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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fraudsters Selling Access to NTV Plus

VedomostiNTV Plus says that some 50,000 of its customers are using fake cards for access.
Every sixth subscriber to NTV Plus uses a fake card to get access to the satellite television service, the station says.

NTV Plus subscribers are connected to the station via a receiver and antenna, and both subscribers' credit and information on access to television channels are stored on a smart card.

Pirates make fake smart cards by buying an authentic card and using a special device to read its chip and then transferring the information to other cards, an NTV Plus spokesman said.

Some 100,000 out of a total of 300,000 customers are so-called passive users, meaning they do not terminate their contracts with the company but nor do they pay for access to the encoded television signal.

Half of those passive users -- or 50,000 -- buy fake cards to get access to the signa, said Vladimir Dushin, head of NTV Plus' economic security department.

Blank cards can be bought for between $1 to $2 and programmed for a range of functions including opening doors.

The cost of a pirate card varies from $10 to $100, depending on the services provided by the dealer, while legal cards cost a minimum of $20.

Fake cards do not carry the NTV Plus logo, Dushin said, and therefore buyers should know that they are buying fakes.

It is not difficult to replicate smart cards, said Denis Arkhangelsky, commercial director with the AiTi high-tech company, which develops smart cards.

The basic equipment for making the cards -- a copying device connected to a computer, which works simultaneously as a card programmer -- can be purchased for $10 to $20, he said.

The pirates typically have high-quality equipment, Dushin said.

"In Moscow, according to our data, mostly small consignments are produced," he said. "It would be simply dangerous to manufacture large quantities here."

However, larger batches of about 100 cards are made in the Baltic states, Poland and Belarus, where NTV Plus says no one is fighting the pirates.

Police officers from the economic crimes department along with the station's security service shut down one of the channels for pirate cards imported from Belarus, and two local dealers were arrested following a purchase.

The Belarus producer, however, has not been arrested as documents need to be transferred to law enforcement agencies in that country.

Criminal cases against local offenders can be brought under articles 272 and 273 of the Criminal Code.

The station could fight the pirates by canceling cards as soon as pirates are discovered to have made copies, but thousands of such cards are already on the market.

NTV Plus competitor Kosmos TV said pirates are no threat to its business.

Vladislav Shaposhnikov, director for sales and marketing at Kosmos, said the encryption system that his company uses, Irdeto Access, is made by a Dutch firm and does not allow such replication.

The NTV Plus system is complicated and does not make economic sense, he said.