If You Go To The Olympics, You Can Bring Your iPhone Or Android Phone... But You Better Not Tether

from the wireless-police? dept

Among the latest bizarre limitations that the Olympics puts on people is a ban on any sort of private WiFi network via your mobile connection. That is, you're not allowed to tether your phone, turn it into a WiFi hotspot or use a device like a MiFi to create the same effect:
A first for any Olympic Games is the ban on personal or private wireless access points and 3G hubs, which are not allowed at London Olympics events and venues.

iPhones, iPads, and Android phones and tablets are permitted inside venues, but must not be used as wireless access points to connect multiple devices.
It's possible (or perhaps likely) that this is done to help local mobile operators from having their networks overburdened, but, really, you'd think that the mobile operators would be out in droves with those "cells on wheels" (COW) vehicles that provide significantly more cellular power at high traffic events. Still, I'm curious as to how anyone enforces such a ban. It's pretty easy to hide a MiFi. And turning your phone into a hotspot and slipping it back into a pocket would make it almost impossible to detect. The whole ban just seems pointless.


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    SD (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 1:35pm

    Perhaps they intercepted a plot to have man-in-the-middle attacks on unsuspecting attendees. They can enforce the ban by following the radio signals to their source. Turning off SSID broadcasting is effective in evading simple scanning but not guaranteed for more sophisticated methods they could use.

     

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      Christopher (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 6:48pm

      Re:

      Even if they did intercept a plot to do that (yes, it can be done), that does not mean that they get to ban these devices period.

      If they find a person actively doing MiM attacks, arrest that person. Don't ban everyone from using their wireless devices at the Olympics.

       

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        ltlw0lf (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 5:33am

        Re: Re:

        Even if they did intercept a plot to do that (yes, it can be done), that does not mean that they get to ban these devices period.

        Why MitM the WIFI when you can MitM the GSM signal and cut out the middleman? GSM is not exactly safe, and I'd be willing to bet (since I have some experience with GSM) that in some cases it is easier to mess with GSM than it is to mess with WPA2 WIFI.

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 9:36am

          Re: Re: Re:

          This. GSM is actually a bit easier to MitM. If I were a criminal wanting to break into everyone's connections like that, my attention would be on GSM from the start.

           

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 1:42pm

    Whut

    So, instead of two or three devices on one connection, you have two or three connections? How does that help?

     

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      TechnoMage (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 5:20pm

      Re: Whut

      The reason is that this "law/rule/whatever" is NOT meant to be enforced, but to be there in the grab bag of "we don't like what you are doing, so we can kick you out/arrest you because of...."

      This is how laws that seem "silly" work, they aren't meant to be enforced _unless_ you piss off a police officer, or a person who can call a police officer.

      So this rule won't be enforced... unless NBC thinks you are recording video and streaming it online. And then they will say you are tethering to your camera... or w/e.

       

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    Machin Shin (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 1:48pm

    I wonder is their real worry is interference with some equipment they are using. I can imagine a stand full of people with several hundred of them all tossing out wifi would cause that 2.5ghz range to get mighty noisy.

     

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      TtfnJohn (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 3:12pm

      Re:

      Broadcasters, the cells on wheels stuff and a host of others take a large bite out of the 2.5 gig range at events like this anyway so I'm not buying it.

      The range got noisy in Vancouver but not unusably so. Adaptive filters are wonderful things.

      It wasn't in the rules in Vancouver to say no tethering so at some of the more popular events and sites people did without interfering with the event(s).

      They did cause a minor problem in that the operator of this "hotspot" often missed half the event they came to see.

      That and that some of the buildings aren't suitable for antennas in the 2.5 gig range particularly those with more powerful attennas in place operating on a harmonic bandwidth and built with grounded rebar.

      Like many other things Olympic I suspect that this has more to do with some silly notion of trade mark protection and protection of the "world class" sponsors such as Coke.

      The other tethering that happened in Vancouver was from news gathering operations who could and sometimes did seem to be in numbers there resembling an invading army.

      I can't imagine the IOC trying to stop that but then the IOC is so corrupt and divorced from reality that they probably still think we use the old clunky rotary dial phones tied to a land line. :)

      Scratch the surface of this and you'll catch the not to wafting scent of Genuine IOC topsoil made from the bodies and output of IOC members who died in office or only seem to be dead now.

