You Don't Own What You Buy, Part 15,332: Cisco Forces Questionable New Firmware On Routers

from the not-cool dept

One of the things that we keep learning in a connected, digital age, is that what you think you "bought" you often don't really own. Companies who sell you products seem to feel a certain freedom to unilaterally change the terms of your purchase, after the fact. I'm reminded of Sony removing key features on the PS3, though there are plenty of other examples. A new one is the story of Cisco, pushing out a firmware update to routers without customer approval and (even worse) having that firmware update block people from logging in directly to their own routers. Apparently, if you don't like it... er... too bad.
Cisco has started automatically pushing the company's new "Cloud Connect" firmware update to consumer routers -- without customer approval. Annoyed users note that the update won't let consumers directly log into their routers anymore -- they have to register for a new Cloud Connect account. The only way to revert to directly accessing the device you paid for? You have to unplug it from the Internet.
Oh, and registering for such an account means you have to agree to give up your data so that Cisco can sell it. As per the terms:
...we may keep track of certain information related to your use of the Service, including but not limited to the status and health of your network and networked products; which apps relating to the Service you are using; which features you are using within the Service infrastructure; network traffic (e.g., megabytes per hour); Internet history; how frequently you encounter errors on the Service system and other related information ("Other Information"). We use this Other Information to help us quickly and efficiently respond to inquiries and requests, and to enhance or administer our overall Service for our customers.

We may also use this Other Information for traffic analysis (for example, determining when the most customers are using the Service) and to determine which features within the Service are most or least effective or useful to you. In addition, we may periodically transmit system information to our servers in order to optimize your overall experience with the Service. We may share aggregated and anonymous user experience information with service providers, contractors or other third parties...
Seems like a good way to drive people into buying routers from other companies. I can see how a "cloud service" could have value, but it should be presented to users as a choice, where the actual benefit to them (if there is one) is clearly presented. Instead, this rollout seems designed solely to benefit Cisco and its partners, rather than the people who bought (or so they thought) their routers.

Filed Under: firmware, hacking, routers
Companies: cisco


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  1. icon
    Matthew E. Cooper (profile), 2 Jul 2012 @ 10:47am

    Exploitable Back Door?

    I realize that Cisco is probably one of the better companies as far as securing a back door like this from hackers, but theoretically, what if someone did manage to figure out how to exploit this to load their own custom firmware onto these devices? Given the possibilities, I can't imagine that there are not a lot of disreputable folks seeking to do just that.

    BTW, thanks Cisco for increasing my workload on an already busy week. I also doubt that the MSP I work for is ever going to buy another Linksys/Cisco router for the four dozen small businesses we manage moving forward. Just a flash in the pan, I'm sure, but how many other IT management companies are going to feel the same way?

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