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The Five Levels of ISP Evil 243

Posted by timothy
from the some-of-which-are-really-government-evil dept.
schwit1 writes "Recently a number of ISPs have been caught improperly redirecting end-user traffic in order to generate affiliate payments, using a system from Paxfire. A class action lawsuit has been filed against Paxfire and one of the ISPs. This is a serious allegation, but it's the tip of the iceberg. I'm not sure if everyone understands the levels of sneakiness that service providers can engage in."
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The Five Levels of ISP Evil

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  • If so, where do I sign on to the lawsuit for fraud?

    • by greenbird (859670) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @04:29PM (#37080866)

      If so, where do I sign on to the lawsuit for fraud?

      Too late. The "Open Government" Obama administration has already granted them immunity, including retroactive immunity, for any illegal spying. The one big thing I was hoping for from Obama was to roll back some of the grosser programs put in place in violation of 1st and 4th amendments by the Bush administration. Instead his administration has taken them WAY farther. It's getting to the point of approaching gross violations of the Constitution by Lincoln during the American Civil War. But at least Lincoln had the excuse of a civil war to contend with. Obama and the morons in Congress are doing primarily to line there pockets with money from corporate interest.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That's immunity from charges that they cooperated with government spying without a warrant.

        Which has absolutely nothing to do with "redirecting end-user traffic in order to generate affiliate payments". The government is not involved in that, did not ask the ISPs to do that, and offers no immunity to prosecution from that.

      • I'm curious what it would take to lead to another revolution. Are the same people who get pissed off about corporate control of government, the same people who would take up arms to stop it? And would a revolution even change anything, if most citizens' eyes just glaze over on any topic like this?

        • by Ironchew (1069966)

          I'm curious what it would take to lead to another revolution. Are the same people who get pissed off about corporate control of government, the same people who would take up arms to stop it? And would a revolution even change anything, if most citizens' eyes just glaze over on any topic like this?

          Count me out of an armed revolt. Too much bloodshed, and it creates more problems than it solves.

          • by Dunbal (464142) * on Saturday August 13, 2011 @05:34PM (#37081156)

            Count me out of an armed revolt. Too much bloodshed, and it creates more problems than it solves.

            Only because you're still in the comfort zone created by the bread and circuses. But that's ok they are going to erode a little more of your rights every year, until finally you won't care about shedding blood anymore. Revolution happens when the people would rather be dead than live under such conditions. Today people are still willing to live under these conditions - indeed the US is still much better than "those other places". However there are those of us that still remember that it was much better than it is today. It's only a matter of time.

            • by Ironchew (1069966) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @05:42PM (#37081186)

              Armed revolt is messy, indiscriminate, and has a pitifully high probability of installing authoritarian regimes. I am under no illusion that it would lead to a "better" way of living if I manage to survive it. Contrary to what fearmongers would have you think, the United States still has a bit of democracy left, and it is easier to make the public politically active than it is to fight a civil war with no end in sight.

              • by Luckyo (1726890)

                Looking at known history of mankind, I think it's pretty safe to bet at least 100:1 against you. Sadly.

                • a random troll's knowledge of history isn't much of a bet

                  the system is compromised, but it's still better to work through the remaining portions of the system than embrace light headed fantasies of armed revolt, which is WAY worse than anything currently happening to the usa

                  looking forward to violence shows someone to be just as bad or worse than the forces currently hurting american institutions

                  • by Luckyo (1726890) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @06:48PM (#37081518)

                    Open ANY history book that looks at more then a few years of history. Start reading. You'll find that regardless of the focus of said book, one thing will always be a constant: the never ending cycle of concentrating power in fewer and fewer hands, followed by bloody revolution that redistributes power into much larger amount of hands, following by once again concentrating the power in the hands of a few.

