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Cable Modem Hackers Release Improved Firmware 419

FatCat writes "SecurityFocus has a story about a group of hardware and software hobbyists specializing in embeddded systems who've released their own custom firmware for Motorola Surfboard cable modems. The firmware lets you log in to an interactive VxWorks shell, or issue commands from a Web browser through an http interface. You load it by tapping an undocumented console serial port on the circuit board. So far, uncappers are apparently the primary consumers, and they're downloading up to 400 copies a day."
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Cable Modem Hackers Release Improved Firmware

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  • Loss of service (Score:5, Informative)

    by mpost4 ( 115369 ) * on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:37AM (#8188931) Homepage Journal
    I would think that doing this could put one in dangar of lossing their service. I this more then likely is a violation of the TOS of most cable ISP's and when you violate a contract( TOS's are contracts of a form ) you void it, so then the cable company is not obligated to server you any more. Is the promise of high speed you don't pay for (theft) worth the lose of service, and posable legal action?
    • by The Tyro ( 247333 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @11:00AM (#8189214)
      Why do this on a shared medium, particularly one you have to share with your neighbors? I like my neighbors, and I get almost 3.5 megabits down, which is pretty quick. Plus, my neighbors know I'm the cul-de-sac computer geek, and they'd probably come to me if their connections slowed to a crawl. What am I supposed to do? Play dumb when they ask me if I know what's up with their slow connections? That's pretty weak... and looks even weaker when the cable company tells my neighbors that someone in the neighborhood uncapped their cable modem... Hmmm... wonder who that person could be?

      Sorry, but there's very few things worse than being a weasel.

      Yeah, it's great to have m4d bandwidth, but you're really paying for a shared resource, and I think most people know that. Don't get me wrong... I appreciate the value of a good hardware hack as much as the next geek, but if you're using it to siphon huge amounts of bandwidth from your neighborhood node, that's a problem.

      If you need huge, dedicated bandwidth, I'd say buy a T-1 line, or pay for a business-class account.
      • If you need huge, dedicated bandwidth, I'd say buy a T-1 line, or pay for a business-class account.

        Erm, a T1 is only 1.544mbps. That's hardly huge, dedicated bandwidth. It's about the same as the average cable cap. It sure isn't what the uncappers are shooting for.
        • T-1 is 1.5M down/1.5M up, on a dedicated connection. Comcast's standard offering is currently 3M down/256K up on a shared connection, which is more or less typical for cable modem. Remember that a basic T-1 package will almost invariably have a SLA guaranteeing that you won't have more than N minutes of downtime per month, at least 5 static IP addresses, and a noticable absence of draconian/asinine AUP terms. Of course it's going to cost roughly 10X as much as a cable modem connection, but it's well wort
      • Actually to me th question becomes - what can it do OTHER than uncapping? Are there any legit uses for this? The article mentions the possibility of firewall and NAT but that's not yet done. What else does it do NOW?
      • Slow Upstream (Score:3, Informative)

        by Nintendork ( 411169 )
        I don't use much of my downstream. Maybe 50MB per day average. I do most of my surfing and downloading at work. What I do need though is faster upstream bandwidth. Right now, Comcast is limiting it to 256kbps (32KB/sec.) and I need around 768kbps to host Halo games on my Xbox. If they had a plan where I payed $10 more a month or something close to that for the increased upstream bandwidth, I wouldn't hesitate to go that route.


    • Re:Loss of service (Score:5, Informative)

      by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Thursday February 05, 2004 @11:13AM (#8189360)
      I worked for ATTBI before they were swallowed up by Comcast. I still have an ATTBI hostname...

      When the first round of "cable modem uncapping" documents started floating around to the masses I found plenty of open tickets that had been forwarded to the "legal department" for possible action. Most people had uncapped their modems to 10mbit/10mbit.

      Apparently they had a script that ran that checked for this as they had quite a few open tickets all over the place. I guess it was not hard to find.

