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FBI Raids Homes and Seizes Bandwidth Pirates' PCs 815

Saturated Subnet writes "Recently in Toledo, OH FBI agents and a local police task force raided 13 residence and seized 23 computers. Some users of the local cable broadband provider had uncapped their cable modems." It appears to be a smaller ISP, and the article says these 23 people cost them a quarter of a million bucks. Who has time to look at $10,800 worth of pr0n?
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FBI Raids Homes and Seizes Bandwidth Pirates' PCs

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  • by jayhawk88 ( 160512 ) <> on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:52AM (#3778567)
    What happend to just cancelling their service?
    • by dubiousmike ( 558126 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:57AM (#3778621) Homepage Journal
      Come on! The FBI now needs to do everything over the top.

      Unless it involves protecting the US from terrorism, pre-9/11.

      Now they will scurry to "protect national interests" like a small IP's "lost revenue".

      That is kind of fuzzy, isn't it? I mean, did other customers go without bandwidth becuase of these few? Somehow, I doubt it.

      Eh, what the heck. Let's increase their budget by 100%. This way they can start busting teens who crack the latest version of Dreamweaver.
      • by Gaijin42 ( 317411 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:46AM (#3779052)
        Nobody went without bandwidth, but the ISP had to pay for the bandwidth, and at the ISP level, bandwidth is often metered. So this is not the case of "they cost us the 1/4 million in revenue they should have had to pay for this" but an actual " they cost us the 1/4 million we had to pay our upstream for the bandwidth they used, when they only paid us $30/mo"
        • by daniel_isaacs ( 249732 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:58AM (#3779142) Homepage
          True. But why take the PC's? The bandwith isn't on them. :)

        • by Ioldanach ( 88584 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:17AM (#3779281)
          So this is not the case of "they cost us the 1/4 million in revenue they should have had to pay for this" but an actual " they cost us the 1/4 million we had to pay our upstream for the bandwidth they used, when they only paid us $30/mo"
          I'd also dispute that they could have cost $250,000 in bandwidth fees, as well. I don't know of any cable modem which has better than a 10mbit ethernet connection. Buckeye cable limits downloads to 1mbit, and charges $45/mo for service. 13 people were charged. Ok, lets say all 13 uncapped their service. They're now receiving 10mbit service, which is 10 times their original service, or $450 worth of service per month. For 13 people, that's $5850/month in charges, minus the $45 they're already paying, comes to $5265/month. At that rate, they'd have to steal service for 4 years to hit $250,000 in damages. As far as I'm aware, the cable company can only prove this as far back as Feb, when they became aware of it. That's 5 months, or about $26,000. I'd say they seriously need to get slapped down. Exceeding allotted bandwidth may be a breach of service, but it isn't worth what they say it is.
        • by schmaltz ( 70977 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @12:35PM (#3779893)
          at the ISP level, bandwidth is often metered
          Nope. You buy a full T1, you get 1.54Mbits per second, and you get all of it, all the time. If you don't use it, you don't get a refund. If your connection to the service provider allows you to draw 2.0Mbps, and they allow you to do it, that is their problem, unless you agreed to pay for excess bandwidth.

          So-called metered bandwidth, e.g. fractional T1s or T3s, are still the responsibility of your upstream provider to limit your bandwidth. The only exception I've seen to this is when you are buying a fractional T1 with "free" 100GB transfer -if you take a deal like this, you've made the bed now sleep in it.

          Bandwidth limiting is built into many routers and switches, and it's now part of BSD distributions (altqd). There is NO excuse for a cable ISP to not limit their own upstream bandwidth usage at the router, and limiting -or cutting off- customer bandwidth is also likewise trivial.

          Finally, if they became aware of uncapped modems back in Feb, why didn't they just cut them off? Simplest thing!

          I think the reason they didn't is, they wanted to scare the rest of their customers into behaving.
    • by kaybee ( 101750 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:59AM (#3778640) Homepage
      I agree... this is ridiculous. If they are stealing bandwith, stop them. Or, better yet, come up with a better system to prevent them from stealing bandwidth.

      If you want to punish them, make them sign a contract that says they owe you a fine if they get caught stealing bandwidth. Then you can take them to civil court if you catch them.