                    This is a constant for human society from tribal ages. We're talking tens of thousands years at LEAST. The form that power takes has been changing over time, but the way it works, the way it's used and the way it's distributed has not. To break this cycle, you'd need a completely new sociological approach - something humanity has not been able to develop throughout its history, and not for a lack of trying. I think 100:1 for status quo is a very safe bet here, and even something in realm of 10000:1 would still be pretty safe seeing just how little we have progressed in terms of actual sociological basis for our thinking from stone age. Bloodless wealth redistribution revolutions largely do not work simply because those in power will be willing to shed blood to keep the power.

                    Essentially your only real claim is that we're simply not at the point where it would benefit enough people to revolt, and here we will easily agree - the real argument here would be that we've passed the crossroads where we could try something new instead of the cycle as there is now enough power in few enough hands to render further concentration of power unstoppable in practice.

                    Your claim doesn't really address the cycle of concentration of power, nor the inevitable bloody redistribution once the critical point is passed. It only claims that we're not beyond the point where revolution becomes easily visible. In this regard, USA is no different then hundreds of other empires that existed throughout the history.

                    • by neo8750 (566137)
                      I was willing to listen to your side till you made that post in that format. Like really how the hell am i to follow that screwed up format? there is a preview button use it and make your post readable and ill read it...
                    • by nog_lorp (896553)
                      Who is the troll now? Jesus man, at the very least address some of his claims amidst your ad homina and straw man "you are just a hopeless pessimist" bullshit.
                    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                      if you

                      don't want

                      to read

                      my words

                      i don't

                      fucking care

                    • i did address his claims: i denied he has a grasp on the subject matter he chooses to comment on

                      if you involve yourself in commenting on history, and you don't see that progress is real (but obviously difficult), then whether through blindness, agenda, prejudice, bias, or simple lack of intellectual capacity, your comments are invalid

                      well, in that respect, you are right: i didn't address his claims

                      i rejected his entire understanding of the subject matter

                      pessimism is essentially helplessness. plenty of peopl

                    • by Luckyo (1726890) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @10:42PM (#37082534)

                      You forgot the extremely obvious #3: A realist with solid grasp on history and no illusions in line with "humanity is great force for good, and democracy is the best ruling system ever!".

                      Humans certainly have a great degree of control of how they live their own lives. By extension all but very few on top have any control over how world works, just like a grand machine doesn't really get a major impact if one of atoms that form it's structure suddenly dies to radioactive decay.
                      I'm not certain how you can "reject my understanding of subject matter" when your entire argument is essentially summed in these words: "I _believe_ it will be different this time".
                      You have NOTHING to base this belief on except belief itself. I have several thousands of years of DOCUMENTED history to back mine, and several tens of thousands of assumed history based on significant amount of evidence and not really countered by any decent historian.

                      Let me give you a great example, based on your claims of our "major achievements" on just how ridiculous your beliefs are in light of history: "women can vote. slavery is abolished. the middle class has risen to take power".

                      Yet we have:
                      1. Constant reports of legitimized slavery in Western countries by UN which has taken forms of everything from prostitution to working for essentially no wages (also look at 3.). Even more outside Western countries. Religious communities which have essentially slaves under different names. Etc.

                      2. Women voting rights (and rights in general) are still far below those of men in vast majority of the world (read: everywhere, but the gap differs based on location). In the west, any improvements of right of women are massively fleeting and directly linked to financial superiority over other regions. In has been systemically observed that when crises hit, women are the first to get laid off to stay home with children. In many countries, including but not limited to Germany, France and Japan women are culturally EXPECTED to leave work to have children and then stay home with them if their husband makes enough money. It is also observed that empowered women have significantly lower birth rate, essentially getting squeezed out over generations by those in more "traditional" circumstances who have much better birth rate. There is a very good example of this in modern Israel, high birth rate of orthodox jews in comparison to general populace has taken their marginal political power and turned them into a powerhouse - they now have a foreign minister who is a member of their party, and somewhere between 15 and 20% of soldiers drafted into army are now treating the Palestine conflict as a "holy war" rather then "war for survival".
                      As a result, any advanced made in this field can be maintained only as long as financial superiority holds. When reset happens (looking at many African countries with their constant revolutions is a great example) women are very quickly pushed back into traditional roles.