      They would disable your modem, forcing you to power-cycle it. Then your modem would download a new, correct, config file. If they found that you were AGAIN in violation you were terminated.

      Some people did not lose their service but most did.
    • in fact I've been getting the lowest latency ever ever! Look Out Duke Nukem Forever!


      c>ping -t www.google.com

      Reply from bytes=32 time=10ms TTL=244

      Reply from bytes=32 time=17ms TTL=244

      Reply from bytes=32 time=7ms TTL=244

      Reply from bytes=32 time=4ms TTL=244

      Wooho^C^C%%$*&$%.Destination host unreachable

  • So far... (Score:3, Funny)

    by randomErr ( 172078 ) <ervin,kosch&gmail,com> on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:38AM (#8188943) Journal
    So far, uncappers are apparently the primary consumers, and they're downloading up to 400 copies a day.

    That was until /. posted the link. Now something like 30,000 downloaded will be registered today.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:38AM (#8188948)
    Thanks to Slashdot, I'm sure it'll be 40,000 sometime today, that is unless Google changes their graphic to some sore of cable modem and beats Slashdot to the punch.
  • confused (Score:3, Funny)

    by fjordboy ( 169716 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:38AM (#8188950) Homepage
    I've always wondered why people go to so much trouble to uncap their cable modems and stuff. I used dialup for years and NEVER had to worry about messing with my modem to uncap it. My connection was burstable and had absolutely no cap!
    • Re:confused (Score:4, Informative)

      by Pyro226 ( 715818 ) <{moc.liamtoh} {ta} {622oryP}> on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:46AM (#8189039) Journal
      I used dialup for years and NEVER had to worry about messing with my modem to uncap it. My connection was burstable and had absolutely no cap!

      This is not actually true; "56k" modems are actually capped at 53k due to FCC regulations. I looked quickly on google and I couldn't figure out why they are capped and it doesn't really matter because almost no-one has a high enough quality phone line to get this rate. But there could be some dial-up hackers out there trying to get an illegal 3k.

      • Re:confused (Score:5, Interesting)

        by aonaran ( 15651 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:57AM (#8189170) Homepage
        It's because the higher voltage required to push it to 56k would cause enough crosstalk to interfere with neighboring voice lines which is what the telephone system is supposed to be used for.
      • Re:confused (Score:2, Informative)

        by Fuyu ( 107589 )
        According to this reply [cctec.com] on NANOG, "What the FCC limits is the power (db) level you can place on the line in the PSTN. This is to limit crosstalk in copper cable bundles. This power limitation does not equal a speed limitation. This seems to have arisen from the fact that the first PCM modems - USR X2 units - could not go faster than 53.3K without violating the FCC power limitations. All other things being equal, the more power you can use, the faster you can go. To cover their ass USR put the disclaimer
    • I remeber the day of 14.4K and we were happy. It took forever to download things and when we finally got that low res porn we wondered why we had bothered

      • ...when we finally got that low res porn we wondered why we had bothered...

        I think I speak for many of us when I say I've never wondered why I've downloaded porn.
    • Of course the other baffling half of this is, while Comcast is putting download hogs under their thumb, they're making it easier to be a download hog: At the end of January, they raised my cap from 1.5M/128K to 3.0M/256K (altho DSLreports only rated the up at about 160 at that moment).

      Which would you rather have: possible bursts of 3MB/sec or dependable 1.5MB/sec? I'd rather have the latter if I want to do VOIP, streaming webcam conferences, etc.
  • My Opinion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:38AM (#8188952) Homepage Journal
    Ok, while I HATE the fact that my cable is capped, and now I have some invisible limit to my cable modem, there isn't a court in the land that will side with me, blatently breaking a few laws, and ignoring the TOS that was agreed to.