      Using the FBI and my tax dollars to interfere with a small problem between a few individuals and company really pisses me offe].
      • I'm not too sure if you can do that. I'm pretty sure that over here at least that onerous penalty clauses are not allowed, all you can have is "estimated damages". Whatever the case, it's not the ISPs fault they didn't consider the potential for theft, it's the fault of the thieves, and it's completely fair to prosecute someone stealing thousands of dollars worth of bandwidth. Blame the offender, not the victim.
        • Why not blame both of them and hopefully end up with a system that's better at preventing theft rather than a special FBI "OMG THAT KID H4X3D OUR CABLE MODEM" unit?

          Punishing the offender is fine, but it'd be a good idea for the poor, innocent cable company to throw up at least a speed bump in their way.

          As far as my tax dollars, I'm not happy about them being spent on this. That said, considering some of the other things they are being spent on, I'm not going to whine too much about it.
      • Using the FBI and my tax dollars to interfere with a small problem between a few individuals and company really pisses me off

        Perhaps now you understand why I'm against a federal criminal law against spammers.

    • To scare people (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ( 142825 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:02AM (#3778659) Homepage
      The cable company wanted to scare people.

      One FBI raid = 10,000 disconections.

    • I'm sure a zillion people have already mentioned this, but I'm lazy when it comes to reading threads, so here goes :)

      Essentially, we all realize cable bandwidth is spread out, so bandwidth hogs who uncap their rigs sap resources that the rest of their local hub have PAID to access. If my cable modem drops to 2.5k a second because my neighbor is downloading DiVX pr0n all day and night on an uncapped rig, I'd be more than slightly irate.

      That's not to mention the violation of the TOS and actions that basically amount to resource theft. Bandwidth isn't free, so what LEGALLY differentiates stealing $10,000 of bandwidth from stealing $10,000 of, say, audio equipment from the local Sound Advice store?

      They're lucky they got off with their rigs being confiscated.
      • That's not to mention the violation of the TOS and actions that basically amount to resource theft. Bandwidth isn't free, so what LEGALLY differentiates stealing $10,000 of bandwidth from stealing $10,000 of, say, audio equipment from the local Sound Advice store?

        The TOS violation is a private matter between customer and business, a civil claim at best. Theft of resource may be a crime, but is it a federal crime? I think not. Once again, why bring the FBI into it?
      • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @12:03PM (#3779636) Homepage
        LEGALLY differentiates stealing $10,000 of bandwidth from stealing $10,000 of, say, audio equipment from the local Sound Advice store?

        Nothing which is kinda like why people are asking why the FBI thought that a full scale commando raid was required here.

        There are some slashdotters who don't get the concept of private property (frequently those with Ayn Rand sigs even!) when it is inconvenient to them. However in this case the law is very clear that taking cable services without paying for them is considered theft - even if you pay for basic and used an illegal upgrade.

        One explanation for the FBI action is that the local cops are simply not up to doing this type of investigation, which is quite likely. But dawn raids and the like are just grandstanding pure and simple.

        The FBI has two image problems, the first is that they are incompetent and unable to catch criminals. The second is that they act with political motivations. This sort of behavior is designed to solve the first image problem, but it reinforces the second which for many people is the more worrying one.

        Ariana Huffington wrote a good piece in Salon recently where she attributed the failure of the FBI to go after the 9/11 hijackers before 9/11 because terrorism was not as sexy as drug busts. The media were much more likely to film the director standing next to a desk piled high with plastic bags filled with coke than they are the arrest of an obscure islamic fanatic. So the investigators were unable to get warrants etc. because Freeh's beuraucrats didn't give the investigation enough priority to go to a court to ask for a court order. Administration solution to this problem? simple, eliminate the requirement to ask for court orders!

        The gun nuts used to say that the 2nd ammendment protects the other 10. Empirically this is not the case with Ashcroft. Free Speech, Due Process, Right to a speedy trial, Right to legal representation have all been compromised since 9/11. While we have the administration's word that this only applies to Al Qaeda the administration is also saying that anyone who is not with them is supporting the terrorists. I just don't get the feeling that Ashcroft has any reluctance to tearing up any parts of the bill of rights excapt for the second ammendment.

