With the soccer World Cup just two weeks away, an off-the-field battle is raging between Cable TV and gangs selling illegal decoders, with the pay-TV operator launching its latest offensive last week. Shopkeepers selling the illegal decoders said a 'bug' had been sent out through the cable network disabling pirated smart cards, which sell for $250. The smart cards are used in the decoders. The virus is the latest strike against pirates in a prolonged battle that first kicked off in 2003, when Cable TV switched to digital decoders. During the European Championships in 2004, Cable TV disrupted illegal viewers by switching codes every 30-60 minutes. But illegal operators struck back with a handheld device that enabled the user to key in new codes. The new codes were posted on the internet and available to users within a minute of being changed. Now the pirates claim to have developed a smart card that automatically tracks changes in code and is 'immune' to the virus. Nevertheless, in the event the cards are disabled, viewers could resort to using the handheld device. One dealer offered the Sunday Morning Post a free exchange of smart cards and a complimentary handheld device in case of infection. 'This is a combo. You can key in the new codes if you are hit with a virus during a World Cup match in the middle of the night. You can come here and get a new card for free the next day. No worries.' A Cable TV spokeswoman would not confirm or deny whether the company had sent out a virus. 'We have been monitoring the situation. We plan to strengthen our attack against illegal decoder gangs during the World Cup, by switching our codes and other methods. We cannot discuss these methods.'