    Im just going to sit back for a while and hope something good comes of this... maybe cable providers will find that fighting with these people isnt worth the hassle.
    • Re:My Opinion (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Pope ( 17780 )
      You're free to pay full market rate for your connection, just get a fractional T1 or leased line: problem solved! :)
    • Re:My Opinion (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lukewarmfusion ( 726141 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:46AM (#8189041) Homepage Journal
      My Comcast (and my Sprint PCS) TOS states that the TOS is free to change at any time, without needing any notification, additional signature or approval from me, and is enforceable without my prior knowledge. They can add fees and still charge a cancellation fee if I get upset and leave.

      Something ain't right about that.
    • Re:My Opinion (Score:3, Interesting)

      "Uncapping" a modem refers simply to removing a speed limit implemented in the modem. It cannot remove speed limits imposed upstream, or monthly download limits. In fact, you'll just speed towards those limits even quicker!
      • Re:My Opinion (Score:3, Informative)

        by The Vulture ( 248871 )
        While uncapping a cable modem cannot change monthly download limits, uncapping a modem certainly can remove speeed limits imposed on the upstream. That's one of the major reasons for uncapping a modem, to get more upstream bandwidth.

        There's two sides to how much bandwidth is allowed to your cable modem, the modem, and the headend, called the CMTS (Cable Modem Termination System). As part of the modem's configuration file, there's either a Class of Service (DOCSIS 1.0) or a Quality of Service (DOCSIS 1.1/
    • I just signed with Cox for a business acct. I'm going to go back and read the fine print again, but, I didn't see anything in there saying you couldn't hack into the modem...nor anything about caps..etc. There was a vague acceptable use section, but, mostly related to downloading or host illegal things. Can someone quote or put links to where a company like Cox or the FCC says this 'uncapping' is illegal?

      I'm new to this topic...and curious...

  • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:38AM (#8188954)
    will be quickly disconnected! More bandwidth for me!
    • F U...You have the whole issue backwards, if the Cable company would just provide enough bandwidth all all users could go at thier full speed In my case 2/256 all the time...there wouldn't be any such thing as a bandwidth hog...I pay for a cable modem which is supposed to go at 2/256, and I don't think its at all unreasonable fr me to expect it to go a 2/256 whenever I want it too, and if thats all the time because I download/upload alot of stuff...(I ftp stuff back and forth from work, as well as send a sh
      • I pay for a cable modem which is supposed to go at 2/256

        I'm sure you do, but probably not in the sense that you seem to think is "reasonable." If you are like most people, you are paying for a modem which has been capped at those rates, which I'm sure you'll agree is a different thing entirely. It is "unreasonable" that you don't get 2/256 all the time only if you were guaranteed 2/256 continuously. I really doubt that you were. It is your right as a customer to use what you purchased, I agree. But
  • dropped carrier (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sinucus ( 85222 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:39AM (#8188958)
    I'll have to say that with all the draconian rules being put in place with cable providers that I don't see this as being a new playground for crackers. You'll likely get dropped quicker than you can refresh the BIOS on that cable modem of yours. With DOCSIS compliant cable modems you'll be sure to know that the cable modem company DOES know what you're doing with it.
    • Re:dropped carrier (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:55AM (#8189144)
      Yup, lots of people don't realize that. Especially over the last two years, cable broadband has emerged from the Wild West period. Now providers are actually looking at what's going on in their networks, and going after people who are stealing service. Of course, they don't have time to crack down on everyone, but they can easily collect statistics from the routers.

      The thing that stinks is that our provider is great. They block a few common ports inbound to prevent casual abuse, but that's about it; it's fast and stable! Uncappers may ruin it for the rest of us with this firmware mod.

      • Re:dropped carrier (Score:3, Informative)

        by clarkc3 ( 574410 )
        Of course, they don't have time to crack down on everyone, but they can easily collect statistics from the routers.

        they dont have to take any special/extra time to crack down on them - they can check that with scripts, flag the account, and disable the modem.