  • who? (Score:5, Funny)

    by DanThe1Man ( 46872 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:52AM (#3778568)
    Who has time to look at $10,800 worth of pr0n?

    Oh sure Taco, as soon as you find a girl to marry you, you forget what it was like to be a single geek.
  • by MattW ( 97290 ) <> on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:52AM (#3778572) Homepage
    Who's going to use buckeye cable after it is known they have their customers arrested? Who's to say they didn't make the mistake? Someone complains of high ping, tech tampers with modem, and a few months later, the customer goes to jail? There's service with a smile. Thanks, but if I heard that, I'd certainly be looking at my DSL providers.
    • Considering the mediocre technical skill level of the typical cable modem ISP, proving that the customers actually did the uncapping will be quite a trick. Given all the other silly things these companies do, it will be tough to distinguish between intentional uncapping and ISP negligence. If the customers own the cable modems (as opposed to renting), that makes the water even muddier. If these defendants can somehow manage an acquittal, just imagine the civil suit possibilities. I predict a slap-on-the-wrist plea bargain.

      As far as monetary damages go, that's another laugher. I remember when my cable modem was uncapped (because that was how the system was set up). The monthly cost was actually less than it is now. It's not like they reduced the monthly charges when they downgraded the network, right?
  • TOS (Score:2, Insightful)

    So the users broke the TOS of their ISP. That's what happens.

    If you drove down the highway at 300 km/h (180 mph) and thought it was perfectly alright because it's your car and you can tinker with it if you want, should you get caught?

    No, the roads are governmentally (and thus publicly) owned.

    • You're anology has this huge gaping hole in it...

      1. Speeding is a crime...
      2. Breaking TOS is a breach of contract

      One of these subjects you statuatory court, the other subjects you to civil court.
      • Just to clarify on thing, unless you are ticketed by a state or federal officier, i.e. State Trooper, speeding is a civil offense. You are not charged with a criminal offense, the municipality merely decides to sue you for a small fee. Makes it fun to fight, since "beyond a resonable doubt" changes to "beyond a preponderence of doubt", or in other words you only need to be most likely guilty.

        Now for those of you who plan to point it out, excessive speeding is usually charged as reckless endangerment which is a crime, and hence will go on your criminal record, and will likely get you jail time.

  • Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HowlinMad ( 220943 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:52AM (#3778576) Homepage Journal
    "It's against the law. It's a crime we are going to enforce," the detective said.

    ANd the article says that no arrests were made..... sounds like some enforcing to me.
    • ANd the article says that no arrests were made..... sounds like some enforcing to me.

      They had their computers taken away... Sounds like enough punishment to me.

    • Mr. Shryock said changing the modem to use more bandwidth is a violation of the customer service agreement.
      The clear distinction between this type of theft and the theft of cable services is that there is a finite amount of resource.

      So they broke the agreement with their ISP, so what that happens, shut them of. If they don't keep their part of the contract, the ISP is no longer bound by it and are free to shut down their lines. But I don't see how it becomes theft...
  • "It's against the law. It's a crime we are going to enforce," the detective said.

    Although no arrests were made and no charges filed.

    So what is the crime exactly? Is it a property crime? Fraud? Misdemeanor?

    I keep thinking of the Simposn's episode where Homer eats the "All you can eat" fish fry out of business and gets hauled into court.
    • I keep thinking of the Simposn's episode where Homer eats the "All you can eat" fish fry out of business and gets hauled into court.

      Too bad you have it completely backwards... He didn't eat them out of business. They stopped feeding him after a while so he sued them.

    • I believe there are laws against "theft of service." This would be roughly equivalent to connecting to your town's power grid and using electricity without paying for it. Unfortunately the prosecution probably won't take an individual's actual bandwidth use into account, only the fact that their cable modem has been tampered with to remove the cap. Or maybe they won't prosecute at all, they dole out punishment simply by confiscating the computers which they'll hold on to for years.
  • Pr0n (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dilbert_ ( 17488 )
    I'm sure they did more than just download pr0n, there's only so much of that stuff you can enjoy before needing a 'break'... Bet they were running pr0n sites of their own or something. Why else get the cops involved?
  • by Slashamatic ( 553801 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:55AM (#3778598)
    The thingy that was untapped was the broadband modem .NOT. the computer. Given the way some of these things are reprogrammed, the user's computer's may have had nothing to do with it as the modems are remotely configurable.

