Print 31 comment(s) - last by overlandpark4m.. on Jun 17 at 11:27 PM

Customers may have their homes raided if illegal content is downloaded on their connection

From assisting with anti-piracy programs to throttling "overactive" users' cable internet connections to attacking customers' access to Netflix, Inc.'s (NFLX) streaming video service, Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) has received a fair amount of criticism in recent years.   Now it's launching a nationwide effort that is either praise-worthy or diabolical depending on your perspective.

First piloted in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Northern Virginia, and the Greater Washington, DC metro area regions, the program turns customers' routers into quasi-public Wi-Fi access points.

While only open to subscribers, and requiring a password-authenticated connection, Comcast subscribers can now access a portion of their neighbor's bandwidth.  Comments an Xfinity spokesperson:

Comcast’s newest Wireless Gateway broadcasts two Wi-Fi signals.  By default, one is securely configured for the private use of the home subscriber. The second is a neighborhood 'xfinitywifi' network signal that can be shared. This creates an extension of the Xfinity Wi-Fi network and will allow visiting Xfinity Internet subscribers to sign in and connect using their own usernames and passwords.

Customers can opt out by refusing Comcast's special "Gateway" and buying their own cable modems/routers.  Alarmingly, though, Comcast reportedly will not give any special warning (say a mailed noticed) to customers with its Gateways before turning their devices into public access points.

The feel-good message of the Comcast quasi-public WiFi bid is dampened by legal liability.

While the idea of universal access to Comcast (whose network is fairly ubiquitous due to the weakly competitive American internet market) is an appealing one, customers willing to give up a chunk of their bandwidth for the greater good may want to pause until more details emerge.  So far it's unclear how Comcast is implementing the separate signals, and whether traffic will be logged as a single IP address.

In the past agencies like the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have shown a proclivity to raid homes first and ask questions later, when it comes to investigation of child pornography, hacking, or other computer crimes.  As criminals often use public access points, this sounds like a nightmare for a homeowner.

Imagine someone connects to your network and downloads illegal materials.  Now your IP address -- and by proxy your home -- have been linked to that investigation.  While you may eventually be vindicated, it may take federal agents months after ripping through your house to realize it was not you but one of possibly hundreds of "guest" Comcast users (or someone with one of their passwords) who accessed the network.

Thus think twice before you accept Comcast's new "open" network.

Sources: Comcast, ArsTechnica

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RE: This will come to...
By daboom06 on 6/10/2013 8:26:05 PM , Rating: 3
the customer downloading child porn will have logged in with his account. that account will be held responsible--not the owner of the modem. hacking accounts would allow anonymous use of someone's credentials and cause the wrong person to get in trouble, but that's the case for everything already.

with a perfectly secure login scheme, the 'public' nature of these hotspots wont remove anonymity and wont create any more risk for the owner of the modem.

is the login scheme secure? are the modems secure? i don't know. but why would this be any worse than the current likelihood of a random hacker breaking into your wifi to download his fix of child porn?

i thought people would be up in arms about the wifi bandwidth being used up by too many connections, not about the security concerns that aren't even affected.

RE: This will come to...
By Motoman on 6/10/2013 9:06:57 PM , Rating: 2
I believe that with cable modems you essentially are competing for bandwidth with everyone in your neighborhood anyway...I don't really see this changing that much.

As for...
with a perfectly secure login scheme


I don't have any faith in Comcast's ability to properly differentiate traffic like that and provide incontrovertible proof of who's doing what on your modem. If you have half a brain in your head, you'll be opting out of this.

RE: This will come to...
By kingmotley on 6/10/2013 11:06:19 PM , Rating: 2
Don't have details, but it could be as simple as the modem creates a virtual VPN connection between it and the guest. That way a different IP address is assigned for each guest.

RE: This will come to...
By Fritzr on 6/11/2013 6:40:34 AM , Rating: 2
Think about it for a minute. This is ComCast...

RE: This will come to...
By BRB29 on 6/11/2013 8:07:17 AM , Rating: 2
Lol another fail by comcast. I think the only reason they still exist is because they signed an agreement with Verizon about territories. Where I live, people are stuck with Comcast services simply because VZ Fios is not available. Everybody hates comcast for the most part. Unreliable service in general.

RE: This will come to...
By Cheesew1z69 on 6/11/2013 12:55:09 PM , Rating: 2
I think
And there's your problem...stop thinking, you don't know what the hell you are talking about.

RE: This will come to...
By Wolfpup on 6/11/2013 11:13:54 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, that's the thing...I really don't trust any company to do this right. It COULD be totally safe, but...

At any rate, I will NOT use a combined router anyway. There's no way in hell I'm letting an ISP have control of my local network.

RE: This will come to...
By Mint on 6/11/2013 12:09:09 PM , Rating: 1
If you don't have any faith in Comcast handling separate accounts securely with your modem, then aren't you already untrusting of how they currently handle separate accounts within your neighborhood?

RE: This will come to...
By Motoman on 6/11/2013 9:36:09 PM , Rating: 2
I would be...if they were around.

In any case, I'd always buy my own modem. No need for them to have any control over anything other than whether or not my service is turned on.

RE: This will come to...
By chripuck on 6/11/2013 10:49:43 AM , Rating: 2
Thank goodness someone with a modicum of sense replied so early. I'm not saying this is a good idea, but the thought that you could be implicated for another user's actions in this scenario is ridiculous. What about "use their Xfinity credentials to login" do people not get? They have a log of a valid customer (who's name/address they have on file) logging into your router to do illegal things. It's not rocket science for them to point the authorities to that person.

Again, I don't like it out of the sheer fact that it's my bandwidth and I don't want to share, but we are not going to get raided for someone using the public wifi component of our router to do illicit activities.

RE: This will come to...
By Argon18 on 6/11/2013 5:08:36 PM , Rating: 2
You're missing the point. When the FBI swat time bashes in your front door and starts taking all your stuff, they don't give two craps about who logged in with what account. All they know is it came from your home.

Meanwhile, you're massively inconvenienced and treated as a criminal, and all your stuff is confiscated. Maybe after a few months or a few years they'll return it? Or maybe they'll just hold onto it as evidence. You know, to catch that other person who logged in with the other account.

No thanks!

“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs

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