it would prevent further deactivation messages from reaching the card much like KENtucky Fried Chip, monitoring incoming communications destined for the card and discarding messages which attempted to deactivate it.

This is a pretty comprehensive solution; self-contained, convenient, automatic, and technically fairly trivial to create. The card’s additional ASIC, now included to prevent simple fake cards and to make PC emulation more difficult, was present in the legitimate card and was not required to be recreated or emulated as a result, simplifying the process of acquiring access to Sky services.

Mitigation

Actual solution employed: Unbeknownst to the hackers, the new implementation of the VideoCrypt protection included “nanocommands”. These were messages which were not as they appeared to be. Innocuous-looking messages or pieces of data which appeared to be unimportant or relating to a different subscriber would be ignored and allowed to pass through Genesis blockers and, if it were as it appeared, the viewing card itself would similarly ignore the data it were not the intended recipient. But these seemingly unimportant numbers were hiding a secret, an alternative method of deactivating particular viewing cards which the Genesis blockers did not know how to prevent. This resulted in even cards used with Genesis blockers being disabled, apparently permanently, to prevent reactivation.