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EFF Releases Software to Spot Net NonNeutrality 73

Posted by kdawson
from the reset-this dept.
DanielBoz writes in with word of the EFF's new initiative to help consumers detect if their ISP is spoofing packets. From the press release: "In the wake of the detection and reporting of Comcast Corporation's controversial interference with Internet traffic, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a comprehensive account of Comcast's packet-forging activities and has released software and documentation instructing Internet users on how to test for packet forgery or other forms of interference by their own ISPs."
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EFF Releases Software to Spot Net NonNeutrality

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  • Candygram!

    [pause]

    Wireshark!
  • by Nova Express (100383) <lawrenceperson@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday November 29, 2007 @12:14PM (#21519007) Homepage Journal
    ...how will the software tell the difference between traffic shaping and Comcast's usual crappy service?

    • by faloi (738831) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @12:18PM (#21519083)
      Because the shaped packets coming from Comcast will get to the application more promptly than regular traffic. Traffic generated outside of Comcast will still take half of forever to arrive, if they arrive at all.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Discordantus (654486)
        Remember, though: Comcast isn't doing packet shaping. They are sending RST (reset) packets, essentially "hanging up" the connection, pretending to be the server you are talking to.

        To detect this, simply scan all the RST packets that come in, and try to detect a pattern of forgery. This is easier, of course, if you can ask the server if the RST packet was real.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Gerald (9696)
          In the traces I've seen the RSTs come in pairs, with the sequence numbers differing by 12503.
    • by Raul654 (453029) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @12:20PM (#21519101) Homepage
      If packets start showing up at one end of the connection that were not send by the other, they had to have been added en-route. This can occur naturally, as a result of IP-level fragmentation in the network, or it can be done deliberately, as Comcast and the great firewall of China do. IP-level fragmentation occurs because a packet is too large and it is being cut into fragments to improve performance; as I understand it, in practice on the real internet, it's actually pretty rare. On the other hand, if those packets that mysteriously show up are TCP-resets, then it's (IMO) an entirely reasonable assumption to make that they were put there by someone wishing to interrupt the traffic stream.
    • by mihalis (28146)
      easy, it only has to look for non-crappy service on any non-ISP-troubling protocol. In that unlikely event the troublesome protocols must be being victimised by something other than usual crappy service.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Leela: "Here is the manual with a list of everthing wrong with the ship."
      Bender: "I'm not reading that crap! Sum it up in one word!"
      Leela: "Sabotage!"
  • Important, (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SlipperHat (1185737) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @12:16PM (#21519049)
    Is there a website where we can post these results? Broadband Reports [broadbandreports.com] comes to mind, but maybe the EFF has a place set up?
  • If X tells something is true and then offers an application that proves that what they say is true there are only two options:

    1 - You trust X: No need to check for yourself.
    2 - You don't trust X: Why would you believe X's software?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Diss Champ (934796)
      Option 3: You know enough about networking to examine their source, and gain some appreciation as to whether it does what they say it does.
    • But I don't think this is just about trusting the EFF that this happens. This is a case about discovery. EFF isn't everywhere and can't directly measure this sort of thing from their offices - they need client programs run in as many locations as reasonable to gather.

      The thing is, I thought that net neutrality was about being neutral about the source organization of a packet, not being neutral about the type of packet. For example, that the ISP doesn't try to give Google's services a lower priority than
      • by Thanshin (1188877)