  • VxWorks? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Quasar1999 ( 520073 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:40AM (#8188972) Journal
    It ain't free like linux is... so not only are they violating their AUP from their service provider, these guys are using software that they didn't pay for? WindRiver is gonna be pissed!
  • by toasted_calamari ( 670180 ) <burningsquid.gmail@com> on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:41AM (#8188982) Homepage Journal
    I have heard stories of cable companies coming down *extremely* hard on uncappers, doing things like banning them from having cable service for life and other such actions.

    Given this, and the actions of DirectTV towards those who buy smartcards, I wonder what the cable companies will do.

    Will they ignore those who download these firmwares for the advanced features like the remote terminals and have no intention of uncapping, or will they treat everyone who re-flashes their firmware as a "criminal".
    • From a business point of view I can sort of understand. A cable provider only has so much bandwidth and if everyone used all of it at once the network would die. Of course they can ad more bandwidth but someone has to pay for it, and in this case it would be customers

    • Well, some cable ISP's actually have it set up to where the CMTS (cable mdoem termination system) verifies both the modems firmware and config file source, to ensure that the modem is legit, and if the source doesn't match ... the CMTS won't route packets from that modem, or even allow it to pass on DHCP to the user's PC/router, so this will only work on some Cable systems
  • SecurityFocus asked four U.S. cable modem service providers if they protected their customers with the encryption option....a spokesman for Time Warner's Road Runner service didn't return repeated phone calls on the question.

    That would be a "no"

    Cool, I got a SB3100. I'm in like Flynn!
    • Truth of the matter is MOST cable companies don't use encryption for one very good reason.

      Encryption slows it all down. The biggest battle a cable ISP has to fight right now is public opinion on the SPEED, not security, of the network.
      A lot of them already have to push headend equipment to the limits to serve all their customers and still make a profit to pay back all the loans they got to put the internet service up in the first place, adding encryption to the modem to headend link would slow things down,
  • Is this right? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ObviousGuy ( 578567 )
    It's a simple question: Just because you can, should you?
    • If everyone else is doing it should you? If you best friend jumped off a cliff would you follow?

    • Good question and a fair one.

      With an uncapped modem you are basically stealing for the other users(at least in heavy load times)
      • with uncapped cable modem you're basically posting a banner in your window "HEY CABLE COMPANY, I'M STEALING BANDWITH!!!!! COME AND DROP ME, MIGHT AS WELL SUE!!"

        it's not really like they don't know you have the thingy.. well maybe if you hacked it enough you could sniff some other users mac id,or whatever there's in those things to seperate them from each other. there's no pppoe here anyways on cable modems usually to handle the negotiation, it's basically that you just stick the cable modem that obviousl
  • Very neat (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BenDalton ( 573850 )
    now if someone could do this for my cable modem. Although, I have to wonder how many people will use this to uncap their cable modem only to get in trouble by their provider. In this society, i wonder how long until the developers get sued by the people installing it on their cable modems because they got prosecuted by their provider? Sigh... what a nice little circle
  • Increasing Speed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vpscolo ( 737900 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:42AM (#8188993) Homepage
    Of course you can always setup a compressed SSH tunnel to speed up the text part of web browsing. I've found you get get upto 400% increases which is nice :)

  • Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pxtl ( 151020 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:42AM (#8188996) Homepage
    IANAA (I am not an admin) but shouldn't bandwidth capping be handled at the ISP's end, through a transparent proxy? Not through the cable modem? At the very least couldn't they just have the system automagically cut off service when the packets start flowing too fast, rather than getting into the legal minefields? Then they could say "I'm sorry, our system does not support uncapping" when someone tries and finds their machine not getting anything. Seems a more elegant solution than simply hoping nobody will try and then hosing lawyer hours at them when they do.
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hattmoward ( 695554 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:57AM (#8189172)
      The thing is, within a few blocks of you, cable modems are pretty much all working on the same piece of wire. There is a good amount of bandwidth to share out there (sorry, I don't remember, but it's A LOT), but if you use a transparent proxy, it's still possible to saturate the local segment and irritate other users. A solution using a bandwidth arbitrator for routing to users may work, but if all the cable modems run in full-speed mode, you get bursty connections while each modem waits its turn to go full-saturation. Unfortunately, uncappers don't realize that they're potentially screwing over someone else. I think that's the big beef that the ISPs have... They already planned for a high potential bandwidth, it's just that when you go from 1.5 to 3 Mbps, you're giving yourself a bigger timeslice on the wire. Other than that, DOCSIS (in its most common configuration) is a very Big Brother-ish protocol, and your ISP will know what you're doing the minute you do it... unless they're a bunch of monkeys with wire (read: Comcast).
    • Monitoring/limiting bandwidth usage by clients at the ISP end probably incurs a performance penalty while you're monitoring; therefore it's probably cheaper to have the client check it.
    • Yep, it's one of the oldest lessons in the book. NEVER trust the client. ALWAYS do any authentication, state-management, etc on the SERVER side.

