Comcast's Rootkit Moment

from the expected-filing-in-3...2...1... dept

With all the fuss over Comcast’s decision to jam certain types of traffic without being even remotely transparent about it, people are starting the countdown to the inevitable lawsuits. This is beginning to take on some similarities to Sony’s rootkit debacle, which started to spread in a similar matter. And, just like Sony responded initially by saying rootkits were okay because no one knows what they are, Comcast has said that people shouldn’t worry about this because most people won’t be able to detect it. In other words, just like Sony, Comcast is seriously underestimating what this is doing for the company’s brand. As the link above notes, someone could make a pretty good case that Comcast’s method of jamming traffic violates certain state laws forbidding impersonating others — since, technically, that’s exactly what Comcast is doing to jam the traffic. There’s also the question of whether or not it becomes an FTC issue for misleading customers into believing they could do certain things with their connection that they could not. If Comcast wants to avoid a full Sony rootkit style mess, it would be good for the company to come right out and make it clear what they do and what that means for its customers.

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Companies: comcast

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Comments on “Comcast's Rootkit Moment”

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Carlie says:

Re: Lawsuit reguarding comcast

Hey there frusterated comcast customer. I saw that you want to take part in a lawsuit. I, as well, am in preperation for that. But here is the thing. After consulting with 4 different lawyers, the general concensus is that unless you hire a firm with mega million bucks, millions enough to rivel Comcast’s attorneys, as well as a bunch of friends willing to also file class action suits WITH you… you wont get far. Also, you better beable to prove you opted out of the take-away-my-rights-as-an-american-to-have-my-day-in-court ( arbitration notice) you forfiet your right in court and deal soley with an arbitrator provided by comcst. Fortunatly, I have some great friends of friends who have helped me with advise on dealing with comcasts illegal activity ( which IS IN FACT illegal) There are so many hoops to jump through, red tape,small print ect… Also.. if you alone take them to small claims and haven’t done your reasearch ( they will have a lawyer present, you most likely wont), and you will fry under their scrutiny. If you lose, you then are liable to be counter sued, as well as having to pay THEIR court fees. I dont mean to tell you what to do… but they already effed you out of money, and wasted time, becareful all your ducks are in a row beforehand, so they don’t get more of your assets. I am working on getting a large group of people with similar problems involving comcast to back me. More people=more money=better,bigger lawfirm willing to help. If you want to join my crusade… your more than welcome. my email is in your subject title say something about comcast lawsuit ( i get a lot of spam, and dont want to accidently delete your email…. Thanks…C

Doug says:

Interfering with business

If I were the legal department at Comcast I’d be more concerned about the people using BitTorrent for business purposes (legitmate business purposes) in which Comcast is now preventing from working / working correctly.

I’m not in America, but I’m pretty sure there’s got to be some big legal issues with interfering with a company’s ability to operate.

legitBT says:

Re: Re: Interfering with business

There are plenty of legitimate uses of the bit torrent protocol that is invisible to the consumer yet they are going to be hurt. For example if people who play the game World of Warcraft get their patch updates via bit torrent protocols, the Vudu product uses bit torrent to LEGALLY rent and download movies using their service/hardware combo, Not to mention bit torrent inc, just announced that they partnered with several TV and movie companies to use their protocol including 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, G4, Kadokawa Pictures USA, Lionsgate, MTV Networks (Comedy Central, MTV etc.), Palm Pictures and Starz Media.

This is exactly why net neutrality is necessary to keep companies like comcast from preventing you from using the internet connection you are paying for to enjoy the services you’d like to use.

Danny says:

Re: Interfering with business

I’m not in America, but I’m pretty sure there’s got to be some big legal issues with interfering with a company’s ability to operate.

The only way that would happen is if the company in question was a large corporation that had the deep pockets to go toe-toe with ComCast.

GeneralEmergency (profile) says:

I feel sorry for the fools...