    I guess the FBI needs to look for scripts or something, because without that, nobody can prove that the end-user did it.

  • For some extra broadband??

    The credibility of those companies who claim damages from abuses on the Internet would be greatly improved if they did'nt over-exagerate their losses.

  • Not being a broadband subscriber I'm ignorant of a few basics.

    Like, why doesn't the ISP do shaping upstream of the customer to limit BW usage?

    P.S. With the rapidly falling cost of telco infrastructure (I hear WorldCom may have a firesale) and the legendary 9 months time for halving the cost of BW involved, I can see where the "costs" could easily be exaggerated. What was once a felony could be a misdemeanor by the time the case is brought to court.

  • Everytime somebody figures out how to get HBO for free are we going to call in the Feds? How about turning their service off?

    I could see suing somebody over EULA violations or some other form of civil action...but the Feds?

    Go look for terrorist and give these kids their cable modems back. Hell they probably just used all the bandwidth that my cable company has promised me but never delivered. ;)
  • by toupsie ( 88295 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:59AM (#3778641) Homepage
    While I don't think you should not go around modifying equipment that is under a user agreement signed by the user and the equipment provider in order to steal services but sending in the FBI is a bit much. I thought there was more important things to deal with besides obese men with a pr0n addiction using a modified cable modem. You know...that whole "War on Terra" thingy.

    I almost want to sue the cable company for wasting the time of the FBI. Next time, cut off their service (A pair of wire cutters will do just fine) and take the losers to court and sue them. I couldn't believe the FBI showed up and didn't arrest anyone! Just took the guys computers.

    The only real question is did any of their "non-stealing" customers notice that their net connections were slower because of these "bandwidth theives"?

    • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:16AM (#3778802) is breach of contract, nothing more. And, since it is a breach of contract, as numerous others have pointed out, a pair of wire cutters (or a flip of a switch) would have more than sufficed to put an end to this behavior.

      If you agree to drive 10 truck on the expressway for a certain, flat tax, and instead drive 500, you haven't stolen anything. Not even the taxes you should have paid. The road is still there, the taxes you did pay are still there ... you are merely in debt for the difference still owed. No theft committed. None.

      You've violated your contract (and failed to pay taxes that are due), but once again, that is not theft. The same is true in this situation.

      Your other point is very good: wonders how many Al Q'aida sleeper cells are going to go undetected here in the U.S. because of American companies like this one who feel it somehow appropriate to appropriate the FBI's services as an enforcement arm of their End User License Agreements and service contracts.
      • Ummm. This is theft. The cable modem tamperers were using a limited resource without permission from the resource's owner. This is even more clear cut than a Copyright infringement. Don't say it's a "breach of contract" because it isn't.

        With regards to getting the FBI involved, it is likely that the cable modem service provider went to the local authorities and were referred to the FBI for this case. Local police depts are not (yet) sophisticated enough to handle these types of cases. Almost everything *internet related* goes through the FBI.

      • Maybe I am just one of those old moralists or it was my Catholic school up bringing. I think when you take something that is not yours, its stealing. So if you if you signed a contract that states you will only take 1.5Mb/s of bandwidth and you modify a device to take more than 1.5Mb/s, you are stealing along with breaching a contract.

        I tend to think more on a moral level than a legal level. Morality is important as the law is the bare minimum of common conduct. We wouldn't have all the corporate fraud stories in the news right now if we had executives that not only followed the law but a moral course.You can still cause pain and suffering following the law. Granted several are just plain rat bastards that didn't even care about the law that make Capitalism look real ugly.

        Morals do not have to be religious based. Doing no harm to others is perfecting acceptable moral course that doesn't involve God, Xenu, Vishnu or Buddha.

        • So if you if you signed a contract that states you will only take 1.5Mb/s of bandwidth and you modify a device to take more than 1.5Mb/s, you are stealing along with breaching a contract.

          What if no contract was ever signed, and the only (unsigned) "agreement" does not specify a bandwidth limit.

        • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:45AM (#3779046)
          Maybe I am just one of those old moralists or it was my Catholic school up bringing. I think when you take something that is not yours, its stealing.

