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Xfinity Wifi Hotspots Legal?

it operates off YOUR nickle!

     
11:05 am on Jul 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Are the new controversial xfinity hotspots [wifi.comcast.com] legal?

How it works is if you're using the Comcast xfinity wireless router, they allow other people to gain access to Xfinity wifi via YOUR ROUTER!

The less technical around the web are spreading false claims that it's the cable box, typical voodoo magic claims of the masses.

Here's the rub, Comcast charges YOU to rent the router used to provide hotspots and it's OPT-OUT whether you're part of the hotspot network, not OPT-IN.

While they may be within their rights to do this with their router, they are NOT within their rights to use your ELECTRICITY without permission! Basically, they're using your ELECTRICITY to provide this service, which at a minimum should make it OPT-IN, not OPT-OUT.

For the record, I only have a Comcast modem and use my own wifi router as I like total control over my wifi and once you use their gear you lost that control, which Xfinity hotspots is the ultimate proof.

I'm not sure if anyone will pick up on this, but even if a single use of illegal electricity isn't enough to stop them from doing this, multiply it by at least 1 million effected customers and I'm sure the total amount is enough.

If we don't stop it now, what next?

If someone found out their Comcast wifi router was being used for criminal purposes, esp. in a large condo or apt. housing situation, this will really hit the fan.

This is ill conceived, a bad idea, and potentially illegal IMO as it directly steals power without permission.

Don't forget, at the bare minimum it uses gear we pay to rent. We don't pay to rent a free-for-all wifi, a beacon for bad acts, we just wanted secure internet.
2:17 pm on July 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

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And if some site(s) were to block the unwanted activity of piggyback users via IP, wouldn't that lock out the innocent hotspot 'sponsor'? Not to mention the number of users who neglect LAN security in favor of ease of use.. What a horrible idea.
6:29 pm on July 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

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What the bleep? You can't control the router settings yourself?

My downstairs neighbor piggybacks on my wireless router. (I set it up to require a password for internet access only. I never turn off the modem or router, and we keep different hours, so it's no skin off my nose.) But I would not be surprised to learn this is flatly against the provider's rules. Why would they let two people share an account if they could charge for two separate accounts instead?
10:04 pm on July 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'd be more concerned about people piggybacking on my IP address. I don't want some perv up/downloading child p0rn, and then I get a knock on the door.

For the record, I have never used wireless and never will.
1:22 pm on July 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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FWIW, I don't think the Xfinity wifi uses your IP address as Comcast claims it's not deducted from your data plan, they claim it doesn't even impact your bandwidth.

While in one way I see it as a very cool way to create the world's biggest wifi hotspot without having to deploy any additional gear, on the otehr end I find it the scummiest act I've ever seen by a corporation piggy backing on something a customer pays for and "OH YEAH, BTW, WE'RE USING YOUR ELECTICITY FOR FREE TO DO IT! TOUGH NUTS!"

For the record, I have never used wireless and never will.


That's just silly.

I couldn't live without it as that's what makes tablets, netbooks, laptops, networked video games and TVs all function.

Try the 21st century, it's quite nice, just bring your own router ;)
2:25 pm on July 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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For the record, I have never used wireless and never will.


That's just silly.

I assume from the context that Lame_Wolf specifically meant meant Wi-Fi.

I can see his point about the potential problems if somebody used your connection to download illegal material.
2:50 pm on July 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Surely, it's a risk for security and privacy either way, as a recipient of the service, or the router owner could be the subject of malware, or an attack.
The concept is a good idea, but the implementation is a concern.
3:21 pm on July 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The concept is a good idea


This coming from someone in the UK where privacy concerns are out of control that THIS is a good idea? :)

Using gear I pay to rent and my electricity to provide a free service that's OPT-OUT?

Had they promoted it "BE PART OF THE LARGEST WIFI SYSTEM IN THE WORLD" with opt-in then MAYBE it wouldn't ruffle my feathers.

But this is another example of a major corporation doing whatever the hell they way regardless of their customers.