…after reading the TechLiberation piece and comments. I had completely forgot that Comcast’s customers are all on cable modems. TCP/IP over that last mile of RF broadband is a flippin’ nightmare because subscribers have to share the same data channel and the collisions skyrocket exponentially as you pass about 50% bandwidth utilization.

Their only option to manage the average bandwidth use increases per subscriber is to keep subdividing those last mile segments to lower the number of users on them. They can’t traffic shape at the aggregation routers because that is not where the problem is. Their bottleneck is that stupid RF lan segment closest to their customers.

And I suppose that suggesting that they convert all their customers over to DSL would not be a very helpful one either, huh?

Nick says:

Re: I feel sorry for the fools...


Maybe if you people all understood the problem they are facing (as a WISP, I understand *quite* well), you would know why they are doing this.

When you’re dealing with last mile RF carriers, peer-to-peer applications absolutely CRUSH the network. There is a very real negative impact caused by these kinds of applications.

Of course, it’s all in how you treat it. The way that they went about blocking it is underhanded – I just drop the packets.

KOzOK says:

Not defending Comcast but...

I’ve been using them for over 6 months now, mainly because other choices in my area suck. I also use BT on regular basis and can’t say that I have seen any kind of traffic shaping. Speeds are even better than with different ISPs that I have used in the past, my upload/download speeds are as advertised. Can’t say how it is for others, but for me it’s so far so good.

Roo says:

You're missing the point. This is about net neutra

The real issue is that Comcast is allowing some traffic, and prohibiting other traffic. Perhaps one day they’ll restrict http traffic coming from China; or from the Democratic National Committee. This what net neutrality is all about and you need to contact your congressman and senator to make sure that the FCC or a special statute prohibits it.


Nick says:

Re: You're missing the point. This is about net ne

This isn’t about “net neutrality”, this is about their right, nay responsibility, as a service provider to block specific types of abusive traffic.

Before you argue that peer to peer isn’t “Abusive” you have to understand two things: residential connections are priced the way they are based on oversell and aggregate usage patterns. You aren’t paying to use that 3Mbps 24/7. You’re paying to use up to 3Mbps peak. Peer to peer traffic also has a HUGE number of packets per second, which quite adversely effects RF based last-mile situations like DOCSIS and 802.11.

Peer to peer applications, while great for end users, are very network intensive and can cause serious problems with RF last-mile segments like 802.11 and DOCSIS over cable.

However, I do disagree with HOW they are blocking it. They should either throttle it, or block it completely – none of this phantom reply and tarpitting BS.

moe says:

Re: Re: You're missing the point. This is about ne

Actually, I think you are missing the point.

“Before you argue that peer to peer isn’t “Abusive” you have to understand two things: residential connections are priced the way they are based on oversell and aggregate usage patterns. You aren’t paying to use that 3Mbps 24/7. You’re paying to use up to 3Mbps peak.”

Actually, I am paying to use that 3Mbps 24/7 and my ToS allows that usage. If the ISP prices are based on peak usage but the ToS allow 24/7 usage, then whose fault is it?

“Peer to peer applications, while great for end users, are very network intensive and can cause serious problems with RF last-mile segments like 802.11 and DOCSIS over cable.”

Again, Comcast chose to become an ISP and I’d bet they’ve made a pretty penny while doing it. These are the issues ISPs need to anticipate and deal with properly. P2P was there when Comcast started (albeit not at the volume it is today), but they didn’t deal with these issues on their side properly. They also didn’t change their ToS or notify customers of their “traffic shaping” (ha ha).

You almost had it right in your first sentence — whereas you see the ISP having the responsibility to block abusive traffic, I see the ISP having the responsibility to provide their service in accordance with the contract agreed to by both parties (the ToS). If P2P traffic on their network causes them to fail to meet their part of the ToS, then they need to either 1)Improve the network to satisfy the ToS or 2) Change the ToS to reflect what they can provide.