      MONEY

      The athletes dominated the Vancouver Winter Games, it was thier show through and through. The IOC simply raked in the cash on the backs of the athetes as they always have.

       

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      Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 3:35pm

      Re:

      I can imagine a stand full of people with several hundred of them all tossing out wifi would cause that 2.5ghz range to get mighty noisy.
      Meh... actually it's more the other way round... WiFi and bluetooth performance, being relatively low power, tends to suck badly in an environment with loads of RF noise like that.

       

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        TtfnJohn (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 5:33pm

        Re: Re:

        Then it has to be concern for all those people whose hair turns purple if they stand in front of their smart meter for a few seconds while they cut the lawn and there's irrefutable evidence in DNA damage.

        Then they go sit in their office with their N Wifi router and antennas on every computer in there and it's the fountain of youth. Sadly their sperm count quadruples and shimmers with health and life.

        The Darwin Awards in reverse.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2012 @ 1:16am

      Re:

      Or they're worrying unauthorized sidestreaming of the events.

       

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    A Nonny Mouse, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 1:54pm

    Perhaps they (or more likely an "official partner") have official wifi hubs in place, which turns all other hotspots into that most heinous of crimes: Interferance of a business model (whatever it is in this case).

     

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      Chris-Mouse (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 2:01pm

      Re:

      According to GigaOM , BT is the official communications sponsor, with several hundred WiFi hotspots in place. Paid hotspots.

      Yup, it looks like interference with a business model again.

       

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        Christopher (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 6:49pm

        Re: Re:

        Doesn't matter if it is or not. Bottom line is that if the devices are not illegal, the Olympics do NOT (even if it is private property) have the right to keep people from using legal devices.

        It would be like saying that someone has to use an iPhone when their Android phone is just as good and works just as well.

         

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          ethorad (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 5:28am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Except if by buying a ticket you agree to their rules they can throw you out for not following them. Doesn't matter if the device or your actions are illegal or not.

           

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          Brent (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 11:35am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I agree with the other person who replied to your comment. As i learned mostly from this site, the Olympic Committee apparently has enough power (money) to get laws passed in countries that would otherwise be 'unconstitutional' (or whatever the British have in this case). For example, the Olympic IP Police were allowed to go around London, search businesses, and look for any non-sanctioned merchandise with the Olympic logo. That is not normally legal.
          SO, its possible that the IOC did make it illegal to use these devices and, if they chose to do so, could make it mandatory that you only use iPhones inside the venue.

           

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        The eejit (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 3:09am

        Re: Re:

        To be fair, almost everyone can access BT's WiFi zones as part of their smartphone contract: for example, with my old one, I had 250MB of data for BT Openzone and BT FON wireless networks.

        Gonna be a bitch for travelling fans, though.

         

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      Josef Anvil (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 1:45am

      Re: Thank you!!!

      "It's possible (or perhaps likely) that this is done to help local mobile operators from having their networks overburdened..."

      No, it's NOT likely, possible, or even probable.

      Thanks guys. I can't believe Mike missed that. He made me laugh when he came up with the network congestion excuse. The ban is a pure and simple money grab for official sponsors, like everything else associated with the Olympics.

      Personally I think the public will eventually get fed up with organizations telling them not to do what their devices are designed to do. No mifi, no twitpics, no facebook updates, no YouTube uploads. How about no more IOC bullshit?

       

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      Wally (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 7:47pm

      Re:

      Southwest Airlines charges 5$ for in-flight WiFi.

       

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    fogbugzd (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 1:55pm

    Why is this surprising for an event where they will not let you in if your shirt says "Pepsi" on it? They will "probably" let you in if are wearing Nike shoes, but they don't guarantee it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 2:06pm

    Remember kids: don't remember your experience at the _______ Games because those uncle fuckers will charge you with copyright infringement. And don't tell any of your friends about your experience if you do remember because that's contributory infringement, punishable by mandatory brand respect re-education. And don't bring anything to record your experience at the games or you'll be pooping police truncheons for a week!

     

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    Tunnen (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 2:14pm

    They are trying to claim this Olympics as the first social media Olympics (Conveniently forgetting that the Vancouver games were) but at the same time trying to limit how social media connects to the web?

    Also, I don't see how they think the ban will work. I'm assuming this is to try to prevent excessive interference in the 2.5 Ghz range that might caused issues with in-house wireless networks used by event staff. But, if that was the reasoning, they should have had enough foresight to either setup their network on the lesser used 5 Ghz band (which most cellphones don't support) or other communication technology altogether.

