“It’s astonishing. It’s spooky because there aren’t a lot of ways you can get into someone’s cable box,” said Fred Cate, research director for the Indiana University Center for Applied Cybersecurity. “The most common ways would be using a remote control, an infrared device, but that’s line of sight. You usually have to be in the room or within a close distance and clear vision to the box you’re changing the channel on or doing the typing on.”
Cate said an infrared repeater may be another theory. The device is used primarily by homeowners trying to hide their electronics or home theater system from sight. The repeater essentially converts infrared light coming from a remote control to an electrical signal that can be easily distributed over electrical wiring to one or more components.
“Whoever did this has had to have had physical access to the apartment (or the area outside the apartment window) at some time or another,” said Cate. “That access could have been as little as sticking an LED-like bulb through a ceiling or wall or in a light fixture. The LED-like bulb must have a power source; it has to be plugged in or have a connected battery pack somewhere nearby.”