‘Captain Midnight’ hacks HBO
04:18 pm

Deep into the night during an HBO broadcast of The Falcon and the Snowman in April 1986, subscribers were startled to see the start of the action interrupted by a four-and-a-half-minute transmission from a certain “Captain Midnight.” Over a test pattern, the message from Captain Midnight ran as follows:

$12.95/MONTH ?

Captain Midnight turned out to be a John MacDougall, an engineer at a satellite transmission facility in Ocala, Florida. MacDougall’s hacker attack was motivated by frustration at HBO, who he felt was overcharging satellite customers and hurting his satellite dish business. MacDougall was sentenced to one year’s probation and a $5,000 fine.

MacDougall’s annoyance had to do with a change in HBO’s decision to deny free access to their signals, as had been the case earlier:

Back in the early-80s, satellite dish owners were responsible for owning and servicing their own equipment but had access to any satellite broadcasted programming including that of cable providers. In the mid-80s, cable channels began scrambling their programming and charging fees to home satellite dish owners who accessed the signals requiring many satellite dish owners were forced to purchase expensive descrambling equipment in addition to paying monthly or annual subscription fees to cable programming providers. Satellite. When HBO scrambled its signal, it offered subscriptions to home dish owners for $12.95 per month, which was either equal to or slightly higher than what cable subscribers paid. Dish owners were not happy and it triggered a national movement among dish owners to more strongly regulate the cable industry and force them to stop anti-competitive pricing.

On April 27, 1986, MacDougall was working at Central Florida Teleport, overseeing the uplink of the movie Pee-wee’s Big Adventure for the pay-per-view network People’s Choice (now defunct). At the end of his shift, he aimed it at the location of the satellite that carried HBO. As a protest against the introduction of those high fees and scrambling equipment, he transmitted his signal, which briefly overrode HBO’s own signal.

Finding out the identity of Captain Midnight was no easy task. The FCC reasonably started with the premise that the perpetrator must have had access to a large dish with a powerful transmitter. The signature of the color bar test pattern further narrowed down their search. The investigation received a big boost when a witness reported hearing a conversation on a pay phone in which the caller kept referring to himself as “Captain Midnight.” The search took several months.

via Museum of Hoaxes

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Public park ‘sound sculpture’ hacked with porno sounds
In the Realm of the Hackers

Posted by Martin Schneider
04:18 pm
‘Murdoch - Breaking the Spell’ - Monday’s informative BBC documentary

Murdochgate continues unabated. After yesterday’s questioning of Rupert and James Murdoch (and the cream pie incident), today has already seen the British Prime Minister David Cameron taking part in a parliamentary debate which has been broadcast live, and is set to continue till 7pm tonight (GMT).

It’s also interesting to see a British political scandal begin to get so much attention in the American media. Of course, there are some serious ramifications for the Murdoch’s American operations (especially now the FBI are to investigate it), but so far the story has been pretty well contained to the UK. However Jon Stewart rags on yesterday’s questioning of Brooks and the Murdochs here, and it’s telling that right wing US commenters on that blog post are still trying to pass the whole Murdochgate affair off as an inconsequential “celebrity” scandal (akin to Paris Hilton’s nails getting done, apparently).

Of course, it is much, much more than that. This excellent documentary by BBC’s investigative Panorama program, broadcast on Monday, recaps all the major points, features interviews with many of the key players (including the now-deceased whistle blower Sean Hoare) and shows how the hacking of murdered schoolgirl’s phone has begun to unravel the fabric on which three of society’s four main pillars are based (the media, the police and the political system). We will see how this plays out in the long run, bearing in mind the interests that are potentially at stake here and the possible onset of scandal fatigue in the public, but judging by the bizarre twists and turns this story has taken already, it’s best not to rule anything out yet.

Parts 2-6 after the jump…

Many thanks to the diligent work of YouTube uploader NOTWPhoneHacking, whose channel contains literally hundreds of clips recorded from the British media about the NI scandal since it broke over a fortnight ago.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
10:53 am
Murdoch’s The Sun newspaper hacked by Lulzsec

Click on the above image to see larger version.

Breaking news! Read all about it! Err, maybe not…

Rupert Murdoch’s flagship daily UK tabloid The Sun was this evening hacked by a group claiming to be Lulzsec, who uploaded a fake front page story that Murdoch’s cold, lifeless body had been found in his private glasshouse, after overdosing on palladium. Oh, if only. The website still seems to be down, and we are assuming that service will be back to normal by tomorrow, but by gum this was a good prank!

Thanks to Joe Spencer for the eagle eyes!

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
06:06 pm