DirecTV and the Hogtied Remote

This post is a brief tale about my experience switching from Comcast cable services to DirecTV.  While I didn't anticipate anything security-centric coming out of my decision, amazingly, DirecTV found a way.  It all started with a short conversation with my installation technician...

 

The Installation Technician

 

Following the preparatory instructions about my visit, I made sure to have the i's dotted and the t's crossed, so as not to inhibit my moment for whole-home satellite tv bliss.  To my surprise, my technician asked me if I happened to have a wifi connection available.  Much to my shagrin, I informed him I do indeed have a wireless network, but it's "secured" to the point any passerby's just can't hop on (theoretically, of course ;).  He mentioned that he needed the "password" (which, in my case, is one lengthy passphrase) in order to complete the installation.  Perplexed, I informed him that I'm out the door on my way to work, and the adult I left behind (referring to the prepatory instructions) doesn't have access to re-configure my network.  Fortunately, he could proceed with the installation, but I'd have to wait for the wifi hardware...which he couldn't leave behind for me to connect myself...and I'd have to schedule another visit for installation.  Ugh.

 

Revelations

 

So, with a bit of investigating, I found that the culprit hindering my 100% complete installation was the cinema connection kit (CCK)...which also happens to be the first URL I've ever seen that includes a Trademark symbol. Still skeptical, I called customer service to schedule my return visit to complete the installation...and with a few minor hurdles, it was decided to ship the CCK to me so I could complete the installation myself.  Run-around? Yes. Inconvenienced? A bit, but happy the hardware was being shipped to me and I didn't have to wait for another "from 8am to infinity and beyond" appointment as is de facto for this industry.

 

Fast forwarding a few days, the hardware arrives and I'm excited to get going; just as any good nerd would be with new electronic toys. Tossing the instructions aside with reckless disregard, I'm busy connecting coax here and power there and hitting up the remote for my configuration guidance. This is when the horror begins.

 

Navigating to the point where I need to enter my wireless network details, I gasped in dismay about the next instruction: 

 

"Please enter your wireless network password using the keys on the DirecTV controller" - or something to that effect.

 

Surely, I thought to myself, there's an "advanced" mode...this keypad only supports case-insensitive alpha-numerics. My "War and Peace" passphrase, complete with mixed-case alphas, spaces, special and numeric characters makes these password requirements look like a Fisher-Price "My First Password" activity.  Sadly, those are the breaks.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  "Your passphrase is way too secure for anything I can handle," said the DirecTV remote.  Balancing my on-demand needs with my newly-purchased 2-year agreement, I began to think maybe I can just live without the CCK and on-demand services.

 

Salvation 

 

Willing to live without on-demand services, but unwilling to admit defeat...I turned to plan B.  If it has an IP, I can port scan it.  Since it's an embedded device, 9 times out of 10 it will have a web-based administration interface.  Turns out, it has that and then some.  Here's what I did to forego the ludicrous assumption that I'd reconfigure my entire wireless network to a less secure state for the mere purpose of DirecTV's CCK:

 

  1. Reset the CCK device by pressing and holding the reset button with a toothpick or clothes pin.
  2. Connect the CCK to your local laptop/desktop and reconfigure your network adapter IP address to 169.254.1.99.  In my case, the CCK's default IP address was 169.254.1.100, but a quick lmgtfy for your model can tell you yours if you have trouble.
  3. If curious, feel free to nmap the device to find that open ports are listening on :8080 and :23, but, just hit up the web administration interface via 169.254.1.100:8080.
  4. The username/password is, yep...admin/admin.
  5. Configure your device (including the IP for your wireless network) with the freedom you should have had with your DirecTV remote.
  6. Power off, disconnect, re-connect to your DirecTV receiver...and 24 hours later, voila! You're on demand.

Moral of this Tale

 

Don't sacrifice your security principles without first considering secure alternatives.  While it would have been easy to just give up and downgrade my network, I chose the higher road to exercise all of my options first before knee-jerking my way to functionality.  As an added bonus, I also found the following links I'll surely experiment with further in the coming weeks.  Enjoy!

 

Controlling DirecTV Set Top Box (STB) via Network

DIRECTV SHEF Public Beta Command Set

 

We're interested in hearing your creative uses of the SHEF...we have a few ideas here, post yours - or even better, show us what you can do!

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