        But I don't think this is just about trusting the EFF that this happens. This is a case about discovery. EFF isn't everywhere and can't directly measure this sort of thing from their offices - they need client programs run in as many locations as reasonable to gather.
        The application should call home to report the results.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ScrappyLaptop (733753)
          Fantastic idea; a seti-at-home app that anyone can download (not just the Linux savy) and run on their Win32/64 boxes that sends results to a central location, just like Seti. Unfortunately, the EFF got a lot of press today with PR that says, "EFF releases tool for users". My wife emailed me with, "this isn't for users, it's for you network and Linux people". We need lots of automated samples that are effortless for the users to submit -THAT would be a tool for users".
    • by l2718 (514756) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @12:27PM (#21519219)
      First of all, the EFF may has not tested your ISP. You may trust them that in general ISPs are sending spoofed packets, but still want to know whether your ISP is using the tactic. Beyond that, however, just because you trust them doesn't mean independent verification has no value. Results mean something different if you obtained them yourself. Also, as in regular science, independent confirmation of results gives more than that: more people conducting tests will also give better data.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Aladrin (926209)
      If you were talking about a single person trusting a single entity, that is correct. We are talking about the internet and a ton of geeks. If there's anything hinky with EFF's program, it'll be found. And if there's not, even those who don't trust the EFF itself can trust the app with a fair amount of confidence.

      I'm leaving out any geeky reasons such as viewing the source code (which I don't see if they provide or not) or how simple the process is.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)
      Because it is python, you can read it yourself.

      No trust needed.
    • There's at least one more option: They said that some ISPs are doing it, time to check if yours is one of them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I don't know if I trust EFF completely, but I trust them far more than I trust Comcast.
    • by Fex303 (557896)

      If X tells something is true and then offers an application that proves that what they say is true there are only two options:

      1 - You trust X: No need to check for yourself.
      2 - You don't trust X: Why would you believe X's software?

      3 - You want to gather evidence proving you have personally been affected by that something in order to further your chances in a class action lawsuit.

      Just a thought.

    • RTFA (Score:4, Informative)

      by hal9000(jr) (316943) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @01:16PM (#21520067)
      Your post demonstrates unequivocally that you did not read the article or if you did, you didn't understand it.

      Take two packet traces, one from you your computer one from a friend while your two computers are talking. Then compare the TCP sessions captured by each for differences. Differences that don't matter are fragmentation and re-ordering, for example. Difference that do matter are TCP resets, ICMP unreachables, TCP FIN's that are received by one side and not sent by the other.

      Sheesh, I can forgive not knowing how networking works, but to post inflammatory comments when you are obviously ignorant is, well, ignorant.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Thanshin (1188877)

        Your post demonstrates unequivocally that you did not read the article or if you did, you didn't understand it.

        I read the article. What I didn't see was that there was a second linked article that described the software.

        Sheesh, I can forgive not knowing how networking works, but to post inflammatory comments when you are obviously ignorant is, well, ignorant.

        I didn't make the post to be inflammatory. I just wanted to express that giving an application to prove something you're saying is not logical. And no, I didn't know the software existed previously.

        Obviously it was inflammatory, judging by the number of replies, but I think it's because from the title, readers were already expecting an offensive post before reading the content.

        And, btw, my point wa

  • by bconway (63464) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @12:45PM (#21519555) Homepage
    Network Neutrality refers to ISPs double dipping on charging/extorting fees for both users paying for their connections and web sites paying for prioritization of traffic according to origination and destination. It does not refer to protocol-based QoS. It does not mean a flat, unmanaged, unQoS-ed Internet. By repeatedly and deliberately misusing this phrase, its importance is being weakened.
    • Thanks for putting that into concrete terms.
    • by kebes (861706) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @01:06PM (#21519915) Journal

      Network Neutrality refers to ISPs double dipping on charging/extorting fees ... It does not refer to protocol-based QoS.
      Unfortunately when it comes to the definition of Net Neutrality, there isn't yet consensus (e.g. see various definitions offered here [wikipedia.org], and associated references). Maybe we need to come up with new terms, like "Strict Net Neutrality" versus "General Net Neutrality" to distinguish between various implications of the term. As usual, though, it's very hard to get people to agree on definitions.