    In the end, people will still do it and will likely not get caught. If they do get caught, the worse I can see the staff doing is asking the person to leave the premises.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 2:25pm

      Re:

      And you are right, about all they could do is ask the person to leave the premises, as long as they are not making any money off what they are doing. This is part of the reason they are pushing for things like Commercial Felony Streaming Act, SOPA, ACTA, TPP, CETA, etc, etc, to criminalise such actions.

      But then there is, of course, the problem of tethering, where you connect your computer, of whatever device you have, directly into your phone's USB input. Some mobile companies will let you do this for an extra monthly fee with apps like TetherNow. I don't see how they are going to catch someone using TetherNow on their mobiles, since the connection is hard wired and does not use WiFi.

      TetherNow might be an option if you go to the Games, but check with your mobile provider to see whether or not they requuire to pay an extra fee to connect any device to your phone's USB port using TetherNow.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 2:56pm

        Re: Re:

        Yea TetherNow or PDANet may work well, but I think the better solution is to not give those bastards any money to watch people exercise and go enjoy some real sports.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 2:24pm

    like every other industry that has a specific purpose, they want control. they are so insecure they are shit scared that someone is going to get something, maybe for free, that isn't intended and might stop a payment being made. if it wasn't so pathetic, i might feel sorry for them

     

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    AG Wright (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 2:32pm

    Excitement

    I know that I'm supposed to be excited about the uh the games in London, don't use the O word, might get sued, however in spite of TV and such trying to increase the suspense/excitement I frankly don't give a Damn.

     

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    Digitari, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 3:02pm

    Re: Re:

    sorry, did I miss something? whats going on in the UK? I have not had a TV the last few weeks, did I really miss something?

    I read online about a shooting in Aurora CO though, and that was free

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 3:28pm

    How much money do the athletes get from royalties?

     

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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 3:39pm

    Well they could....

    It's pretty easy to hide a MiFi. And turning your phone into a hotspot and slipping it back into a pocket would make it almost impossible to detect.
    Well yes and no... depending on the venue wifi, you can detect the signal and localise it (tho probably not pinpoint it's true). And what they could do is have extra access points set to supress "rogue" signals.... that's legal in private venues, but far as I know not in public spaces, but hey, when have the olympics ever let that stop them?

     

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    pyro, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 5:48pm

    Enforcing this ins't all that difficult.

    Some WAP's have the ability to spam other WAP's into disconnecting their users. So as long as you have the right hardware, it's easy to do. Put your WAP's on a whitelist, spam everything that isn't on your whitelist.

    I don't know of the legalities of this though.

     

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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 7:08pm

    Just follow the money!

    I think it's a pretty good bet that some wireless vendor has placed access points all over the venues, and will be happy to charge you a (probably sizable) fee to access them. Also, it would be a good bet that they will have packet inspection software installed to keep you from posting your photos and videos of the games on the net.

     

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    Tech42 (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 8:12pm

    "almost impossible to detect"?

    Detecting that would be child's play for the Ministry of Housinge. Why, their cat detector vans alone can pinpoint a purr at 400 yards!

     

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    Ninja (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 3:31am

    for 40 dollars one can set up a neat lil router that will also run on batteries.

    http://wiki.daviddarts.com/PirateBox_DIY_OpenWrt

    Now if only a few hundred ppl would build this system with a suggestive SSID like "FckYouCOI" and go to the games =D

     

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    nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 4:06am

    I guess we should just be thankful no dentists, surgeons or tattoo artists have sponsored the Olympics yet...

    I can imagine trademark nazis standing just behind the entrance gates with blow torches and pliers on hand ready to remove unauthorized tattoos and pull unauthorized teeth.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2012 @ 4:37am

    Large scale wifi

    I guess they will have a large-scale wifi deployment in these locations. Large-scale wifi on a busy venue is a pain in the ass to make it work, even without rogue access points screwing up the spectrum. Some conferences do forbid running your own access point for that reason, so there is precedent, and for once it is not yet another Olympic abuse.

    And, as others have already pointed, they can turn on the rogue access point detection and suppression on their wireless controller. It works by attacking the rogue access point with forged packets which force the clients to disconnect and disrupt the rogue's operation; unless your personal devices are using 802.11w protected management frames (not bloody likely), they will not have a working connection.

     

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