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back to article Feds bust cable modem modder kit maker

An Oregon man faces up to to 20 years in prison for allegedly selling modding tools that allowed his customers to swipe high-speed internet access without paying. The US attorney's office for Massachusetts revealed the arrest yesterday, when charges were unsealed. The federal authorities and the FBI said they had nabbed 26 year …

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Just like AT&T

The cable co's want to own and control the device that you attach to their network, just like back when AT&T said you had no right to attach anything other than their standard black phone to their network, leading to the age of misery that was acoustic couplers.

A cable subscriber has every right to own their modem, and as their property they have every right to modify it however they want. If they have modified it for purposes of fraud, then by all means bust them for it, but lets face it - any security scheme that relies on control of the end point is ultimately flawed anyway. AFAICT this is just a case of the cable company in question being to lazy or cheap to buy and install proper back-end bandwidth throttling tools anyway. If this was a case of MAC spoofing, then that just goes to show the inherent flaws in the cable modem network - all traffic going over the same shared network, and the ability to sniff your neighbors packets. In that case the correct solution would be docsis 3, which would ensure user privacy as well prevent fraud and theft of services.

Anyway, property rights are of fundamental importance in this case.

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Anonymous Coward

And the next step is...

"[he] may well argue that there were perfectly legitimate uses for this. But the authorities will no doubt argue that his customers had one key aim in buying his kit"

Right... so let's see... Gun shop sell gun to guy, gun seller can argue that there are perfectly legitimate users for this, but the authorities will no doubt argue that his customers had one key aim in buying his kit (commit murder/robbery/wathever)

So next step: gun shop/vendor are going to be jailed "en masse" ? Or maybe no...

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WTF?

DSLAM

Why aren't the bandwidth limits implemented at the ISP's DSLAM or CMTS? This would make it a lot harder to get faster rates without the ISP's authorisation.

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Anonymous Coward

I'll bet there is a prison cell with his name on it

Twenty years in the slammer should make this guy a happy camper.

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Heart

Stealing is one thing but getting faster speeds..

If they never had internet tthen they need to be in jail.

But if they feel like they were ripped off for not getting the speeds advertised then no jail time.

Maybe punative damages awarded to company such as tell them how they modded the modems.

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Geo
WTF?

wow

20 Years??!! I think thats a bit harsh! rapists get away with less time than that!

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@Inachu & @Colin

@Inachi - Agreed, indeed! A good point, although a legal type will no doubt say otherwise.

@Colin - A v.good idea, but I guess that means that they would need to pay peeps to have that understanding :o)

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Ditto AC 15:37

Well said, but even without casting the net as far as gun sellers, modems are useless without computing hardware and software, so what about prosecuting the providers of the PCs and OSs that were used by these miscreants to perpetrate such an abominable fraud that could bring the entire global financial system crashing in an instant. I mean, they were stealing bandwidth. With the world's reserves of it running perilously low, we'll have to start importing it from planet Frequentius Abondantium at extortionate prices....

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Bronze badge

Errm....

Why do ISPs limit bandwidth in this way rather than just just using setting up some policies on the routers? It's not rocket surgery.

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Headmaster

titliest

'soup' up?

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jail the fucker

Its theft plain simple, you can try and tart it up with "ownership rights" or the "ISP should have protected me from committing crime" or "Im innocent I didnt install the box's" but at the end of the day.

He promoted, endorsed and assisted in a criminal act. I am fed up with these people who think society owes them a living who think they can take without paying. To own something you have to PAY for it. Simple, no questions!

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FAIL

@ Voodoo

"A cable subscriber has every right to own their modem, and as their property they have every right to modify it however they want."

Sure they do, they just don't then have the right to connect it to the cable provider's service. If they want to make their own cable network with their own wires, that's fine.

Compare this with electricity meters where you can (I assume) buy an electricity meter and mod it so it doesn't count the juice, but you cannot then connect it to the national grid in place of your authorized meter.

"Anyway, property rights are of fundamental importance in this case."

Not really. The case is about whether or not it's OK to make *and sell* these modified meters, along with customer support to help people hook them to the national grid.

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@Eddie

Making and selling the routers is perfectly legal. I agree that if he was advertising them in a way that would encourage people to commit a criminal act, well, then he should go to jail. But making and/or selling the routers should be perfectly legal.

Its the same as the German deal with "hacking tools" from a few years ago. If you ban security tools than only black hats will have them. Why not just go ban anything that could possibly be used to commit a crime?