                      3. Middle class rise to power is absolutely nothing new. For example that's how Rome was built. In this regard, it also makes a great example on how Rome collapsed: middle class was slowly pushed out of power by slaves on working front from below, and squeezed dry by rich class from above. We have essentially the same socioeconomic situation brewing in the West as we speak, with cheap gastarbeiters working slave wages and hours destroying middle class from below, while rich class continues the financial squeeze from above shrinking the middle class. Just like it happened in Rome. And when middle class finally cannot take the strain and shrinks too far, modern West will likely join Rome in the history books as yet another empire that got killed not by outside forces, but simply rot from inside and collapsed on itself.

                      On the last note: our argument is likely pointless. You have very little facts available to support your hypothesis of "optimistic outcome" of modern Western empire(s) - the likelihood of me missing any historic evidence on th

            • by SomePgmr (2021234)

              However there are those of us that still remember that it was much better than it is today. It's only a matter of time.

              Oh I dunno. I'm no historian, but I see plenty of examples of domestic spying, nasty foreign politics, corporate greed, etc. from well before I was born that make today's US look like a hippie love-in. Not that I'm complaining.

              I'd say we're getting better all the time, just like most every other place. We're just more likely to be pissed about current events... so we perceive things as worse, even when they're not.

            • Count me out of an armed revolt. Too much bloodshed, and it creates more problems than it solves.

              Only because you're still in the comfort zone created by the bread and circuses. But that's ok they are going to erode a little more of your rights every year, until finally you won't care about shedding blood anymore. Revolution happens when the people would rather be dead than live under such conditions. Today people are still willing to live under these conditions - indeed the US is still much better than "those other places". However there are those of us that still remember that it was much better than it is today. It's only a matter of time.

              Comfort zone perhaps, I think the real step back from violence happens when you have children though. I remember entertaining fanciful ideas of saying eff it back in the day, but I have responsibilities now. Let them erode my rights untill the crazy buggers like you take up arms, I'll have my wife and child on the first boat out and hope y'all make something worth coming back to.

          • by rtb61 (674572)

            The armed revolt does not start overnight, generally it springs from a rising death toll at peaceful protest. You read those mass media news reports, were some arse hat commenter reports, that riots resulted in the deaths of ten people. Of course that all those ten people were unarmed and kill by the police, some shot and others beaten to death, gets buried on the back pages. As soon as the numbers get high enough and enough families join the mourners, those that are doing the killing become targets for re

        • I'm curious what it would take to lead to another revolution. Are the same people who get pissed off about corporate control of government, the same people who would take up arms to stop it? And would a revolution even change anything, if most citizens' eyes just glaze over on any topic like this?

          I've often wondered the same thing, especially as of late. Sadly, I think as long as the majority has 200 channels of shit to watch on television, they will remain placated. Besides, all you have to do is turn on any of the dozen or so "news" channels to understand how wrong you are. Only crazy ass militia types would talk like that. ;-)

          • Sadly, I think as long as the majority has 200 channels of shit to watch on television, they will remain placated.

            Are you one of the placated?

    • by medcalf (68293)
      Verizon FIOS (residential, at least) redirects to Paxfire on mistyped domains.
      • by jhoegl (638955)
        Cox has its own redirection.

        Easily fixed by putting in 4.4.4.4 and 8.8.8.8 into your DNS servers.

        However, this seems more invasive and abusive.
        • by causality (777677)

          Cox has its own redirection. Easily fixed by putting in 4.4.4.4 and 8.8.8.8 into your DNS servers. However, this seems more invasive and abusive.

          Running your own caching resolver is really not difficult. Personally I use Unbound [unbound.net] but there is no shortage of choices.

