Three Plead Guilty in Satellite TV Hacking Case

Three men indicted on a single count of violating the federal copyright law pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia Oct. 23.

According to federal prosecutors, the defendants, Jung Kwak of Oceanside, and Phillip Allison and Robert Ward, both of Seminole, Fla., admitted that beginning in March 2008 they hired computer hackers to break the latest Dish Network encryption design so that the line of satellite receiver boxes sold by Kwak would continue to have a market.

Kwak is the owner of Viewtech, an importer of the satellite boxes that allow users to obtain a limited amount of free programming, most of it consisting of ethnic and religious programs. But by reverse engineering smart cards provided by Dish, the boxes could obtain more signals illegally, prosecutors said.

By late 2007, Dish created a new encryption scheme that would prevent the boxes from gaining access to the signal without purchasing a subscription, prosecutors said.

In his pleading, Kwak admitted meeting and paying $20,000 in cash to another person to dissect the Dish smart card. Kwak also admitted he offered a $250,000 reward to hackers to obtain the latest Dish smart card, according to federal prosecutors.

The three defendants face maximum prison time of five years and $250,000 in fines at their scheduled sentencing on Jan. 22.