      I preached about this to Blizzard Entertainment for ages (via email, and on their forums) and they STILL don't get it. The client should only get access to the data it needs, and any data from the client must be sanitized and verified before being accepted.

      In the case of cable modems in a WAN, relying on the customer-installed cable modem, residing on their pro
      • If you make Spam a crime, then only criminals will have Spam. And that would be a tragedy that our fragile repulic could ill withstand.
      • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

        I preached about this to Blizzard Entertainment for ages (via email, and on their forums) and they STILL don't get it.

        Blizzard has been ignoring you because you don't know what you're talking about. It is simply not possible to design a game that has all sensitive computation being done on the server. The game will not be playable over the internet. It simply won't perform well enough.

        • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ryanwright ( 450832 )
          It is simply not possible to design a game that has all sensitive computation being done on the server.

          What does a game need to send to the server?

          - Character data (who you are, what you're saying)
          - Positioning data (where you're at)
          - Action data (spells you're casting, etc)
          - Item data

          The latter is where problem start: People can hack an item to give them whatever power they want. Then the client says "I'm doing 1,000 points of damage with my bare hands" and the server just eats it right up. There's no
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tazanator ( 681948 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @11:06AM (#8189270)
      Well this is comcast.. My tcpdump shows ARP traffic on my cable modem from 4 different class B subnets(XX.XX.xx.xx), and even 2 class A subnets (XX.xx.xx.xx) I could understand a class C subnet(XX.XX.XX.xx) but not traffic in class A corporate down at end user. I'm in Indiana and seeing customers in California reply to ARP's... wasted bandwidth. With this much ARP traffic allowed thru the routers it's no wonder they are short bandwidth and kicking bandwidth hogs. Comcast has great speed but at very high cost (about $60 in my area) and the limits and additional overhead they build into the network it's no wonder the people hate them. If I can wean my 10 year old daughter from the TV I will cut the cord and go to DSL (I want to run a game server anyways and DSL is only $30 out here). I am not surprised people uncap and reconfig the cable modem ... they do it to phones (voicemail, speaker phones, heck the ham's started long distance connecting the ham radio to a phone to get longer distance with out the bill), why should the inovative spirit stop at the cable company?
      • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Eraser_ ( 101354 )
        ARP traffic coming out of california is an obvious mis-configuration, however seeing the various classes of addresses is not. IIRC cable comapnies were given the class A "24" to play with as they chose. When you get a DHCP lease in the 24 network, it should be chopped up by a subnet mask (like, which turns it into 255^2 class C net blocks.

        Your analogy to the phone system is flawed though. Speakerphone, answering machines (voicemail), people talking over HAM radio instead of picking up the ph
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Informative)

      by UID30 ( 176734 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @11:18AM (#8189417)
      couldn't they just have the system automagically cut off service when the packets start flowing too fast, rather than getting into the legal minefields?