          I do need my ISP to provide me with a pipe and an IP address. That's inherent in the arrangement. But everywhere I have a choice in the matter, I see no good reason to depend on them to do the right thing. They obviously have multiple temptations to do otherwise.

    • by nweaver (113078)

      Verizon does NOT use Paxfire to redirect search requests through proxies.

      The full list of ISPs we've observed doing this proxying is Here [newscientist.com].

  • But decided that I had nothing really pertinent to say--ISPs doing evil? That ranks up there with Banks collecting money and M$ collecting technology--happens every day but no one really cares unless it hurts them directly... ...huh, guess I did have something to say...

    • The stupidest thing you can possibly say to this story is "everyone is doing it." Do not lend legitimacy to evil.
      • by martas (1439879)
        I don't think that was his point, I think he was saying "we're all fucked because we're all apathetic and jaded and only lift a finger when it directly benefits us."
    • by darrylo (97569) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @04:29PM (#37080864)

      Are people somehow missing the point??? The article was written by the CEO of an ISP that is NOT doing those things (they're also not doing usage caps, which people would discover if they read the other blog posts -- see Mar 23).

      (Disclaimer: they're also my ISP. They're amazingly clueful, and will even give their subscribers a limited shell account, although you do have to ask for it. It's great for an ssh web proxy, to help prevent hijackings at public wifi access points. )

      • Concur. Sonic.net is a great ISP. It is one of the few remaining ISPs that don't screw the customer. I was very sad when I had to give up their service due to relocation.
      • I was going to mention something along the lines of "well MY ISP sent me an e-mail referring me to an EFF article about privacy," and then I read your post (who reads TFA anymore?). Yeah, Sonic's pretty damn not-evil (for now?) and their support is about the best of any company in any industry I've had to deal with. I don't even bother looking at the call wait because the longest I've ever been on hold has been about 10 minutes. Not that I've been in a position to call them terribly often.

        BTW you don't ne

  • Your ISP is, should it be in their financial interest, the 'man in the middle'. Every attack that involves one of those could involve them. Game over.
  • by aeoo (568706) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @04:09PM (#37080738) Journal

    I'm on Charter and I've most definitely been randomly redirected to Charter's internal search page for no good reason. The last example of this I definitely remember is when I tried to visit www.gimp.org and instead I was sent to Charter's search page. Charter's search then displayed www.gimp.org as one of the search results. When I clicked on the search result I was sent to www.gimp.org without any further issues. This tells me there is no technical difficulty at all, it's just a corrupt tactic being used by Charter to try to milk their customers (as if they need even more profits, as being being a one of the companies in a duopoly is just not good enough for them).

    Fuck everything about this practice.

    • by shentino (1139071)

      If Charter ever starts blocking my outbound DNS and tries to FORCE me to use their servers for lookups I'm cutting off my internet access.

      Forced gatekeeping of DNS is not only abusive, but it is only a short step away from censorship. Your ISP being the only way to look up domain names makes it very convenient for the government to enforce censorship.

      At first it would probably just be "zomg think of the children" but I'm not holding my breath for it to stay at that level.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13, 2011 @04:19PM (#37080812)

    How about, instead of something nebulous like points, we describe an ISP's level of evil by the number of years in prison an individual hacker would get if they got caught doing the things these corporations do to traffic passing through systems they control.

  • I have it, and they have solemnly informed me that there is no way their business customers can opt out of the evil Domain "Helper" Service. That came all the way from some vice president's office in Philadelphia after I spent two weeks on the phone with them about a year ago. Since they were kind enough to send their apologies via SnailMail, I wrote back and solemnly informed them that I would never, ever click on one of their sponsored links, and that if I ever saw that page, I would shut the browser wind

