Christopher Tarnovsky has led a wild existence in the last few years. At thirty-seven, he seems to be the pre-eminent cracker of existing smart card technology.

In an amazing tale told to Wired, Mr. Tarnovsky outlines exactly how being given a satellite dish and a couple of non-working smart cards, while in Europe working for our government, started him on his way to being a pirate and then a consultant for the satellite company he had been hacking.

The interview was granted just after he had been acquitted of the charges in a trial that took five years to unfold. Along the way, many charges have been leveled at him, both by the company he was working for, NDS Group (one time owner of DirecTV), and Nagrastar, a competing firm.

Although fired 2 years ago by NDS, he states he would like to go back and help them compete against new threats that are starting to develop. Of course, he also offered his services to the competition as well.

The story shows how the private sector is involved with technology and espionage every bit as amazing and intriguing as the military of almost any nation. The game of cops and pirates is played on almost every continent, and the only difference (one hopes) is that espionage of the industrial type should not be as conducive to losing one’s life.

By the way, over at the Wired website there is a fascinating short video of how he cracks the smart chips, including steps of cutting the chip out of the plastic card holders, applying fuming nitric acid to the protective layer, and then acetone baths before scratching off the last layer of protection, while increasing protection of other, vital areas, with the application of women’s red fingernail polish.

Technorati Tags:

[tags] cryptography, satellite hacking, smart cards, microelectronics, ECM, 5 year trial, industrial espionage [/tags]