      You have obviously lost touch with your inner lawyer. :)

      IMHO, the best solution is to alter the terms of all contracts with users (those who wish to cancel service can do so) ... the new contract should have a monetary charge in the order of cents per kilobit per second in excess of whatever the modem cap is. anybody that wants to uncap their modem, therefore, is welcome to do so ... and get a big ass bill the next month.
  • Monopoly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lukewarmfusion ( 726141 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:42AM (#8188998) Homepage Journal
    In my area, Comcast is the ONLY option (outside of extremely expensive satellite alternatives). If they want to shut you off, they can. Then, you're screwed. I try not to do anything that will get me in trouble with them. Losing my cable, internet, etc. would be far worse than the tyranny of having my cable modem capped or my speed tiered. The problem is that they know this as well. That's why they can and do take these steps. My solution was the same one that Utah and others were going to do - city/state run broadband. It'd be just another utility and they could certainly offer it cheaper than Comcast. Plus, with the profits going back to the city or state, it would probably help lower/cut taxes. It's probably a simplistic view, and I realize that there are issues with letting the government control your internet access, but it would probably benefit the consumer much more than letting a monopolistic cable company charge $45 for crappy television and $45 more for internet access that goes down for "unscheduled maintenance."
  • by huhmz ( 216967 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:43AM (#8189003)
    Here in Sweden the caps aren't in the modems and quite frankly what kind of idiot ISP would do it this way? We are capped at the router or somesuch. I got 8 Mbit on my ADSL though which is maximum for ADSL so im not complaining.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      errrr...... this is a discussion of CABLE not ADSL. ADSL lines are individual lines to the ISP's DSLAM, whereas cable modems are on a local network loop with other users, hence the need for capped modems......
    • by Quill_28 ( 553921 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:47AM (#8189053) Journal
      Umm.. I believe cable modem use a shared line with other users.
      I am certainly no expert but I think it is more difficult with this setup, than with DSL.

      But I could be wrong
      • Not really sure about the technicalities of cable-modem capping either.

        However, I don't understand how so many businesses can actually base their plans on digital boxes being "tamperproof". To my knowledge, nobody has EVER successfully made anything digital tamperproof. DVD players, XBOX'es, Cable modems, Play Stations, all have been hacked. So why on earth do they keep trying?

        Sure, it can make for some very tempting business models, but COME ON. It's like building your house on an erodable ledge by the s

    • by Jarnis ( 266190 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:54AM (#8189134)
      There is a big difference in technology when comparing ADSL and Cable modems. Yes, one could argue that the early cable modem standard sucks and is exploitable, but that's what is in use by millions of customers right now.

      ADSL is single line from you to your local DSLAM. Zero issues with capping at the DSLAM end.

      Cable modem has tons of users sharing the same cable, and the easiest point where you squeeze down what a single user can send/receive to the cable is your cable modem. Yes, there are ways of doing it at the ISP:s end, but they are either expensive or require nasty kludges.

      • Just on a side note for more info. . .

        That's what is so cool about the DSL world, everything happens on that DSLAM, so the telco has control over your speeds.

        Let's say you upgrade to a faster speed... Well remotely push an update to the port card you tie into that's in the DSLAM, then push an update to the modem and bam... You speed is upgraded.

        The coolest thing to do is queue up a large download on the users PC, then push the updates to the modem and the DSLAM and you can actually see the speed increase
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:56AM (#8189161)
      We have to reserve a certain portion of all economic activity for our lawyers, else they're likely to run wild in the streets and start chewing the tires off cars.

      With caps inside the cable company's network, there would be no oppurtunity for legal disputes and the resulting lawyer's fees....

  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:49AM (#8189089)
    It would be nice if these enhanced firmware systems provided some level of content filtering on outgoign packets. A simple test would see if key passwords, financial account numbers, or a honeypot file name were in any outgoign packets. If so, the modded device would kill the outgoing packet and log the destination.
    • so how then, would you USE account #'s or passwords..
      to check my bank account balance, I must type in my acct# on their website.
      this information goes to them in packets
      • so how then, would you USE account #'s or passwords.. to check my bank account balance, I must type in my acct# on their website. this information goes to them in packets

        Those packets would encrypted (or should be encrypted!) on the computer so the cable/DSL modem would not filter them. This content filtering would only catch plain-text transmissions of valuable data. I suppose it is possible that malware keyboard logger or a backdoor-using blackhatter could use an encrypted connection, but that seem
  • Doesn't sound wise.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:50AM (#8189100) Journal
    Could the cable company not quickly whip something together to scan all of their subscribers modems, and have a list of uncapped/hacked boxes in their hands within a few minutes, hours tops?