This is how monopolies often behave.

I'm not bashing Comcast as I love my service, just bashing this new "feature" they offered without my permission to be a part of it, had I used their routers in the first place. I just use their modem and my wifi is separate.

I was considering getting their new wifi modem just to get another piece of gear off the shelved until this crap happened.

Not now, no thanks.
3:36 pm on July 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I don't know enough about that particular service being offered to be able to comment on the specifics, but, living in a remote area reminds us of the problems associated with access, or lack of.
There is a hot spot scheme in the UK that requires users to be known before they use a hot spot. In other words, it's not anyone that can log in, you have to register, or already be a company customer.
3:45 pm on July 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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it's not anyone that can log in, you have to register, or already be a company customer.


I think you have to be a Comcast customer, but that doesn't mean I want just anyone sharing my stuff without permission, whether they're a customer or not!
3:58 pm on July 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I wouldn't be concerned over the power usage as the router is likely to be turned on.

I do, however, agree, it's too risky as a determined hacker could gain easier access to your data.
4:25 pm on July 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I assume from the context that Lame_Wolf specifically meant meant Wi-Fi.
I am, and sorry if I wasn't clear.

I can see his point about the potential problems if somebody used your connection to download illegal material.
My ISP front line people try and try to sell you wi-fi, but they won't listen to anything but what they've been programmed to say. However, when I speak to the security guys there, none of them will touch wi-fi with a bargepole.

Years ago, a friend used to use a pringles tube to piggyback onto other people's connection. He'd only target businesses, and never individuals, not that many people had it then anyway.
4:38 pm on July 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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LOL, LW, I understand exactly, and you're right. A friend is involved in a sector of technical security and it never ceases to amaze me with his demonstrations. He's an expert (I use that term loosely) and really knows how to hack, and how not to be hacked. No question about it: WiFi is a significantly greater risk than wired.
However, putting things into context, most people are unlikely to be attacked/hacked through their personal WiFi as there are many other more important and financially beneficial targets, and many other schemes (malware) out there presenting soft targets. Not using WiFi is reducing your risk.
4:43 pm on July 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I wouldn't be concerned over the power usage as the router is likely to be turned on.


It's the difference between gear being in idle mode low power vs. someone else using it and sucking more juice.

Not a lot of juice per household but across 1M customers in my area, the grand total could be deemed enough to make a case ;)

FWIW, it's no different IMO than having a PC infected with a botnet that the bot herder rents out to 3rd parties which is clearly illegal.
7:22 pm on July 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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However, putting things into context, most people are unlikely to be attacked/hacked through their personal WiFi as there are many other more important and financially beneficial targets, and many other schemes (malware) out there presenting soft targets. Not using WiFi is reducing your risk.
My gardener was forever piggybacking onto other people's network as he wanted to listen to music whilst he worked. You'll be surprised how many do it.
7:59 pm on July 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

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1.) In late May, maybe two weeks AFTER I installed an upgraded Xfinity modem (Arris) in my home, I noticed the routine assortment of neighbors' network names while scanning, plus a new network on a basic channel (6):

SSID: xfinitywifi
Vendor OUI: Unknown
Security Mode: Open
WiFi Protected Setup: Disabled

I thought that was a new-account neighbor, figured they'd work out their modem admin/security settings soon, and left it at that.

2.) But a few days later when I changed my channel to other, atypical ones (2; 3) to find a better connection, "xfinitywifi" changed to the exact same channels at the exact same times.

I can change the channel of a NEIGHBOR'S modem?! Okay, that's creepy. (Cue numerous screenshots.)

I called Comcast and expressed my concern that someone nearby was wide open and that's when they explained the hotspot thing -- that the "xfinitywifi" network I was seeing/tweaking was ME, in ADDITION to 'my' network that I established, named, pref-set, and used. But why? 'So people in my house would have better access.' (Huh?)

So I asked where the hotspot controls were in the admin area of the modem and Comcast said they were inaccessible to me. So they turned the hotspot off. I think... All I know is that "xfinitywifi" no longer appears when I scan.