          Yes, but nothing here has been taken.

          So if you if you signed a contract that states you will only take 1.5Mb/s of bandwidth and you modify a device to take more than 1.5Mb/s, you are stealing along with breaching a contract.

          No, you're not, anymore than you are "stealing" if you rent a car agreeing to not drive it faster than 65 MPH, then take it out on the highway and top it out at 120 MPH.

          You are misusing equipment and violating your contract. You haven't taken anything, ergo you have stolen nothing.

          It is abuses of the English language like this that not only muddy thinking, but result in the kinds of preposterous public policy such muddy thinking creates, such as the Microsoft/Hollywood attempt at using DRM to cripple technology and consumer choice in the name of preventing "theft" which doesn't even exist (c.f the Palladium thread and the numerous DMCA, SSSCA. CBDTPA, and TCPA threads).

          Redefining words to mean something they don't, and then misusing those definitions, is not the moral high ground.

          If you want to argue that abusing equipment and violating service agreements is morally wrong, I would agree with you. However, if you want to continue to argue that abusing a service now suddenly equates theft, even when nothing has been taken, then I must respectfully disagree.
      • At least those Al Q'aida cells spending their time surf'n pr0n are going to get busted!

        Yeesh. What a waste of resources.

  • Going Overboard? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Enonu ( 129798 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:02AM (#3778666)
    How about something simpler? I suggest the following:

    Dear customer,

    We have detected that you have uncapped your cable modem, and are using more bandwidth than specified in your contract. You have 3 days to revert the changes you made to your cable modem, or your service will pernamently be canceled and you will be billed for the excess bandwidth you have used at a rate of $XX.XX per megabyte.

    Any reason why this wouldn't work? Sending the FBI to investigate is a waste of time and resources for our govt IMHO.
    • A letter like this would certainly work much better now that people know that the FBI is likely to visit if you don't comply. So it's not necessarily a waste of time and resources to be able to point to what DID happen under noncompliance.
    • Any reason why this wouldn't work?

      It lacks deterrance.

      Look at it through the eyes of the next guy. If you think you might get a letter if you uncap, you might chuckle and uncap anyway. If you have a credible belief that FBI guys will come see you -- since (now) it has actually happened before -- then you will be much more hesitant to uncap.

  • Inflated numbers? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MAXOMENOS ( 9802 ) <maxomai@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:02AM (#3778667) Homepage

    Keep in mind that the quarter million dollar figure may have nothing to do with the actual actual damages incurred. Companies often make up figures like this in order to get the FBI's attention, since nothing under $5000 worth of damage is worth investigating. It also makes for better headlines, especially with a politically ambitious prosecutor.

    Sure, this would be lying to Federal agents, which is a felony; but several companies got away with it in the Mitnick case, too.

  • Who has time to look at $10,800 worth of pr0n?

    How many replies will this story get from people saying "I could"?

    How many replies will say something say something referenceing the simpsons
    Marge: "Who would need all that porn?"
    Homer: "Hmmm, A million times faster"

    and then the general cliche "Hmmm, pr0n"...this could reach 1000 comments filled with thouse jokes alone.
  • pr0n (Score:5, Funny)

    by haa...jesus christ ( 576980 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:06AM (#3778707)
    Who has time to look at $10,800 worth of pr0n?

    Taco, some things in life you make time for.
  • Fraud (Score:5, Insightful)

    by barberio ( 42711 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:08AM (#3778723) Homepage
    Some people may be wondering why the FBI was involved with this. The answer is simple. This constitutes fraud.

    If you were to wire up a box on your phone to enable you to get free calls then you'd find your self in the same situation. And its escentialy the same crime as uncaping your cable modem/dsl router. As stealing phone calls detriments the ability of the whole network from ordinary users, so does stealing bandwidth.

    I find myself stressing this again, Bandwidth Is Not Free. Bandwidth is not an artificialy restricted resource. It is a true limited resource, there is only so much you can put over a cable, and you need to ofset the costs of maintenece on that cable and the initial cost of laying it in the first place.

    Doing it is illegal. Its also easy to trace. So they called the people who have jurisdiction for wire frauds and computer crime. its as simple as that. ISPs regularly warn users not to do this, and when they do, its justifyable to take it up with the authorities.

