Hacking U-Verse set top boxes

uverse settopbox

U-Verse is AT&T’s fiber IPTV service. No matter how many set top boxes you have in your household AT&T limits the number of DVRs to just one. So, what hardcore countermeasure did they employ to lock down their users? They unplugged the hard drive! No. Really. You don’t even have to look at this article by Hack-A-Day reader [Chad Brantly]; just unscrew the the cover, plug the drive in, and you’re done.

Comments

  1. Computer_kid says:

    It’s too simple!

  2. Crash says:

    Cool telling me not to look at the article right in the post.

    But, yea, that does seem pretty stupid how they did that.

  3. BRIlliant Hack. And as said before: way to simple.
    Just the way they should be.

    The only thing that gets me is that is this DVR in conjunction with another, Say Tivo/MythTV/GodKnowWhatTVDVR+, or is this the only one “allowed” in the system.

  4. Elliott says:

    or you could just take the hard drives out and be like woo i got a free hard drive. and you are really cutting it close eliot.

  5. joelanders says:

    yes indeed. great hack.
    and it’s past steve’s bedtime.

  6. Ben says:

    If it’s that easy, does it even count as a hack?

    What was on the drive? Do they encrypt recordings or use a proprietary format? Can you do anything w/ the ethernet or usb ports?

  7. ... says:

    ssh, don’t wake him up ;-)

    Think about it, it was a win-win situation… They made a bunch of boxes and then one of the higherups tells them to only give 1 dvr per household. So they just pull the plug, easy as pie. They just stock them ready to go, then if someone orders 2 they pop it open and pull the plug. but that isn’t the only good thing, they knew it would get hacked uber fast, which will encourage people to buy their units so they can get dvr in every room and possibly even be able to upgrade super easy… i would buy that over some locked down piece of shit…

  8. Duggasco says:

    yeah, we should have comments that dissapear when steve wakes up, anyway, i am enjoying the steveless posting while it lasts

  9. fragged says:

    What size are these harddrives. From what I’ve seen in australia there only seems to be a few DVR products, and all of which are just cheap dvd players with harddrives and a tv capture card…. Seriously the most well known are OEM or Freeware programs like Windows MC and MythTV, sux…

  10. bp says:

    Remember, dug, saying the name three times causes him to appear.

    Anyway, this hack just made me smile! Nothing like uncrippling a device with a mere minute or two of work. How sweet it is!

    Though personally I’d probably just pull the drives… my local file server is so close to the 1 TB line that it’s killing me!

    As for whether its a hack or not… sure its simple but it changes the normal functioning of a manufactured device… if that isn’t a hack I don’t know what is. Then again, it’s not the kind of hack that will get you props from your friends.

  11. entropicdecay says:

    i dont know guys, thats a pretty hardcore countermeasure if i ever saw one. and those 3 steps; whoa, they were so intense i had to put my laptop down and rest between each one :p

    nifty hack though!

  12. Freiheit says:

    Its half the work if you leave the cover off the case.

    Free sheet metal primed on one side too.

  13. Pocketbrain says:

    We need to put AT&T in charge of national security.

  14. terminalblue says:

    I love the tool list!

  15. steve says:

    not past my bedtime time diffrence between uk and usa num skull any way load of rubbish only benifitt free hard drive as eliot says but how many gig and what speed LOVE STEVE

  16. pretorious says:

    makes you wonder what the securityin the phone tapping systems they have is like…

  17. einsteinx2 says:

    Wow you gotta love when companies take for granted that the people using them will have no technical knowledge. They had to figure someone would crack it open sometime. The sad part is that for the most part they are right, people would have no idea. Anyway works out better for us in the know.

    Btw if everyone is so bothered by steves comments so much (which btw im not because even if i was i could always just skip over them) then why does everyone mention him so much. you know it will just encourage him to post more.

  18. andrew says:

    right forget steve, it’s silly.

    yeah if at&t had originally planned to give everyone dvr boxes, then decided not to, i guess the cheapest solution was just to unplug them, but surely they would then remove the hard drives too, right? i mean, they could sell them to another company and actually *make money* off of it. must’ve been too much of a hassle for at&t to worry about a few drives tho…

  19. wolfmankurd says:

    Maybe they intended to start making upgrades? like pay $XXX and some will come round and upgrade you to dvr :S

  20. Well if you want to make this a really good hack. Make a way to put a good size in there. Say a good 500GB and then no worries on the harddrive screwing up by deleting some “precious” videos. That is the real hack here.

  21. stoned says:

    Woooooooooooohooooooooooooooooo, our hack of the day: PLUG A HARDDISK IN. Wow, iam stunned by so hardcore high-tech stuff. How great. *arrrhhh*

  22. andrew says:

    #20– stfu, elliot can have a life besides hackaday. here i suggest to all you complainers out there: if you’re so unhappy with hackaday start your own hack website!! wow what an idea. oh wait, silly me, i forgot that you don’t know what the hell html is.

  23. Mike says:

    This is crap! I was expecting a simple 3-step hack that I could do, but instead he’s got all these extra hidden steps. I mean, get a screwdriver _and_ unplug your box, that’s at least two steps if not more. Unscrew _6_ screws _and_ take off the cover? Who in their right mind can claim that’s the same step.

    It’s just too complicated. How did he even figure all this stuff out. That’s why hacking is reserved for the esoteric world of teenagers and electrical engineers. I’m going back to play with my dolls.

  24. Fragged says:

    Ok, for all you dumbies, this hack was probbably more useful than 90% of the hacks on here (i’m not bashing elliot, or the people) because so many people would have DVR’s at home, sure I dont, i’m aussie, so why dont you wankers keep complaining?.. Also, this article is to point out the stupidity of corperations, they could have saved a large ammount of money not installing the hard drives at all (assuming there large) and offering an upgrade, instead they leave it inside of the DVR, and hope that nobody pops open the hood to find a free hard drive (how long have these been out now, one month, two?)

    Also, sure, elliot is recently slow with the articles… This is probbably because he’s trying to find one you sad little lowlifes wont complain about, and sure there’d be plenty of hacks out there, but the good ones’d be like raindrops in the desert.

    Elliot, I’d really love for you to not announce it, but just go on strike and not update your website for a couple days, it may well get rid of some of the whiners that think this site isnt good enough for them but still keep surfing it… As for me, I really appreciate your work, I havnt attempted many hacks, but some are really interesting, keep up the good work :)

  25. Fragged says:

    Edit: Sorry, 6am, 4 hours sleep, high ammounts of caffeen and rambling, and no, i wasnt bashing the community as a whole, just the ones who keep complaining “:( Next hack!”, driving me… crazy :@

  26. cooperised says:

    @fragged: right with you. Useful hack – not complicated, but definitely a hack.

    Would it calm some people down a bit if the guy had needed to add a drive of his own, or to flash in the firmware from one of his other dvrs to make it work? The fact that they’ve left the drive on there, and the firmware to detect the drive, is just a bonus – and testament to the stupidity of some corporations.

    I say again: good hack. Thanks eliot.

  27. gr8m8 says:

    Hi Fragged, Interesting. I must be missing something. I’m in Australia and I have a Legend LPVR250. I wouldn’t have called it a cheap dvd recorder with tv tuner. no dvd recording facilities though. it has two digital tv tuners which records to the HDD in a quite satisfactory(to me) MPEG format. The downside for me at the moment is that the USB is only of version 1 type speed and takes ages to dump the movie/clip/show to my PC. I have tried removing the HDD from the box and adding it to my PC, but is in a format unknown to the PC. That strikes out FAT/NTFS. I have yet to take the HDD to work and try it on one of the MACS and see if it is HFS/HFS+(though I doubt it) alternatively I should try and see if it is a linux filesystem. At the end of the day, I just want a faster way of getting the files onto my computer.

  28. shrumby says:

    Would it make it a better hack if they’d replace the hard drive w/ a ham sammich?

  29. JLM says:

    its hilarious how corporations always underestimate the public’s level of intelligence :) You’d think they would have learned by now!

  30. mike g says:

    yes… yes it would

  31. bill dinlwy says:

    what kind of hard drive do we us in it.

  32. fl00rmatt says:

    Where are the screws located? under the rubber feet? i just read the article and looked under the box to find no screws and i dont see any in the back of the box.

    thx

  33. fl00rmatt says:

    nevermind. helps to take a decent look at the back of the box. like in between the hdmi and coax connectors. derrrrrrrrrr

  34. someone said:—. At the end of the day, I just want a faster way of getting the files onto my computer.

    Posted at 9:37 pm on Aug 10th, 2006 by gr8m8

    HEy , try using a Slax linux liveCD and try mounting the drive in slax.. then tryusing the HDPARM command tosee whats up with the drive…?

    or .. goto the vendors site.. like if its a WESTERN digital drive … they have some bad ass simple tools for copying /cloning and wiping the drive on their site.. that would allow you to see what format it is..

    OR… try going to ISOhunt.com finf a torrent for ACRONIS disk director suite.. .v10 it has and can give you alot of usefull info from the drive .. . including cloning to another bigger drive and now having more space… !!!!!!!

    goodluck…
    simplesolutions.chris.s@gmail.com

  35. Shannon says:

    I believe it’s a bandwidth issue, 2 of their DVRs sucking down 2 HD streams each is upwards of 160mbps of traffic.

  36. Steve says:

    Can yo see BOTH DVRs if you activate the second hard drive??

  37. joe says:

    does not work anymore, they changed and give you the vip1200 box now and only one 1280 box, so the 1200 has no hard drive

  38. Updated?? says:

    Is this still the case in 2010??

  39. No More says:

    It’s on their end now AFAIK.

    Uverse boxes have a Seagate 250GB HDD. There’s also an ATA to SATA chip between the HDD and motherboard.

  40. Sylver says:

    Plugging in a hard drive is not really a hack, it’s a solution to a problem. My Uverse box doesn’t have a hard drive (model vip1200mm) and doesn’t come with one or a place to plug one in. I want a legit hack for this box that gives you channels because I know it can be done, it can apparently be done with any digital cable box.

  41. Neff says:

    Its so easy a caveman can do it……

  42. NerfDigger says:

    It doesn’t work anymore… and from what I hear there’s no way to hack uverse because the system authenticates channel requests. It only head-end only delivers to you what you have access to.

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