3.) Coincidentally, not long after KING5 TV (Seattle) consumer advocate "Get Jesse" reported on:

"Your Comcast router may be public" [king5.com...]
See also: [wacomcast.com...]
[wifi.comcast.com...]

The "Get Jesse" interviewee's story was fundamentally similar to mine, which I reckon is similar to countless others' -- whether they know it or not. I mean, c'mon, how many Comcast users have a geeky clue what a WiFi-scanning app is, or can even use one? (I can only scan from my Mac computer, not my iPad.)

And just yesterday a Comcast TV spot trumpeted 'the largest WiFi network' or some such. Yep, if you count all of us. Twice.

4.) Personally, I don't care about the juice because the modem's always on. I DO care that I paid for a secret hookup for anyone, for anything, for free.
11:01 pm on July 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Poor business practice on Comcast's part. It's just technical enough the average lay person may not understand what's actually happening and even less so the implications of what it could mean to their bandwidth and security.

Personally I use my own wifi router. I too want control over that access point although any hacker worth his name would likely be able to gain access - but there isn't a good enough reason to hack a homeowners wifi.

I really wish more companies were aware of how their decisions are perceived. They seem to forget that their decisions do affect how they are viewed and remembered. Even if there is no large scale exodus, there will now be a question in the back of people's minds when it comes to buying Comcast service or upgrading/renewing.
12:21 am on July 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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My friends who are new to Comcast, they were formerly dish users, are spreading the urban myth that the wifi is coming from the DVRs.

Sigh.

They used to have their own routers and stuff and this time, because they're cheap asses, drank the Comcast kool-aid and used the combo modem router that Comcast hands out and VOILA! they're a hotspot.

According to their website:
You will always have the ability to disable the XFINITY WiFi feature on your Wireless Gateway by calling 1-800-XFINITY. You can also visit My Account at [customer.comcast.com...] click on “Users & Preferences”, and then select “Manage XFINITY WiFi.”

[wifi.comcast.com...]
6:34 pm on Aug 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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From what I understand when the tech is installing the hardware you can tell him to disable the wifi.

You could always just buy your own cable modem and not have any of their hardware in your house at all... cable modems aren't much.
7:42 pm on Aug 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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FWIW, it's no different IMO than having a PC infected with a botnet that the bot herder rents out to 3rd parties which is clearly illegal.

Funny you should say that, because I had a belated second-shoe-dropping moment as I remembered how many botnets turn out to belong to seemingly human Comcast ranges (when they're not Ukrainian server farms, duh). I mean specifically Comcast, not just human-ISP-of-any-sort. So they may still be infected machines-- but they may also be botrunners piggybacking on a neighbor's wifi. That's bad news because you can't even block a specific /32 IP without concurrently blocking some innocent and unsuspecting human.

Well, I'm sticking with the wireless router that I personally own. The phone company doesn't need to go beyond the modem.
8:49 pm on Aug 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Interesting thought, I hadn't considered botnets piggybacking on open wifi, that's a game changing thought.

The phone company doesn't need to go beyond the modem.

I was about to correct you that it's the cable company and not the phone company but comcast does have VOIP phones, so they're technically a phone company too I suppose. ;)
10:34 pm on Aug 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Heh. I was thinking of my own access, which happens to be DSL.
12:02 am on Dec 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Developments to this issue..
[theregister.co.uk...]
4:43 am on Dec 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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yep im running my own surfboard and wifi router, comcast is pushing this stuff HOT AND HEAVY.

sending out mailers saying "FREE UPGRADE FOR FASTER SPEED" - FREE WIFI ROUTER...ETC

even resorted to auto dialing me!

After lots of hang ups and mail hitting my trash they've stopped, but whenever i opened it up all I could think was people are just going to think OH BOY A FREE WIFI ROUTER WITH MORE SPEED.....FOR FREE! having no idea that is just comcasts trick to get comcast controlled hardware in your home so they can setup an access point!

way super sneaky stuff here comcast, but I wouldn't expect anything less from them.