Sunday, March 13, 2011

Breaking Your AT&T Broadband Neighbor's Bank

A few weeks ago when Canada's major Internet providers announced they were going to be capping Internet transfer on a monthly basis, some of us here in the 'States chuckled.  Guess we're in for a dose of that now too as AT&T just announced they're doing the same starting in May.

What's really interesting to me from a security perspective is this - how many AT&T customers do you think have a relatively easy-to-break-into WiFi network that ties right into their AT&T home DSL or uVerse?

So, here's an interesting scenario.  A home user goes over the 150Gb threshold, by many gigabytes.  Month after month ... how does that user then go about proving that it wasn't their activity but the result of someone breaking into their wireless and soaking up lots of bits?

Having a transfer cap sure makes the case for having more security on your wireless, do it not?  The problem with many home wireless still being easily breakable is going to collide with broadband charges and caps ...real soon.  The question is - what will be the result, and how will the courts treat it?  How will AT&T treat it if I spike to 400Gb one month?  Can I claim that it wasn't me?  I suspect it would be interesting to see how the home DSL w/WiFi that AT&T is giving out is going to provide protection against these types of bandwidth-stealing attacks.

This AT&T strategy is easily at odds with the distributed nature of BitTorrent, vast amounts of streaming media -and oh yea ...pirates.  This is an interesting tactic in AT&Ts ongoing war against pirated content, and various other forms of wrong-doing.  It's an interesting tactic ...because if you can choke off the means to distribute illegal content (and let's face it, this is how pirates distribute illegal content) or at least make it very, very expensive to aid the pirates -maybe they (whoever "they" are) have a chance of winning the war.

I can't wait to see how this shakes out...


Scott said...

All they want is your money they don't care what the reason is for going over the cap

Benson said...

A point of interest: AT&T will only charge overage fees after you've been over their cap for 3 months running. A single month of 400 GB usage won't cost the user anything.

I may be in the geek minority here, but I think overage fees are fairly reasonable. Data transfer costs the provider money just as potential capacity does. If you look at their overage prices, they're fairly reasonable -- $10 per 50 GB. That works out to about a quarter per gigabyte. I honestly don't think prices like that are going to deter pirates.