In spite of all the hacking news in the recent few years I never heard of someone who managed to hack a TV channel. What makes them so secure?

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    Your best bet would be to target the personal workstations of the editors, subtly modify their work and hope nobody catches it before it goes on-air.
    – Philipp
    Oct 25, 2014 at 13:27
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    I would've thought this would be a better clip to pick :)
    – Polynomial
    Oct 25, 2014 at 13:45
  • I'm pretty sure they did it on Mission Impossible once.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 25, 2014 at 21:30
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    @EllieKesselman It's from the movie "Hackers", which everyone should definitely see. Cheesy as hell, soundtrack by The Prodigy, stars Angelina Jolie from when she was practically a kid.
    – Polynomial
    Oct 26, 2014 at 2:14
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    If you're from Chicago and over forty, you should remember this hilariously weird incident: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Headroom_broadcast_signal_intrusion Oct 26, 2014 at 3:10

1 Answer 1


Hacking a television station is hard. Most of the broadcast infrastructure isn't connected to the Internet, making outside intrusion difficult or impossible.

Let's say you want to hack your local news station. Problem #1 is that their equipment isn't connected to the Internet -- it's quite possible that they're still using a bank of Betamax machines for ads and canned programs, and direct-wired connections for live television. Problem #2 is that the broadcast antenna has either a hard-wired connection to the studio or a narrow-beam microwave connection. Taking over their broadcast pretty much requires a physical break-in.

Okay, how about taking over a satellite broadcast? These days, those are usually encrypted to prevent unauthorized people from listening in, so you can't replace the official uplink with your own, even if you can get a powerful enough transmitter into a location that the satellite is listening to.

The most common form of "hacking" is pirate television, where someone sets up an unauthorized transmitter and broadcasts, possibly overwhelming the signal from an authorized user of the channel. That said, other forms of hacking do occasionally occur.

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    What about re-broadcasters and people running HFC networks offering N-in-1 services, where one of the services is television? Such systems are in fact often either connected to Internet or are a part of same infrastructure used to provide Internet access
    – AndrejaKo
    Oct 25, 2014 at 11:50
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    Probably the most famous case of broadcast signal intrusion is the Max Headroom incidents in Chicago in 1987.
    – Xander
    Oct 25, 2014 at 17:41
  • @AndrejaKo TV and cable internet (DOCSIS) can use the same medium simultaneously (for example, I could connect my cable modem and a DVB-T TV tuner to the antenna outlet and they both worked) but that doesn't mean they use the same infrastructure, they just happen to use the same physical wire.
    – user42178
    Oct 25, 2014 at 18:13
  • @André Daniel Are you quite sure about that? Most cable systems use optical fibers as far as they can before switching to coaxial cables. I could be wrong, but I was under very strong impression that the TV signal is streamed through the fiber up to the demarcation point between the fiber and coaxial cable (can't remember the technical word right now), where the emission of the TV signal through the coaxial cable starts.
    – AndrejaKo
    Oct 25, 2014 at 18:56
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    @André Daniel Furthermore, IPTV systems pushed by some DSL (and fiber to the home) providers basically use multicast for the signal and the TV is actually sharing the same path as the Internet, leaving room for hacking what are basically computer systems and this is where the big part of the "too different to hack" defense fails. Also as a side-note what would be your definition of infrastructure if sharing the same wire isn't sharing the infrastructure?
    – AndrejaKo
    Oct 25, 2014 at 18:59

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