The customer can only know so much, and can only make their marketplace decisions based on what they know. I’m sick and tired of companies pulling out the line, “they should have known.” No — it’s a contract and there is only the terms of the contract.

skeptical says:

Re: Re: You're missing the point. This is about ne

This “residential pricing” argument sounds like spin that originated with a service provider somewhere. I’ve lived outside the US, and I can tell you that the US doesn’t have bandwidth at a reasonable price for residential customers compared with other parts of the world. Residential bandwidth is quite expensive here compared with both Europe and also Asia — particularly countries such India and South Korea. Bandwidth in India is at least an order of magnitude cheaper than the US! And believe me, P2P gets very heavily used overseas. US companies such as Comcast are taking advantage of their monopolistic position, but they aren’t satisfied until they have squeezed every last cent out of their business model. This means not having to upgrade to the latest technology that would allow them to offer better faster service to their US customers. So, you can call it “managing traffic” if you want to, but what I see is a company that doesn’t provide its customers with nearly the level of service that can had in Bangalore, Paris or Seoul for less money. Oh yes, and somehow companies are making money in those countries too.

lar3ry says:

I doubt the lawsuits will work

It would be a very big stretch to get a jury to understand exactly what Comcast is doing. I’ve been following this for a month or so, and while I understand what they are doing, I must admit that I’m not the average person. My wife would not understand it, and she’s pretty sharp.

The problem is that they are creating an environment hostile for a certain type of internet traffic. The only thing that would make it illegal is to have the net neutrality laws get passed.

The good part about this is that people will react negatively toward Comcast’s behavior, even if they don’t quite understand what Comcast is doing. That negativity may just turn into influence into getting those neutrality laws passed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Comcast is using Sandvine Deep Packet Inspecting switches. They are Linux appliances that are connected via tap between the network switch and CMTS. I think Sandvine is based out of Canada, but I see a work around sooner than I see Comcast doing a 180 and removing these devices. They have not even finished deploying them yet. Either way they spent a lot of money and time with nothing to show but a black eye.

breadtrk says:

Even the idiots replying to this don't understand

Comcrap is only blocking UPLOADS, and only BT UPLOADS, not downloads so WOW or Evercrackers have nothing to worry about. There are people commenting that have not even read any of the articles about this. Hell, it does not look like even the author of this article has read anything about this.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Even the idiots replying to this don't underst

Comcrap is only blocking UPLOADS, and only BT UPLOADS, not downloads so WOW or Evercrackers have nothing to worry about. There are people commenting that have not even read any of the articles about this. Hell, it does not look like even the author of this article has read anything about this.

Hmm, actually I’ve discussed it in detail. Why do you think I haven’t read anything about it? First of all, it’s amusing that you accuse us of not understanding it when you get the details wrong.

Comcast is *not* “blocking” uploads — but jamming them. Secondly, it is *not* “only BT UPLOADS” but other types of traffic as well, including gnutella and Lotus Notes.

If we made a mistake, we’re all for having you correct us. However, to come in here insulting us for getting things wrong, and then getting the story wrong yourself… that doesn’t do anything helpful.

Roo says:

... This is about net netrality

Three points:
Comcast is not, with regard to this matter, limiting bandwidth based on the amount of bandwidth being used by a subscriber. Such a cap, if stated up-front, may be perfectly reasonable. But they are limiting it based on the type of traffic so all of the arguments about pricing, etc are irrelevant.

Second, Comcast is an internet service provider acting as a common carrier; like a phone company. If they choose to filter and manage traffic then they loose that status. So what? Common carriers aren’t libel for information transmitted over their network. But once Comcast starts discriminating based on the content of the transmission then they become like a newspaper editor and are responsible for the content that they allow to be ‘published’. These are dangerous waters.