    Wether its rational to do search and seazure of equipment is another matter, that may put the FBI in the wrong.
  • "The use of excessive bandwidth is something that Buckeye does not condone or will not stand. The clear distinction between this type of theft and the theft of cable services is that there is a finite amount of resource. The more the customer uses, the less there is to go around for other customers. These customers were impacting the performance of all our other customers," Mr. Shryock said.

    Which strikes me as funny, as AT&T Cable did have people arrested earlier this year/late last year on charges of stealing cable (TV) service. In one case local to me, it was demonstrated in court that some of the arrested individuals not only did not have AT&T service, but the AT&T techs later showed that there was no physical way for the person to have tapped into the service.
  • ...that sometimes they will get caught and will have to pay the consequences for their actions?

    I am very comfortable knowing that the cable companies are being proactive about nailing those who are stealing service. I pay for my all my services. Why should someone else get a free ride?

    I have nothing against classical hacking, but when it comes to service theft, it's what it is: theft.
  • I wonder (Score:2, Interesting)

    by beleg777 ( 551987 )
    Perhaps they siezed the computers because they believed somthing bigger was going on? Perhaps they were hoping to catch some hacking or warez distrubution? I don't know, it just seems unnecesary, all they needed to do was grab the modems to prove they were modified and get the use logs from the ISP to prove breach of contract and see how much bandwidth was illegally used. Either that or I've been hanging around here with the conspiricy theorists too long.
  • OR operator (Score:2, Funny)

    by mike3411 ( 558976 )
    According to their statement, Buckeye should stand the bandwidth usage, or condone it - "The use of excessive bandwidth is something that Buckeye does not condone or will not stand."

    Since they called in the FBI, they clearly aren't standing for that kind of thing. So I guess what they're really trying to say is that they condone cable modem uncapping?
  • Bart Beavers, a member of the task force based out of the FBI office in Toledo, said search warrants obtained for six other residences were not served because the occupants were not home or for various other reasons.

    Ohhh....this is just beautiful...I can see some (six?) seriously scared script kiddies in front of me trying to get their modem to work normally again *g*

    ...or just getting rid of everything which looks like a modem / computer ;-))

    Imagine their parents: mommy, I'm not into computers can really throw them away...yes I know that I spend all my time in front of it for the last 10 years...but you's ... it's ... just not the same anymore *tears flow* ;-)))))

  • by md27 ( 463785 )
    Bad guys uncap modems: $0 (they're h4x0rs after all)
    FBI arrests bandwidth stealers: $4,000
    Bad guys sue FBI for violating their ( choose one, civil rights, first amendment rights, blah blah) and win settlement: $25,000,000
    So let's recap:
    Uncle Sam: Out $25,004,000
    Cable Company: Same as before
    Bad Guys: You can buy a hell of a lot of bandwidth with $25,004,000
    Another wonderful example of our legal system at "work".
  • by icedivr ( 168266 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:23AM (#3778855)
    It took some digging but I found the link to their TOS (PDF) click here []
  • Ideally... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Junta ( 36770 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:24AM (#3778867)
    Ideally the government wouldn't have been involved at all, but instead have the parties settle it among themselves. However, I guess after having to deal with so many people trying this more drastic, newsworthy measures need be taken to let users know they mean business and not to try this for kicks. If the only punishment is a cancellation of service, a lot of people will try and get permanently banned, a fate which results ultimately in the ISP not getting money from that user who might have behaved himself if he thought he had more to lose than his account.

    All this said, I'm not sure why this is FBI jurisdiction rather than local law enforcement agency. I suppose the main body of the ISP is proabably not in the same state, but you would think they would operate through their local presence. Of course, the FBI is more newsworthy than local police.

    At this stage they say they have not charged anyone with anything, but confiscated systems for evidence. My bet is that the systems will be returned and charges never filed. This is more of a scare tactic. Really scare the perpetrators, and spread more awareness of the seriousness of the issue among the people. In the end they will let them off, making the company look better while acheiving the wider scare they wanted. They really have nothing to gain by punishing those individuals except bad publicity.