      And, of course, the definitions vary in part because people have different opinions on what is "important." Supporters of net neutrality agree that data carriers should at a minimum be source/destination neutral (the version of neutrality you are referring to). However some people do indeed believe that carriers should also be neutral with respect to the devices allowed to connect to the network, and the types of traffic sent over the network.*

      So, in short, there is a diversity of opinion about what the term means (or "should" mean, I guess).


      [*] As an aside, my mind isn't made up, but I understand the logic for saying that traffic neutrality may be ultimately a good thing. Yes, it prevents certain QoS strategies on shared carrier networks (but not on closed private networks, of course)... but then again, do you trust your ISP (which has its own interests) to pick the QoS strategy that actually works best for you? (Or even for most customers?) Also, any QoS strategy inherently makes a judgment call about what is "important" and what isn't. So, it inherently limits new technologies/protocols we haven't yet dreamed of. And, it would seem inefficient because any QoS which degrades protocols that customers are interested in will be circumvented (e.g. by masking your traffic as a type of traffic that is "approved" for high-speed delivery). Certainly we wouldn't let other carriers discriminate based on the content (e.g. postal service that delivers boxes that contain videotapes slower than boxes that contain paper; phone carrier that delays voice calls to prioritize fax calls...).
      • by foobsr (693224)
        If anyone cares:

        Special Section on Net Neutrality, The International Journal of Communication, http://ijoc.org/ojs/index.php/ijoc [ijoc.org]

        Pages and pages, opinions, pros&cons, etc.

        CC.
      • by porpnorber (851345) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @02:00PM (#21520865)

        I think how consumers are supposed to select their QoS strategy is with QoS labels. The question is not 'should we have QoS' (I don't know about you, but I would rather have my videoconference packets queued ahead of my ftp packets), it's should the ISP be overriding our choices to satisfy their own policies. This is the same issue as randomly dropped connections: a mechanism to drop connections should exist because the endpoints need it. The carrier should not be invoking it 'on your behalf' and in the face of your desires, or it simply isn't doing what it was paid to do.

        There's a secondary issue of whether your operating system provides a good mechanism for QoS policy management at the endpoints (hint: no, it doesn't). But that's something to take up with the O/S vendor, or perhaps—an easier nut to crack—the router in your home. But in any case, it seems reasonably clear that QoS should be honoured or ignored end-to-end, and not randomly messed with in transit to the benefit of third parties.

        ...Unless I've misunderstood the technical situation completely....

      • by dogs4ar (1072988)
        Yeah, the title should have been "EFF releases new software (actually a Python script, but whatever) in bid to show that ISP's spoof packets" That would have been much more of an attention grabber.

        Ya gotta admit, using "Net Neutrality" however wrongfully, is an attention grabber. It got you talking, didn't it?
      • I favor core neutrality(source/destination), but not to the point of QoS neutrality(by the way QoS is NOT what this article is about; it's about the source and destination being regular users and Comcast interfering with that.)
        The postal service in fact does prioritize mail, that's why media mail(boxes of paper as it were) costs less by weight; they don't want to put more effort into heavy, time-insensitive mail, but won't charge as much, for keeping it out of the air.

        The phone company does prioritize as we
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I don't think that it weakens the term "network neutrality" to use it when referring to QoS which extends beyond latency-vs-throughput tradeoffs.

      It is completely acceptable for an ISP to shape traffic based on the customers' requested packet priorities, on a zero-sum basis; some types of packets are very time-dependent, and thus can be sent in a manner that ensures they'll arrive more quickly (in exchange, of course, for losing some overall bandwidth).

      However, when an ISP begins prioritizing these things it
    • Network Neutrality is just a term coined to mean "the ISP doesn't mess with the traffic". As a consumer when a packet gets dropped you have no idea whether it was because of the destination or because of the protocol, so these are both covered under net neutrality. That's why we need legislation that makes all messing with packets regulated.