    Or even better, can hackers reach this shell from the outside?

    Sounds like a good way to lose your service and wind up in court.
  • by djeaux ( 620938 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:50AM (#8189103) Homepage Journal
    Leaving aside the Sir Edmund Hillary rationale for hacking anything ("Because it was there") which is probably the #1 reason for any slashdottoid to crack out the soldering iron anyway, I have to wonder if this would be like circumventing any other speed limit. Aren't roadway speed limits set partly for safety & partly to control traffic?

    If everybody "uncapped", would the result be enough net congestion that everyone would wind up getting "capped" speeds again? Is this a netizenship question?

    As far as the ISP detecting "uncapped" cable modems, which has already been mentioned on this topic, I'd have to offer that my local cable provider employs so many utterly inept techs that they have trouble detecting when someone hooks up an unauthorized line to the pole, much less a change in the modem itself. That's why I've stuck with DSL -- 2 years with zero downtime, including a hurricane, while my cable service is down 3-4 times a week.

    • Cable TV down 3-4 times per week? You may need to have your wiring checked.
      • You may need to have your wiring checked.

        Several times. The problem is several blocks away from my house at an amp.

        For background, I have operated a local access cable channel for a church for over 10 years. It is unique in our region in that it has a reverse feed set-up. For two years, we had frequent outages on the feed from the remote site to the cable company's head end. Turned out to be a line amp midway between the two locations; it had been set to amplify the regular channels but not the reverse

    • Leaving aside the Sir Edmund Hillary rationale for hacking anything ("Because it was there")
      That was actually George Mallory who died whilst climbing Everest on June 6, 1924.
  • by Stiletto ( 12066 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:51AM (#8189108)

    Lesson learned:

    Don't stake your business on being able to place artificial limits on how users use a product they buy.

    DivX learned this. The RIAA are learning this. the MPAA will learn it. And looks like broadband providers will soon learn it too.
  • Sniffing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quill_28 ( 553921 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:53AM (#8189127) Journal
    So cable modem lines are shared.

    If you got a shell from the modem, could you then sniff the traffic?

    Just curious.

    • More than a shell is required for sniffing traffic. I don't know what comes with the box, but typically the network drivers must be set up to sniff the wire in promiscuous mode.

      Additionally, as the article indicates, the current cable modem standard supports encryption - so sniffing won't be so useful if it is turned on. The newer version of the standard has encryption turned on by default.
  • It's of no moment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by picklepuss ( 749206 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:55AM (#8189142) Homepage
    It's interesting today, but it won't last. I wouldn't really bother with it. If the ISP is capping it at the modem and users find a way around it, the ISP will just figure out a way to cap it in a different place - they'll probably put the cap on the other end of the pipe where they have absolute control of the firmware/hardware.

    I do think it's an interesting attack on the Cable providors who have an undocumented bandwidth limitation that they enforce. One would think that a potential benefit would be an increase in the number of people who are diconnected due to this invisible marker, and some court enforced clarification/disclosure of limitations. Sadly, the activity is obviously illegal, and therefore any potential long term gains from this kind of activity are rendered unachievable.
  • This won't last long (Score:5, Informative)

    by Knightsaber2003 ( 727853 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @10:55AM (#8189149)
    As soon as someone from Motorola reads this, they'll be popping out new firmware to cable ISP's right quick. It's quite easy for the ISP's to push this out in a night or two. I do it for a living :)
    • IDDWYDFAL (I don't do what you do for a living) but, couldn't it be possible for the flashed firmware have a option to refuse to allow a pushed firmware update?
      Since essentially they are overwriting almost all of the programable material on the boxes wouldn't this be simple task?