    This whole scenario just goes to demonstrate that cable providers as a whole went into the ISP business unprepared with a lack of understanding of the problems an ISP faces. Routers should cap this stuff, not endstations, and their network infrastructure has proved in many cases to crumble under the stress, kind of like what happened when AOL first offered unlimited time plans. Now cable companies are more and more going to charge for extra bandwidth because they have been unable to figure out how to regulate network usage from a technical perspective without losing their peak rates. The Telco companies with DSL were not able to match the peak rate of cable modem, but now with the improvement of DSL technology and the saturation of both types of networks, DSL has proven to frequently provide more consistant, reliable service, even if peak DSL throughput is not equal to cable, the realistic throughput is on average better than Cable.

    Now to see if cable companies can mature as ISPs, or if DSL will come to dominate in the coming years.
  • No arrests, no charges? Whatever happened to due process? Did they take that part out of the Constitution while we weren't looking? How are the cops going to justify taking the computers and other equipment without charges having been filed? This is annoying and frightening.

    The law suits should be fun to watch.

  • by Paul Johnson ( 33553 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:28AM (#3778892) Homepage
    I don't have a problem with the idea that uncapping your cable modem is theft of service, or with the idea that the perpetrators should be prosecuted.

    Where I do have a problem is with what actually happened and the lack of due process associated. Look at the sequence of events:

    1. The ISP notices the uncapped modem (I gather they use SNMP to ask the modem what its set to: nothing sophisticated).
    2. The ISP calls the FBI and alleges that this crime has cost it over $10,000. Hmmm. Where did that number come from? I'm on a 512kbit service for £25/month. Suppose I uncapped my modem to get the theoretical maximum of 64Mbits (the full channel bandwidth that is shared between all users on a spur). That is in theory a 128-fold increase in service, so I should be paying £3,200 per month, or around $5,000. So that may be two months service at 64Mbits. Maybe not too unreasonable, although I don't know how they estimated the time.
    3. The FBI get a search warrant based on the ISP's complaint and seize computers. This is perfectly legal: the authorities are permitted to seize the "instrumentality of the crime". If a PC was used to uncap the modem then it is an instrumentality of the crime. Also, if the case came to court then the defence could ask what evidence the prosecution had that the supposed perpetrators were actually responsible. Maybe it was a prankster thinking to do a "favour". Any prosecution is going to need smoking-gun scripts found on the suspect's PCs.
    4. No charges are filed. Despite what I said just now, the whole thing is never tested in court. Confiscation of the computers (and any private data thereon) is considered enough of a punishment, and doesn't require the expense of a trial.
    All of this is perfectly reasonable and legal, but it is never the less an end-run around the due-process principle. Based on a complaint and a search warrant your property can be effectively confiscated, and you have almost no come-back. Of course in theory you can sue for the return of your property, but all the police have to do is claim an "ongoing investigation" to make the suit fail.


  • "Most of the broadband providers are really just beginning to learn how the networks perform, what the possibilities are, and how they deal with theft," he said.
    My sides hurt from laughing at this. How many years do they need to be in the business before they figure out how their networks perform? Even better question... How can they feel justified to sell us a service they don't understand? How do they know $225000 or whatever amount of money was stolen if they can't explain a simple thing like networking??
    Just a thought
  • That's fine as long as the ISP wants to negotiate a CIR with me. Otherwise they are stealing from me! When they say broadband it should have to be enforceable in a contract and none of this best effort shit.
  • "It's against the law. It's a crime we are going to enforce," the detective said."

    You heard it here: Corporate profits are the law.
  • Did anyone else that read that article get the feeling it was a hoax? It all just sounds so campy and hoaky. Like some sort of cheesy propoganda.

    I can almost hear they counselor from South Park now, "Stealing bandwith is bad...MKay... Hacking cablemodems is bad...MKay..."

    You know what I mean?
  • Am I the only one that zoomed into that picture to try and see what hardware was in those computers?

    They looked like some pretty sweet systems. I wonder what thier specs were. :)

  • Oh man! (Score:5, Funny)

    by dmarien ( 523922 ) <> on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:48AM (#3779073) Homepage
    Sorry I wasn't able to post sooner regarding this story, but I got home from school, and all my computer shit was confiscated! I had to go next door just to check my e-mail!