  • They forgot a bunch (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13, 2011 @04:22PM (#37080836)
    • Using a NAT, so customers don't get a real IP address
    • Using a firewall, blocking all incoming TCP connections
    • Slowing down or blocking certain services, based on port numbers or DPI (bonus points if the ISP operates a competing service)
    • Slowing down or blocking packets from certain hosts
    • Doing any of the above, and then denying it when customers ask about it
    • Disconnecting customers for alleged copyright infringement, without a court order
  • For us geeks, there is HTTPS Everywhere. Now how do we get my grandmother using it, or some similar form of technology to prevent tampering? Remember that it doesn't have to be some really secure encryption - even something like unsigned HTTPS is better than nothing, as the cost of performing a stateful MITM attack renders being evil far more expensive than manipulating cleartext packets.
    • by Dahamma (304068)

      Doesn't help for DNS NXDOMAIN handling issues, though. Helps a bit for tracking and privacy, but they can still track the sites you go to and your IP. Will definitely help with ad replacement.

      Unfortunately all it really does is try to make it easier to use sites' existing HTTPS support, and so is pretty limited right now. Calling it "HTTPS Everywhere" was a pretty huge exaggeration. Still better than nothing, though...

      • So there is a problem, and a potential way to fix it: Pressure sites, both major and minor, into supporting HTTPS. I already made sure my personal website has it running. I notice Slashdot does not, though.
  • by xkr (786629) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @04:36PM (#37080900)

    I would like to make it clear that NO ORGANIZATION need respond to a subpoena without a fight. There are a thousand ways that a public or private entity can get a subpoena issued for your private information. Basically, a party simply asks the court to issue one, and the court does. The receiver or other "affected parties" have every right to object to the subpoena and demand a hearing. For example, an ISP could insist on a suitable delay in order to inform the user of the subpoena and give the user the time and information necessary to fight the subpoena. If, after a hearing, the court finds the subpoena valid, it will issue a "court order," that had better be followed, or the recipient can be charged with contempt of court.

    ISPs, banks, and other organization regularly roll over when issued subpoenas, coughing up all the customer's information without giving the customer the opportunity to respond and object. The underlying issue might be a nasty divorce, an evil contractor, a whiny neighbor, or a gov't employee fishing for glory. Most large organizations have some small print in their terms of use or account contract that says that the customer gives up the right to question subpoenas and that the organization will obey subpoenas no matter who they are from without first warning the customer.

    I know personally of one organization that holds private customer data and simply ignores all subpoenas. They have received hundreds over the years, but not a single court order. So those lawyer types and account PR people who say they "have to" obey subpoenas are not telling the (whole) truth.

    Note that attorneys and medical provides have "special rules" protecting client information. Funny how that works, huh?

    For people who care about privacy, many of us would pay a bit extra for service from an organization that promises to put our interests first.

    Disclaimers: (1) IANAL, so by definition, "this is not legal advice." Consult your attorney. (2) Some subpoenas require secrecy, and there are homeland defense subpoenas that are different, but these types are actually rare.

    • by sribe (304414)

      Some subpoenas require secrecy, and there are homeland defense subpoenas that are different, but these types are actually rare.

      Even when you can't notify the target of the subpoena, or disclose it publicly, you can still hire an attorney and fight it. This precedent has been established--story was here on /. some time ago--DHS tried to tell the ISP owner that it would be against the law for him to hire a lawyer and "disclose" the subpoena to the lawyer. He said "bullshit" and went to court--and prevailed. Of course, there's also always the chance that the super-secret anti-terrorist subpoena will be legitimate and will be upheld by

  • by vadim_t (324782) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @04:38PM (#37080908) Homepage

    It's not just that it shows ads, it breaks lots of internet services.

    People seem to forget that the web isn't just HTTP, and there are quite a few other things that do DNS lookups. And weird stuff happens when a name that doesn't exist resolves, and the connection is directed to an ad server.

    • by Spad (470073)

      It's hardly surprising, most people don't know that the web isn't just Facebook and that "Goggle" page you type Facebook into to login.