      Although you'd run the risk of your ISP saying if (modem.firmware != current_version) {disconnect_service}, I'd say that'd effect their QoS if some of the customer boxes didn't accept the update.

      • No it isn't as simple as that in most cases.
        See, in deployed network, where you don't have physical access to the box you can't afford to not be able to communicate with it.

        So a company like Motorolla would not allow this to be a 'changable' option in the first place.
    • hmmmm... i own my cable modem. my contract says nothing about allowing my cable company to access my computer systems and make changes. shouldn't this be a form of hacking/terrorism and be punished by death as it is for the rest of us?
  • by lordmoose ( 696738 ) * on Thursday February 05, 2004 @11:12AM (#8189339) Journal
    Okay, I work for a cable ISP. We don't want to send jack-booted thugs to shake down some 13 year-old kid who's just hacking to see what happens (I've been down that road myself). What is the best way to handle someone who uncaps their modem?

    I'm not the SysAdmin, just a concerned employee.

    • Cut off the user's service, and when they call, say that you noted a "network anomaly" and will need to reset their client equipment. Reset the parms, turn the service back on. No accusation necessary, and the subscriber will probably get the message.

      If it were to happen a second time, it would be time to either permanently cancel the user or escalate to less subtle threats.

      • There should certainly be a less-subtle threat somewhere before permanent cancellation. It is utter bullshit if somebody pulls a stunt where they call you, say "we found some problem, can you reset your equipment?" with the hope that you will get the message, then cancel your service just because you thought your experiment and the phone call weren't related.

        My high school pulled stunts like this, revoking my account whenever I violated rules which they never told me about, without so much as a warning bef
  • by strAtEdgE ( 151030 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @11:22AM (#8189461)
    ... and I can tell you that this wouldn't work on our service. Nor almost any cable service. You would get cut off within the day you started to exceed your bandwidth cap.

    As for the question "why is the bandwidth capping happening at the cable modem?", I beleive the answer is that it has to so that the CMTS bandwidth (the bandwidth on the cable plant between the modem and the cable router) is not used up. But that's not to say that the bandwidth you use at the cable router end isn't closely monitored. Hence why you will get shut off in no time flat when you start to exceed your provisioned bandwidth.
  • by babymac ( 312364 ) <<ten.retrahc> <ta> <d33hp>> on Thursday February 05, 2004 @11:30AM (#8189576) Homepage
    Their site was pulled completely just moments after this story was posted:

  • cap? (Score:3, Funny)

    by wfberg ( 24378 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @11:40AM (#8189701)
    "So far, uncappers are apparently the primary consumers, and they're downloading up to 400 copies a day."

    If they just downloaded it once, maybe they wouldn't exceed their cap?
  • by Resaurtus ( 639635 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @11:56AM (#8189903)
    Cox locks us out of the SNMP interface on our own modems. Now I understand taking away write privs but I feel I should have the right to see exactly how my modem is configured. Little things, like exactly what is my cap set at? Is it seeing errors? Whats my power level and SNR?

    As I own that hardware, I feel I have a right to see how well it's working. Many issues (Like signal loss) would likely be within my own home and something I could fix. This software would probably let me read this information, however, as I don't own one of the modable products I'll probably look for one with all the info I want on a web page rather than getting a hackable one.

    • What kind of cable modem do you own? The surfboards have always (from at least the SB3100 and up, from my personal experience) had a web interface ( that displays upstream and downstream power levels, frequency locks, SNR, as well as an event log. I have Charter cable. SNMP would be nice if it were accessible to the customers (to set threshold monitors, etc.) but having the web interface is much better than nothing at all. I don't know if they have the capability to lock out the web interf
  • by jeddak ( 12628 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @12:25PM (#8190284)
    "...group of hardware and software hobbiests..." that's spelled hobbits, thank you very much.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.