      What comcast is doing is stupid for controlling bandwidth because the user can actually tell what happened. They are doing a favor for net neutrality advocates by bei
    • by pyrr (1170465)

      This is a very good distinction to make, since dilution and misuse of the term stands to weaken the more important issue. The primary difference here is that of what amounts to an information toll-road, versus QoS traffic shaping. I can understand where Comcast is coming from (I don't necessarily agree with the way they went about their traffic shaping, but I understand why they did it), the latter is primarily a decision that the ISP is making in the majority of its users' best interests, while the former

    • by dpilot (134227)
      When I think of QoS I think of prioritization and such. I don't think of filtering or forging RST packets. An ISP can put it into their Terms Of Service to reserve the right to filter packets, even forge RST packets. But that's all "filtering", not QoS.
  • ...why don't they just charge a nominal fee for heavy p2p users?
    • And accounting costs money.
    • I hate this idea. If you subscribe to a service that quotes bandwidth, you should be able to consume that bandwidth, 24x7x365. Period. All the ISP's are marketing unlimted, highspeed access. The fact is, they over subscribe the pipes on purpose and some users, like file sharers, consume more of the aggregate pipe degrading the performance of others and forcing the ISP to deal with complaints or upgrade capacity.

      I have a FiOS 20MB down/5MB up pipe. If I and my neighbors started consuming all that bandwdi
      • by cdrguru (88047) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @02:03PM (#21520909) Homepage
        Why when you buy a 100GB hard drive does it only have about 96GB available on it? How come my car has a speedometer that is calibrated to 180 but I can't drive at 180MPH? How come when you go to a "all-you-can-eat" restaurant they don't let you stay there for a week and keep eating?

        All of this assumes that you are swayed by the advertising and don't really check up on the claims being advertised. Or, it states things in common everyday language that are backed up by the fine print saying something quite different.

        There clearly are two kinds of people - those that understand what is being advertised isn't exactly what is being sold and those that have managed to get through life until their 16th birthday without realizing this. Sorry, time to grow up.

        I still want to ask the car salesman about the speedometer. And ask if we can check if the car will really go that fast on the test drive.
        • by Shakrai (717556) *

          How come my car has a speedometer that is calibrated to 180 but I can't drive at 180MPH?

          That's a stupid fucking analogy. You'd have a better case if you were bitching about the engine governor that's installed in most consumer vehicles. Bitching because a meter goes higher then the vehicle can is stupid. Would you prefer if you could bury the speedometer and not know how fast you were actually going? Do I have the right to bitch if my car doesn't survive to 999,999 miles because that's how high the odometer goes?

          ow come when you go to a "all-you-can-eat" restaurant they don't let you stay there for a week and keep eating?

          Actually, if they were open 24/7 and you could manage to stay there for

        • Why when you buy a 100GB hard drive does it only have about 96GB available on it?

          Great example. You were listing examples of fraud correct?

          Because Western Digital just settled a lawsuit over this. [gizmodo.com]
          • by rastos1 (601318)

            > Why when you buy a 100GB hard drive does it only have about 96GB available on it?
            Actually ... no. If it is a Seagate [zdnet.co.uk] ;-)
        • by bskin (35954)
          I think the applicable question is whether any of these would pass a "Reasonable Person" test. In the case of bandwidth, I think the answer is truly going to depend on what was advertised. If they truly advertised it as "unlimited" then I think that a reasonable person would assume that means they could use as much as they want. I suspect if you went back and looked at the ads, however, you'd see a lot of asterisks and weasel words.
      • I have a FiOS 20MB down/5MB up pipe. If I and my neighbors started consuming all that bandwdith 24x7x365, we would easily over run the uplink capacity and you can bet VZ would come knocking. ISP's will continue to punish bandwidth hogs until the ISP are sued for unfair business practices or the press gets bad enough. For example, Verizon Wireless just recently started telling their EVDO customers that there was a 5GB/mo limit where they used to market unlimited access. My original contract said nohting out
    • Like with their current throttling, who says they're going to distinguish between P2P users and, say, Lotus Notes/Exchange, Joost, or Skype? (the last two being blatant competitors to Comcast)
  • It's nice of the EFF to spend time and money developing software that can detect what we know Comcast (and maybe others) are doing but without some sort of centralized data gathering operation to put together some sort of class action lawsuit what good is it? Knowing your packets are getting pummeled by Comcast allows you to... complain? I can't even get them to give me a clean cable tv signal- does anyone think they would listen to our complaints about packet loss? (does anyone think the average Comcast s
    • by nametaken (610866)
      Here's where the software becomes a useful tool...