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Anonymous Coward

@Wow

So give rapists 25 years like they should get.

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Big Brother

@Eddie Edwards

I'd buy that argument.

Except that I don't think he got 20 years for hooking up his unapproved modem to the internet.

It's now pretty easy to by DMCA-busting region-flipping DVD drives, but you can't write a program to do the same thing.

Lesson: disruptive tech is not allowed for the little man.

Of course, that doesn't make what he was doing right, though if you were allowed to create your own cable network, being able to modify your cable modem seems more right then locking him up for 20 years.

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@Eddie

"Compare this with electricity meters where you can (I assume) buy an electricity meter and mod it so it doesn't count the juice, but you cannot then connect it to the national grid in place of your authorized meter."

Heh, I just ran across something like this last week. I'm shopping for a new house, and one I was looking at had evidently had a second electrical meter installed at some point. The meter had subsequently been removed and a cover placed over the box. Inside the house the second line had been run to a separate panel which was obviously in use. My guess is the owner somehow jumpered over the contacts to enjoy a good 60-100 amps of free service. Too bad I didn't like the house, I think that knowledge would have made a good negotiating tool...

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Unhappy

Up to..

includes the number 0. As in "save up £250 at gocompare" or "The Register seems to imply the maximum possible sentence as a fact in up to 100% of all its stories about the American legal system". Sorry, that last bit is incorrect, remove the words "up to".

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Gold badge

Shaped at customer premises

"any security scheme that relies on control of the end point is ultimately flawed anyway. AFAICT this is just a case of the cable company in question being to lazy or cheap to buy and install proper back-end bandwidth throttling tools anyway"

This is true. I think cable cos assumed they would own the modem and rent it when this whole scheme was designed, whereas now everyone has the option of purchasing instead. Surprisingly (at least it surpises me though), this is normal industry practice -- cable companies do not shape the customer's connection to the rate they've paid for, they rely on the cable modem to do it. Even when Comcast was interfering with people's traffic, I doubt the hardware was shaping NORMAL traffic, just injecting false packets into torrent connections (and a few other types it misdetected as torrents.)

"A cable subscriber has every right to own their modem, and as their property they have every right to modify it however they want. If they have modified it for purposes of fraud, then by all means bust them for it,"...

That's the jist of it. This guy IS being busted for mass modifying these modems for the purpose of fraud. Now, the case MIGHT be tricky -- his intent is clear, but if he did not thieve service himself, and phrased his advice so he did not advocate theft of service, then he was possibly within his rights to purchase off the shelf hardware, modify it, and resell it. He'd need a good lawyer to argue this though.

@Chris211 "Jail the fucker",

I don't think anyone's disagreeing with you. People are not saying just expressing surprise that with a whole hybrid fiber coax network full of equipment, backend full of routers, etc., that no traffic policy is implemented except by the (possibly customer-owned) customer premises equipment. I mean, I can't get free phone service by mod'ing my landline OR cell. I can't get free DSL by mod'ing a DSL router, OR get faster speeds by changing it's parameters (without someone at the other end changing them to match). I can't just flip the "evil bit" on my wifi and get free access to encrypted access points. Even with satellite being 1-way, it's very difficult to mod a satellite receiver to get free channels. The cable co.s are unique in having just some file stored in flash on the cable modem that determines the speed it gets.

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Flame

@ jail the fucker

F**k that, these f**king companies have more rights than you or me. They've been f**king us all for way too long. Take them for whatever you can f**king take them for. FTF - FREE THAT FUCKER!!

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Pirate

piracy?

20 years jail and a large fine for aiding theft.

What happened to the bankers and money-men around the world who just about managed to stuff everything. No talk of jail time or fines for them.

Give them several billion dollars.

and let them do it again.

Fredd

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Silver badge

Re: wow by Geo

>rapists get away with less time than that!

Ah, but rapists only screw women not big business. You should know by now that big business screws us then charges us for it. anything other than this and it is a major crime.

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Grenade

Who is in jail, and who is out

Well, as has been the trend of the past 30 years, corporations are gaining the rights once granted to citizens, and citizens are having their rights curtailed. Welcome to America (and the UK), where sods like us have no freakin' rights at all, except the right to take it up the bum from these bastards.

Anonymous because corporations don't deserve to live when we can't.

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Joke

@fredds

"Give them several billion dollars.

and let them do it again."

Good point, but those several billion dollars are now worth approximately sixpence.

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