VideoCipher is a brand name of analog scrambling equipment for satellite television invented in 1983 by Linkabit Corporation, which was bought out by
MA/COMin 1985. MA/COM was finally bought out by General Instrumentin 1987. Currently, Videocipher technology is controlled by MotorolaCorporation. Videocipher scrambling usually involves the DES encryptionscheme. With the shift to digitalsatellite transmission, the Videocipher system will possibly be phased out entirely by 2010.
There are several variants of the Videocipher scrambling system:
This was the first version of the Videocipher system that was first demonstrated by Linkabit in 1983.
Also known as Videocipher IB, this variation on Videocipher was commonly used by sports backhauls.
CBSused this system from 1987 to the mid-1990's to encrypt its transmissions to affiliates on the Telstar 301and Telstar 302satellites.
In Canada, the
CTV television networkalso used this technology on its network feeds. With this system the video is scrambled by means of re-ordering the video scan lines, while all audio remains in the clear. This system was discontinued in the early 2000s.
Videocipher I (VCI) system was initially considered for use by HBO in the 1980's. HBO tested VCI extensively, but was ultimately rejected in favor of Videocipher II.
* HBO use of VCI would have required descramblers for home satellite viewers. Thus VCI was determined to be too expensive for consumer use.
The Leitch Viewguard scrambling system used for satellite feeds as well used the same video line re-ordering as well, while also leaving the audio intact. ABC and Fox used Viewguard as well on their analog network feeds to their affiliate stations shortly before switching to digital satellite distribution in 2005 (for ABC) and 2004 (for Fox).
This was the first consumer scrambling system. It began testing in 1985 on HBO satellite transponders on
Satcom 3Rand Galaxy 1and entered full use in January 1986 by HBO, and within two years was used by a majority of major cable televisionprogrammers. However, lapses in its security enabled some cable piratesto modify the descrambler to receive free programming. Beginning in 1991, programmers began to phase out the VCII system in favor of the highly secure Videocipher II Plus (RS) system. The system was fully phased out in 1993. Originally sold as a stand-alone decoder box that consisted of a fully electronic decoder and the actual descrambler module, some satellite system manufacturers began to manufacturer their receivers with the module installed. This system works by encrypting both audio (in digital sound) and video. A Videocipher II decoder is still capable of decoding only the video portion of a Videocipher II Plus.
Furthermore, in the late eighties and early nineties, VideoCipher II modules that had been pirated, began to receive constant Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) "Keys" which would roll over every month. Later on, keys began to roll constantly for pay per view channels and HBO.
A company called Magna Systems would fax monthly keys to satellite dealers and the dealers would distriubute the keys to their customers. Magna Systems warned that programmers would begin rolling keys every few days.
In response to the increasing frequency of key changes, enterprising pirates devised more efficient means of delivering the new keys to the hacked boxes. Among these contraptions included "VMS" modems which when added to the Videocipher module allowed them to dial into a
bulletin board systemand download the updated keys.
After HBO left the VideoCipher II datastream in favor of the more secure VideoCipher II Plus (RS) datastream, other programmers followed suit. Having a VideoCipher II module was no longer worth anything unless the viewer wanted to watch adult/XXX programming with no audio.
Some viewers who had both cable and satellite found a way to marry audio and video. Viewers found a way to get audio from a cable line and video from satellite with their VideoCipher II and push both to their VCRs and TVs.
Due to the advanced VideoCipher II Plus datastream, video may appear to "flicker" or struggle on an old VideoCipher II module. If the module has a newer pirate chip installed, flickering may or may not be a problem.
In 1992, following years of security breaches with the Videocipher II system, the Videocipher II Plus became standard. In 1993, all VCII programming was phased out. This is a higher-security system with two variants. The Videocipher-RS system (RS for Renewable Security) is the Videocipher II Plus system with a slot in the back of the decoder module to where a card could be inserted to upgrade the security if the VCII Plus system were ever breached.
General Instrument discontinued production of VC II+ RS modules in 1998 in favor of its
C-bandsatellite programmers still use this system for their programming, however most broadcasters are in the process of phasing this out for digital delivery.
* With the shift to digital delivery, the Videocipher system overall will most likely be phased out by 2010.
Stations still operating in Videocipher
TBS (TV network)
Turner Network Television
The Weather Channel (United States)
* According to http://www.callnps.com/chart.htm
* Updates on closures: http://www.onsat.com/updates.php
* Programming content: http://www.onsat.com/listings.php
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