      I use WOW as my cable and internet provider, where my options were Satellite + DSL, Comcast Bundle, AT&T Bundle, or WOW. I regularly talk about WOW and their fantastic customer service, support, and quality product at a relatively low price. I know that if I test my connection and find that they're up to the same dirty tricks, making a stink about it will go further with them. They're always trying hard to convince people to switch away from Comcast,
      • by jayp00001 (267507)
        I think you're agreeing with me. When there is competition you can complain and it means something. When they have the monopoly you're cooked. BTW check your TOS before you go checking your connection. I'm not sure if the EFF tool fits the description but...

        from http://www1.wowway.com/wow/wow.aspx?ConIdent=28&RCView=False&TermID=2 [wowway.com]

        N. Customer will not use or distribute tools designed or used for compromising security, such as password guessing programs, decoders, password gatherers, analyzers, cr
  • by noidentity (188756) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @02:03PM (#21520899)
    Comcast posted a new cable modem wiring diagram [ripway.com] in response.
  • by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @02:56PM (#21521853)
    I work for an ISP. We purposefully craft spoofed packets and send them to our customers. Will we be reported as offenders? Does it matter that we provide service to rural locations that are only accessible through satellite and the "spoofers" are called "accelerators" by the people that sell them, and the spoofed packets are added to correct for windowing issues to increase the speed of Internet connections? If I get a number of customers that complain about our "non-neutrality" I'll be more than happy to turn off TCP acceleration and see how they like the new neutral Internet.

    It isn't only for nefarious purposes where providers spoof packets. Will this software be able to identify the good from the bad? Or will it just assume that all are bad, even in the face of legitimate uses?
    • by Dan Ost (415913)
      Sounds like you should try the software out yourself. If you really need to know, you shouldn't trust slashdot to give you reliable info.
    • If you read TFA you'd know that yes it will be able to identify RST packets from whatever the heck else you're doing. An informed person doing the test would be able to tell at least Comcast brand messing up apart from your accelerators.

      We will buy our convenience with innovation, not by sacrificing our freedom.

      Replace 'convenience' with 'safety' and it works too :)
    • by fnord_uk (842775)
      Well, I would say, based on the following recommendation from the PILC working group, "Performance Enhancing Proxies Intended to Mitigate Link-Related Degradations"- RFC 3135, that they should all be aware of what you are doing, at least if they're technically minded enough to run pcapdiff.

      In any environment where
      one might consider employing a PEP for improved performance, an end
      user (or, in some cases, the responsible network administrator)
    • by SameBrian (945591)
      Your customers should be able to understand the difference should this situation come up. Others have pointed out that the article addresses this issue, but regardless, should someone confront you about spoofing packets, you should feel confident (morally as well as legally) that after explaining the situation your customers will be satisfied. As you stated, should they express a problem with this, by all means turn it off. If they now complain about their connection you can re-iterate your previous point.
  • Having RTFA, I found this:

    • Each party participating in the experiment must have all of the following:
      * a computer capable of running Wireshark, with appropriate privileges to install and run it;
      * the ability to connect this computer directly to the Internet, with a public IP address, outside of any firewalls (for example, not via a typical home wireless router);
      * the ability to determine the computer's public IP address;
      * the ability to disable any firewall software running on the computer itself;
      * some appl

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