  • by Tasha26 (1613349) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @04:52PM (#37080980) Homepage
    I remember when news broke [slashdot.org] of a user tracking software (Phorm) built right into the ISP's servers (BT). No BT broadband customers were informed of such online tracking and there was no opt out (later on, a cookie opt out and then trials ended [slashdot.org]). UK law officials/regulators did nothing to punish BT: CPS: We won't prosecute over BT/Phorm secret trials! [theregister.co.uk]
  • People keep using the word "evil" in reference to corporations and it sickens me. It weakens the meaning of the word because, in a vast majority of cases, the corporation in question isn't "evil". They may be dicks or nasty or mean or "not right"but "evil" is a powerful word that applies to very specific situations. In almost every case where I see someone describing a corporation as "evil", I immediately ignore everything else the person has to say - if they can't understand how to properly use the word "e
    • by pcjunky (517872)

      I am not sure what else to call companies that do anything they can to make a buck.

      How about slamming? That evil?

      Personally I think evil is a very good description.

    • Please, if you're going to use the word "evil", make sure that you're actually describing something that is evil.

      The use of "evil" in this sense is well within accepted definitions of the term: "morally reprehensible", "causing harm" or just "harmful" or "injurious". It is nothing new to use "evil" as a synonym for "bad". Etymologically, the word comes from a root meaning "over" or "above" what is acceptable or right. Perhaps you figure that it means something rather stronger and more emphatic than "bad", but I'd say that's just because "bad" has overtaken "evil" in common use, leading one to think evil is "mwuh, hah,

    • Since "evil" is (in my opinion) subjective to begin with, corporations can indeed seem "evil" to certain people. And they're not necessarily wrong.

    • by shentino (1139071)

      They are willfully harming others in the process of helping themselves, and doing so when they have a choice not to.

      I'd call that evil.

  • Not saying that the author of the article isn't right, per se, but they're the CEO of a company that sells, amongst other things, internet access. They've got a vested interest in portraying other ISPs as "evil."

  • ... And yet another reason why I am so glad I use sonic.net as my ISP. I've been with them since the 90's when they were a small county wide internet service provider and they've always been great. Sure I could spend 5 dollars less a month (or maybe even more) with comcast or AT and T but it's worth it to me that my money goes to a company that treats its customers so well and actually gives a rats ass about my privacy rights. About once a quarter I get an email from these guys discussing proposed legislati

  • => route through Tor using a local DNS proxy (TorDNS, Privoxy) possible on all major OS even without routing all traffic through Tor which e.g. makes it hard to use Google)
    However, I know nothing about the DNS hijacking popular Tor exit nodes might be subject to.
    Any better suggestions?
    • by vlueboy (1799360)

      Since getting moderation for helping is not guaranteed, Slashdotters do not generally care about our personal problems,

      Your question might be better suited for the likes of superuser.com. It's not kosher, but I just went ahead and asked [superuser.com] it for you (after a slight cleanup... those guys are good geeks but their standards are a little on the Wikipedian side.)

  • What I want to know is why owners of web sites who's ads are being replaced by ISPs dont sue those ISPs for copyright violation (IANAL but it seems like its a clear case of copyright violation to me)

    For example, Google should sue any ISP where there is proof that said ISP is replacing Google ads with ISP ads. If enough companies sue enough ISPs over ad-replacement practices, ISPs will have no choice but to stop if they dont want to be sued.

  • Screw your ISP's DNS servers. Just do not use them . Join OpenDNS [opendns.com]. It's free. Then, use their DNS servers (208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220) instead.

    Granted, this won't stop weird stuff happening if you mistype a domain name in a URL. But, AFAIK, OpenDNS doesn't serve up a page of affiliate links (they do serve up a list of links, but the spellings are obviously close to what you misspelled/mistyped -- once you switch to OpenDNS, try going to this site [flatline.org] to see what I mean). And they definitely do

  • The article doesn't say which ISP's are being accused of this?
    Anyone have a list?

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