    This blows, and shit -- is my friends cable internet connection really this slow?
  • I have a friend that hosts a few web sites that had a box rooted (wu-ftp exploit). Ammazingly, he happened to be in the system and noticed. He tracerouted the cracker to his static DSL IP -- basically cought the guy red-handed.

    So he contacts the FBI about it. They ask him some questions, like how much money they cost him (basically only a few hours of admin time because he interceeded before any damage took place (the cracked had installed a script to rm -rf / ))

    The FBI declines to do ANYTHING about it because it wasn't high-dollar enough to warrent investigation.

    We hear all this talk about cyber-crime and the potential threat to our national infastructure, but the FBI won't prosecute unless the case is high-profile enough to get them headlines. I don't think this is the message we ought to be sending, that it's OK to root someone's box and nothing will happen to you if the dammage doesn't exceed a certain dollar amount.

    • I don't think this is the message we ought to be sending, that it's OK to root someone's box and nothing will happen to you if the dammage doesn't exceed a certain dollar amount.
      The FBI has limited resources and I'm sure that sometimes they need to carefully pick-and-choose the cases they pursue because of this. Remember, these are OUR tax dollars they are preserving by doing this.
  • Disturbing Tactics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oldstrat ( 87076 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:39AM (#3779448) Journal
    From the article: (Bold added by me)
    In all, they seized 23 computers, including three laptops; three hard drives, and 13 cable modems.
    No charges were filed and no arrests were made.

    Really? The government was used to sieze property, not owned by the provider, and not one charge was filed.
    I don't believe this was a legal action, at most the cable modem was something that that could have been taken, not computers, at least not without charges.

    It's so nice to live in Amerika.
  • by pjrc ( 134994 ) <> on Thursday June 27, 2002 @12:32PM (#3779864) Homepage Journal
    According to the article, 13 homes (23 machines) consumed so much bandwidth that it cost the ISP 1/4 million dollars. That's gotta be the biggest load of bullshit I've heard in a long time.

    If each contributed equally, that's $19230 each in bandwidth. $19k buys a lot of bandwitdh... much more than a single home could potentially use, even over many months. For example, this budgetary pricing for Verio [] (a backbone provider) shows that the monthly charge for a 155 Mbit/sec OC-3 line is somewhere around $44k per month.

    For that 13 users to have consumed $250k of bandwidth over a period of one year, the "bandwidth cost" would have been equivilant to using one half of a 155 Mbps/sec OC-3 line. Even if all 13 contributed equally, I doubt each of them sustained a 5.7 Mbit/sec stream of data for a whole year! Cable service can rarely run at this speed, and many small groups of houses (like mine) are connected by a 1.2 Mbit/sec line (I saw the At&T tech when he was installing our neighborhood's hub a few months ago). If you consider the "theft" to have occured from February (when "cable officials" claim they first became aware of the situation) until today, that's just 5 months for a "loss" of $50,000 dollars worth of bandwidth each month... equivilant to just 13 users consuming the entire bandwitdh of an OC-3! Even to a someone who has no idea what kind of bandwitdh $250,000 dollars buys, it simply defies imagination that 13 home users would normally consume $50 to $100 per month, could somehow "steal" 1/4 million dollars. It's as rediculous as a claiming someone robbed a 7-11 store and stole 1/4 million dollars from the cash register.

    I wonder if it ever occured to Christina Hall or Mark Reiter to ask Paul Shryock how Buckeye figured these 13 home users "stole" such a massive amount. Even if it's larger group of users, it's still an absurd claim. Saddly, they were probably fed a press release with lots of "sound bites", and they threw this scare-tactic story together without even the slighest questioning and investigatave journalism into such an absurd claim.

    One thing is for certain... Buckeye CableSystem certainly didn't take a loss of $250,000. If they really were losing that much money, they certainly would have contacted the "others [that] were using a lot". No ISP these days (except perhaps AOL) can afford to take a $250,000 loss and just sit back for five months and wait for the cops to investigage and bust a dozen users.

  • 2600 is l337 (Score:3, Informative)

    by WndrBr3d ( 219963 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @01:00PM (#3780063) Homepage Journal
    Anyone else find it amusing that also in this latest issue of 2600 they have an article on how to uncap your cable modem bandwidth ?? ;-)

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur