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November 4, 2009

News Release--Cable Modem Hacker's Publisher Speaks Out on Hardware Hacking and Free Speech

Hacking the Cable Modem San Francisco, CA November 4, 2009— On Monday, November 2, Ryan Harris (DerEngel), cable modem hacking expert and author of the landmark Hacking the Cable Modem (No Starch Press, Sept 2006, 320 pp., ISBN 9781593271015), was indicted on six counts of federal conspiracy, wire fraud, and computer fraud charges. He is set to be arraigned on November 18. If convicted, DerEngel faces up to 20 years in federal prison and $250,000 in fines.

But is cable modem hacking evil in and of itself? According to Bill Pollock, DerEngel's editor and the founder of No Starch Press, "Hacking is not evil. And hacking hardware that one owns is not and should not be illegal. Stealing service is clearly illegal, but neither DerEngel nor his book condones theft of service."

According to Pollock, No Starch Press (which also published the controversial Hacking the Xbox, by Andrew "bunnie" Huang) "chose to publish Hacking the Cable Modem because I wanted to understand how my cable modem works. I don't like black boxes and I like to play with hardware. This is a book about reverse engineering hardware—a protected right in the United States. I believe in freedom of speech and in making people smarter about things, not in sweeping information under the rug."

Pollock does not question the illegality of theft of service or the fact that users hacking their leased modems are likely violating their terms of service with their cable internet providers. But, he argues, "Hacking hardware that I own in order to better understand and control it is not about theft of service. It's about having fun and learning more about that mysterious box with flashing lights. Hacking the Cable Modem is about low-level firmware hacking, and mastering a product that you own."

And as for the book Hacking the Cable Modem? Unfortunately, due to this recent bit of news it's completely sold out, but an immediate reprint has been scheduled and the book will be available in print again in 2 weeks. The ebook is also available at

To schedule an interview with Bill Pollock, contact Travis Peterson (

Additional Resources

Chapter 17: Building a Console Cable (PDF)

Hacking the Cable Modem: What Cable Companies Don't Want You to Know Hacking the Cable Modem: What Cable Companies Don't Want You to Know
by DerEngel
September 2006, 320 pp
ISBN 9781593271015, $23.95 US

Available in fine bookstores everywhere, from, or directly from No Starch Press (,, 1-800-420-7240).

About No Starch Press
Founded in 1994, No Starch Press is one of the few remaining independent computer book publishers. We publish the finest in geek entertainment—unique books on technology, with a focus on open source, security, hacking, programming, alternative operating systems, and LEGO. Our titles have personality, our authors are passionate, and our books tackle topics that people care about. Visit for a complete catalog.

About O'Reilly

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