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Wave of Plant Equipment Thefts Hits MSOs

Despite a fresh crackdown by the cable industry on signal piracy and other types of unauthorized service, a new breed of cable theft is now plaguing several big MSOs. At least three major cable operators have suffered a wave of equipment theft in recent months from large systems that they were upgrading. Comcast Corp. and Bright House Networks lost new cable plant gear and drops to thieves in Florida earlier this year. Now Cablevision Systems reports that nodes, amplifiers and other expensive power supply equipment have been stolen from its huge New York City system in Brooklyn over the last two months. 'It looks like it's moving up the coast,' said Jeff Eiseman, director of system security for cable and communications at Cablevision. Speaking at SCTE's Cable-Tec Expo in San Antonio Fri., he said more than 100 pieces of equipment have been taken from Cablevision's Brooklyn system this spring. 'These are serious occurrences,' he said. 'Upstairs is very, very concerned.' Several cable operators in the audience complained about other types of equipment security problems, including stolen digital filters and hacked cable modems. Panelist Mike Muller, manager of product security for Motorola, cited a group of younger broadband users who recently claimed to have Ôcloned' cable modems. He drily noted that this group, which calls itself TCN150, has 'decided to give the world a higher data rate on modem service.' Eiseman and Muller said cable operators are now looking at tagging their amplifiers, nodes and other plant equipment with 'data dots,' which are micro dots spread over the devices and linked to the items' serial numbers. Under this scheme, cable operators would use GPS tracking devices to identify and find the stolen equipment before it disappears on the black market.
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