Third, if Comcast can discriminate based on traffic type, then it can also do so based on the source or destination of a request. This IS about net neutrality. Perhaps one day they’ll want to downgrade or even prohibit traffic from Planned Parenthood, thinkprogress, the DNC, or any other host they don’t like. At that point, the lack of broadband competition in the U.S. market becomes a serious impediment to free speech. That’s why we need to make sure that our representatives in Congress vote the will of the people and not cater to special corporate interests.


mike says:

I would like to point out that this is happening to me just playing online games and it is affecting my streaming video. Before all the flamers say that this isn’t the case, I can say that is a bunch of crap. I “upgraded” to the 8Mbs service and have yet to have anything net based run properly. This issue goes much further than BT. I mean streaming video. I do NOT upload anything, and have verified that about 10 min into a video my modem resets. I have run pings and traces to back up my findings. I spent hours on the phone only to have one of their “techs” come out and say loose connections were the issue. Our VOIP also gets dropped regularly on lengthy calls. This is appalling and something needs to be done.

Matt Brown says:

Comcast Issues

Matt Brown wrote: From: “Matt Brown”

To: ,

Subject: Forward To Corporate HR & Legal
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2005 19:32:36 -0800

For those of you to whom I sent this e-mail to, I
apologize in advance since I am trying to reach Corporate HR and Legal in
Philadelphia. If you do not want to read it, please forward it to them
since what I am going to do at the end of the e-mail may affect your
areas in some way.

I’m not going to get into he/she said in this e-mail so I will
state the specifics. I was let go by Sacramento Comcast last June due to
issues that I was uncovering and my involvement in the Dish Detective
Program. I found over 40,000 dishes, all on my own but was only given
credit for about 25,000 of them. I was accused of cheating by the VP of
Finance William Parrish, Senior Director of HR Larry Oreskes, probably
one or two others that I do not know of and a lawyer who accompanied
Larry Oreskes to a Labor Board hearing stating ”There is no way any one
person could commit to such a task you must not only have cheated, but

My accomplishments while at Comcast are too many to list in this
e-mail, the insults not only to me personally but professionally have
bothered me for quite some time. While others that lie, cheat and steal are
still employed in the Sacramento area, I’m the one without a job,
which is just not right.

Being that I see that Comcast and it’s management both in
Sacramento and Denver feel that they do not have to honor what was said and
conveyed to me, I in turn am no longer going to honor the agreement that I
signed under the understanding that I would be paid on the dishes that
I found.

The following is what I am asking for: YOU HAVE ALMOST TWO WEEKS

A systems administrator from the east coast that knows the dish
detective program and database forwards, backwards, and sideways
to fly out to the Sacramento area along with #2.
A Senior VP of Human Resources to listen to and investigate my
issues and concerns.
If both determine that what I am saying is true, I am also
willing to submit to a polygraph, full payment on the dishes that are
owed to me and an apology to my five year old daughter who does not
understand why we can’t look for pans anymore.
It would also be nice that if what I am saying is true, that
you terminate the employee(s) that I will be referring to if I get to
meet you.

Listed below is some of the following that will be going out to the
public for non-compliance:

Spreadsheets and e-mails will be sent to C2 Consulting
Services, Inc. showing over-collection of fees, customer dummy accounts,
and withholding/not posting/refunding of customer checks for the
Sacramento and Stockton regions. For those of you who do not know who they
are; C2 Consulting is the firm that was/is reviewing cable service
franchise fees in the California markets.
A letter to the labor board a EEO showing positions that
Comcast did not post, open interviews for, or advertise as being open
until after they were already filled by internal candidates. A few
examples of this would be my own, the appointment of Troy Masters, and
the letting go of individuals whose “positions were being
eliminated only to have them open up again a short while later. The
blocking of me “never being allowed to be anything but an
Accounting Manager for Comcast” per Vickie Franklin while I was applying
for a box collector position.
Fees underpaid and overpaid to the Cities of Elk Grove, Rancho
Cordova, Roseville, Butte County, Modesto and others.
The city of Sacramento will receive documentation for the
delaying of disconnects and under refunding of customers who no longer
wanted Comcast’s service.
The Franchise Tax Board will receive the under and over
capitalization of labor and DCT/Modem charges along with schedules showing
that even though contractors throughout the Northern California
region where paid the same, different calculations were being used by
each individual market.
Since I’m either tired of typing or just don’t care
anymore, I’ll stop here although I do have more.


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